Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Big Walk - Day 1 - Northfleet to Detling

As promised here is a post about day one of my big walk from Gravesend to Dover to raise funds for ChYps children's hospice.

I was sent on my way by my wife and son and Tess from ChYps at just after 9 AM Friday 24th August.

A short way down the road from the hospice I noticed the road sign above which was quite apt. After leaving the hospice I joined the Wealdway close to the new cyclopark which has recently opened in Gravesend. The Wealdway is a long distance path linking Gravesend with Eastbourne in Sussex.

I only stayed on the Wealdway for about a mile or so as far as Ifield Court where I joined another path leading through fields and farmland in the direction of Jeskyns Wood. The only company I had on this part of the walk was my friend shown above.

I walked through Cobham village passing the church. It was about 10 AM and everything was quiet. I joined a long road called Lodge Lane which runs uphill through Lodge Farm and then into the woods. 

At the top of the hill in a clearing in the woods is the Darnley Mausoleum which dates back to the 18th Century - more about that in a future post. I stopped at the Mausoleum for a quick break and to check my e-mails and tweets (I know - very sad!). I was pleased to see that donations were continuing to come in at a steady rate.

After a long walk through the woods I eventually hit the North Downs Way near Cuxton. 

From this point on my route will basically be following the North Downs Way (NDW) all the way through to Dover. The next major landmark or actually landmarks are the three bridges which cross the River Medway. There are two road bridges which carry the M2 motorway and a rail bridge for Eurostar and hi speed trains.

My great uncle was a civil engineer and he worked on construction of the first road bridge in the 1960's. 

I have driven over the bridges hundreds of times but it was the first time I'd walked across. Just before reaching the elevated section of the bridge I saw the sign below.

The bridge is certainly very high and it would make a mess of you if you fell/jumped off...

In the above picture you can (just about) see Rochester Castle and Cathedral in the distance (left of the picture). The walk across the bridge was noisy with the volume of traffic. Soon after the NDW crosses into Nashenden Down Nature Reserve and climbs uphill.

There are good views of the Medway Valley from the top of the ridge. At this point the sun had come out and it was quite warm so I stopped for another quick break before continuing on.

In the middle of the woods there is a pub called the Robin Hood. I decided to treat myself to a pint and a sandwich. They were both very nice and the bar staff were polite and friendly but at £ 8.20 I thought I'd bought shares in the place. What happened to robbing the rich to pay the poor? Perhaps the place should be renamed...

About a mile or so on from the Robin Hood is the viewing point at the top of Bluebell Hill, one of the highest hills in Kent at around 525'. At the viewing point is a memorial to the crew of the Kent Air Ambulance who died in a crash.

The Medway Valley has been inhabited for many thousands of years. About another mile from the viewing point at Bluebell Hill is Kits Coty the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber. After passing Kits Coty I headed into the woods above Boxley.

Another steep climb. At the same time the weather decided to misbehave and it started to chuck it down. Fortunately the tree cover was quite dense most of the time so I didn't get too wet at this point.

In the wood I came across a NDW marker showing "only" 46 miles to Dover. Also in the woods I noted some deep craters approximately 20-30' deep and very symmetrical. I suspect these may be bomb craters from World War II. Either poorly aimed German bombs which should have been destined for RAF Detling or jettisoned bombs. I have raised this on a local history forum and will report back if there are any further developments.

Finally after about four miles walking through the woods I reached my planned finishing point for the day - Detling.

The village was cut into two halves by the A249 trunk road in 1962 and no proper pedestrian crossing was put in place. Over the years several local people, mainly elderly, were killed trying to cross the road and get from one side of the village to the other.

On 16th December 2000 there was a double tragedy when an eight year old girl called Jade Hobbs and her grandmother were both knocked down and killed. The residents of Detling had been campaigning for twenty years to get a safe pedestrian crossing built.

Following the tragedy in 2000 the residents, together with the local council and others raised funds to build a footbridge which opened in 2002. The bridge was named in memory of Jade.

Just the other side of Jade's crossing is a memorial to the airmen and ground crew that served at RAF Detling between 1915 and 1945. The airbase closed in 1959 and what remains of the site is now used as an exhibition ground.

I reached Detling at 5 PM. Eight hours walking including a few pit stops. Nineteen miles. Three blisters so far.

On day two I will be walking from where I left off in Detling through to Ashford. 

There is still plenty of time to sponsor me and make all the blisters worthwhile.... Just go to my Virgin Money Giving page at the link below.

Many thanks for your continued support and remember to look out for the next update.

UPDATE - For Day 2 of My Big Walk please see here

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