Many remarkable people found their identities on rivers: Cleopatra on the Nile; Lewis and Clark on the Missouri; Mark Twain on the Mississippi; Jeff Bezos on the Amazon. This is the story of my 600+ mile walk along the waterways of southern England in the summer of 2014, and the remarkable people I met along the way. It is best read in chronological order, so I recommend starting with the earliest posting in the Blog Archive list in the right margin.
Walk completed August 16, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
July 28, 2014 -- Day 43, Wateringbury, 14 miles
was another perfect day for walking through the countryside. Overcast skies and
a cool breeze from the north had me starting out wearing a long sleeve shirt,
but it didn’t take many hills before the long sleeves came off. The sun broke
through the clouds around noon, but much of the walk was in shade, so things
couldn’t be much better. Actually things were better, because I had booked two
nights in Wateringbury. Having left most of the weight in my room, I hiked
with a light pack today.
guidebook shows a loop walk from Yalding, a nearby village. I had to enlarge
the loop to connect from my hotel, and then enlarged it again for personal
reasons. I wanted to check up on the foal I saw yesterday, so I retraced my
steps to Tutsham Hall.
I arrived at the field where the foal was lying down yesterday, I spotted him
standing next to a handler who was bridling another horse. The handler said the
colt was fine, and that it’s common for young ones to spend a lot of time lying
down, especially on hot days. Relieved that I hadn’t witnessed his dying
throes, I then joined the guidebook’s loop walk.
long after, I met Roy, a local, out for his morning walk. I asked him about the
“Oast houses” I’ve been seeing. He explained that Kent used to be a major source of hop farming.
Many years ago, Londoners used to come to Kent to spend family holidays picking
hops. They got free room and board and a little pay, but mainly spent time outside
of the city working and playing in the country. The harvested hops were placed
in an “oast” where a small fire provided heat for the drying process. The
conical roof of the oast is topped with a half-cone, which works like both a chimney
and a weather vane. A rudder affixed to the cone directs the solid side of the
weather vane towards the wind (and rain) and the open side away, so the smoke
dissipates. There were many, many oasts in Kent when hops were a major crop. Nowadays,
imported hops are cheaper, so hops aren’t a major crop in Kent. Many, if not
most, of the former oasts have been transformed into houses, in keeping with
England’s tradition of preserving the past.
the day wore on, I passed through more orchards and fields. Outside of Hunton I
met Jo and her beagle, Emily. Interestingly enough, Jo has spent some time in California,
and now lives in an oast house in Kent.
Jo and Emily
Yalding, I re-joined the River Medway and followed it back to Wateringbury.
There is a lock at Yalding that allows boaters to continue navigating upriver.
I may be passing more locks as I follow the river to Tonbridge tomorrow.