Start - Gravesend
Finish - Sole Street
Geocaches - 11
Pubs - 3
2017 started with a number of goals. Walk 1000 miles. Find 1000 Geocaches. Start the London Countryway.
What's the London Countryway, I hear both my blogfans ask? Well, its a 1978 Guide written by Keith Chesterton detailing a circular walk around London. Think the Capital Ring and the London Loop but further out. Here's the book and the route which is going to keep me busy on monthly trips to the Smoke.
|Not Sure who or where they are|
|Oh Yes, I'm going to Marlow, where the Butchers is also a Pub|
Couple of considerations. Where to start? The book arbitrarily suggests the most Southern point of the Loop but in keeping with the Capital's other great circular paths, I start at the most Eastern point.
The 2nd consideration is how accurate is a 30 year old book going to be? Fortunately, a couple of handy on line references from Beer Blogger Des De Moor and Dick Bowman, who provides GPX files, help enormously.
So Gravesend takes the prize as starting point, even if Keith says "Gravesend is rather a disappointment.... Tilbury is better to be in and Gravesend is better to look at". Keith is off his tits. No-one who has ever got lost looking for the ferry terminal has ever said such kind words about Tilbury.
Alighting the train, I am met with a cacophony of brass bands and carol singers. Nice touch, but I can't hang around, I need to find Pocahontas' statue. Google her - she's more than just a Disney Character.
|Red Indian Princess in Gravesend|
A couple of obstacles get in the way of the first piece of greenery, Jeskyns Park. The old A2 is now a cycle track and a new 6 lane superhighway has been built. I think about playing frogger for a nanosecond before ignoring out of date OS footpaths and cross at Singlewell. It's a good job I did, as its the only place to cross the HS1 train line.
Jeskyns is a nice enough wide open place for Kentish folk to hand feed cows (unsure what with) and walk dogs.
|Feed the Cows|
|Cobham Entrance to Jeskyns Country Park|
Cobham village wasn't visited in the guide book, but every one on-line recommends it. Who wouldn't want to have a pint in a pub frequented by Charles Dickens and mentioned in the Pickwick Papers?
The Leather Bottle, Cobham, Eponymous Beer
Well, that depends on the quality of the pint. There's no doubting the authenticity of the pub, it's picture post card and plays up to its literary connections to the max.
|The Leather Bottle's Credentials|
|London Glory - My Aris|
The Darnley Arms, Canterbury Ales Reeves Ale
The signage gives the appearance of a pub closure but this is where the locals drink. Never heard of the brewery, but a much better pint and some bar hanging locals who were keen to know what I was up to.
|I assure you, it is open|
|That's how I like my pubs on a sunny day|
Not far to go to the end of Stage 1. It's up past the church and into the Kent Countryside. The most direct route is through the hop fields, but there are some Geocaches to get that will lead me to the same destination. I did say I was after 1000 before the Jools Holland does his hootenanny.
|Nice Circuit of Cobham Church|
|View of the Hop Fields from the Geocaches|
The best pub is saved until the end of the day. Less than 0.5 mile from Sole Street Station is a gem of a county pub, standing isolated in a country lane. Its even got a multi geocache, where the pub phone number is used to reveal the location of the treasure.
Further home based research show that its also a regular in the Good Beer Guide, inlcuding the latest edition. When I set off this morning, I didn't even know that I was going to Luddesdown. Nice to think that my own observations of a place closely matched those of the local CAMRA representatives.
It's a wonderful treasure trove of nick nacks, roaring fires, photos of Winnie and top, top quality beers. None are labelled but the chalk board reveals an old favourite, served in absolutely tip top condition.
|Pub of the London Countryway - so far|
|Never felt more British|
The final half mile delivers me rather more muddy than I would have liked to Sole Street Station for the 15:00 to Victoria. Fittingly, there is no other traveler on the either platform.
I'll be back to see if there are more travelers in the mornings. Tickets for Stage 2 are booked in January.