Walking in England

Tue Apr 18 – Wed Apr 19

We made a fairly early start, getting away a little after 7am. Once again it was bitingly cold with temperatures only predicted to range between 2° & 10°. I think that prediction was pretty accurate. It had rained overnight but was sunny when we left. However, that lasted less than 2 hours by which time it was totally clouded over making it even colder, especially in the wind. With all our layers on though, it wasn’t too bad. We did have a couple of short, light showers. It took us quite a while to get our wet weather gear out & on so it was just as well they weren’t downpours – we need (but don’t want) more practice. 

One of our first Via Francigena signs on our way out of Canterbury 

Very quaint thatched cottage

In only about 10 minutes we were out of town & into the countryside which was verdant green with splashes of brilliant yellow-flowering canola. We followed the North Downs Way all the way to Shepherdswell, our destination for the day. We were almost entirely off the roads in gently undulating country. The tracks followed fences, led us through woods & often took us straight across the middle of farmers fields along a cleared path through the crops. It was really good to be walking. 

Pete on the track between two fences

Track through the wheat crop

We had to walk quite a distance through this waist-high crop of canola

On an English lane with hedges down both side there is nowhere to get away from the traffic. Thankfully we didn’t spend much time on roads like this

Forest floor covered with wildflowers

There were numerous gates & one stile to negotiate during the day

We arrived at Shepherdswell by midday & decided to have lunch at the lovely little pub. Sadly, the publican informed us that they only served drinks & that there was nowhere else in town for us to eat. We were staying the night in Aylesham which was two stops away on the train so we went there, found the only cafe & enjoyed mushroom omelettes, chips & salad for lunch. 

Houses in Shepherdswell looked well cared for

After lunch I checked my emails only to discover that our Airbnb host had sent a message saying that she had to go to another town & might not be back until late. This was a problem for us! I tried to ring her – no answer. We wandered around town but couldn’t find anywhere warm that we could sit & wait so we returned to the (very basic but warm) cafe & asked if we could sit & wait there. The Romanian cafe proprietor was very friendly & quite happy for us to wait there. After about an hour our host, Nicola, messaged to say she was home so off we went. She was very friendly, her 2 little yappy dogs weren’t so friendly, but we were in out of the cold & the room was good. We went to bed at about 8.30 &, surprisingly slept well after doner kebabs for dinner, which was all that was available. 

Our second day was a similar temperature but sunnier & the distance was shorter than the previous day. We caught the train back to Shepherdswell to resume our walk & called in at the church on the off-chance that it would be open because we needed a stamp in our pilgrim passports. It was open & there was a stamp sitting there for us to stamp our own passports – perfect. 

Church at Shepherdswell

It was another lovely day’s  walking, similar to our first day but in one place we weren’t sure where to go. We were faced with a large, recently ploughed paddock. The guide book told us to cross the paddock but there were no footprints & no obvious marker on the far side for us to aim for. After looking around for a while we struck out straight across the middle of the paddock. When we reached the far side there was a small sign which confirmed that we’d taken the right course. 

It certainly wasn’t easy to be sure where we should go across this paddock

In several places the trees formed an arch around the track

When the sun shone on the canola it was brilliant

Lords & Ladies lilies were numerous on the floor of the forested areas

An oast house in Patrixbourne which was used for the drying of hops as part of the brewing process

We passed one very substantial mansion

Near the mansion was a wonderfully gnarly old tree

We had to take a selfie to get a photo together. We haven’t seen any other walkers

On the hill above Dover we arrived at Dover Castle which was founded in the 11th century. We knew that we couldn’t check in until after 5pm so we decided to visit the castle, have lunch & then have a look around. We spent 2 hours looking through England’s largest castle & its surrounds. It was fascinating with many layers of history ranging from a 2nd century Roman lighthouse through to WWII fortifications. As well as visiting the keep, where there are displays of colourful medieval furniture & lifestyle, we visited some medieval tunnels, an old church with Saxon origins, & the Roman lighthouse. 

Outer wall of Dover Castle

The old castle within the Dover Castle complex

Pete descending along a medieval tunnel

Great Hall within the castle keep

Bed chamber decorated with vibrant colours as it might have been in medieval times when it was one of the most important castles in England

View of the Roman Lighthouse & Church of St Mary-in-Castro from the Great Tower, the castle keep

Roman Lighthouse (Pharos) constructed in the 1st century & the Church of St Mary-in-Castro constructed in about 1000 AD but in ruins by 1720 & restored in the late 1800s

WWII gun emplacement

During WWII an underground hospital operated here & the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940, was masterminded deep within Dover’s secret wartime tunnels. There were tours of both those areas available but their timing didn’t suit us. 

Dover port area from where we were to leave the following day, plus a glimpse of some white cliffs

Eventually we descended to the town, found our accommodation & were able to rest for a while before going out to find somewhere for dinner. We ended up at a lovely little Italian restaurant run by an Italian family with ‘mamma’ in the kitchen & her son & daughter-in-law in the restaurant. I got to practice a little bit of my Italian, we had a lovely meal, we enjoyed a chat with the couple on the next table & mamma came out for a chat to everyone after the meal. It rounded off the day very nicely. 

The White Horse Pub, the oldest in Dover & where we had intended to have dinner but they don’t serve meals on Wednesdays

The street outside the Italian Restaurant with a view to the castle

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4 thoughts on “Walking in England

  1. What a great start though sounds a bit cold!! Love the pictures and will enjoy following you across France – all going OK here XX

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    • Hi Netty
      Pleased to hear your news. Please give our best to Neil. Hope there is even more improvement coming!
      We have been in France for two days now & could have used some of your language skills, but we are surviving – just. 😄

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  2. Beautiful photos – the English countryside in spring, especially the bluebell woods, is a picture. I have just had the weekend here, and yesterday drove my aunt through country lanes for a couple of hours to a 16th century pub in Hampshire. And the sun shone! I hope that France treats you to better weather and equally lovely walks.

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    • Hi Sandra

      Sun, what is that?? To be fair, we have seen it in France but usually only for a short while late in the afternoon or early in the morning when it is pretty cold anyway. Still, cold is better than hot for walking so we shouldn’t be complaining too much.

      Glad you had a nice outing in England & hope the rest of your trip goes safely & well.

      Peter

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