A ‘hop’ over to Goudhurst
Its been just over 2 weeks since the last walk. Back now to a more realistic timetable for these 20 mile walks, as life gradually eases back into the usual routine.
The original plan for these walks has long since been consigned to the bin and so they are now being plotted a few days before we head out and require far more on route navigation. I was going to say thank goodness for the OS Map App for this – but it did create a hiccup this time.
Anyway – lets tell you about Walk 13. After a bright and sunny few days Tuesday was warm but cloudy – on paper ideal walking weather. Neil, Ruby & I were joined on this walk by our friends Nicola and Maggie. Nicola has already featured on Walks 1 & 3 , so needs no introduction to you all – but we hadn’t seen Maggie for a very long time so it was really lovely to have both their company on this walk.
The plan lately, has been to venture out in different directions from our home here in Matfield, Kent. So discovering new paths and extending familiar ones to head out that bit further from our usual dog walk. It also keeps down travelling time to and from start points meaning we can clear some work before heading out and (in theory!) adapt the walk when we get closer to home to hit the 20 miles without having to walk around in circles at the end!
Today’s plan was a walk around local villages heading out towards Goudhurst and back in a figure of 8. We set off all chatting away as we caught up on each others news, and after almost 3/4 miles Neil realised he hadn’t set his App to record the mileage. We always have two running in case of any tech issues , as I want to ensure I post proof of each walk for all you wonderful people who are following and sponsoring me on this challenge. Anyway, Neil started his App ‘just in case’ and we carried on.
The first part of the route took us out through the orchards of Matfield towards Brenchley. We bypassed the villages sticking to footpaths and quiet back lanes to head to the crossover of the figure of 8 of this route. This is a familiar dog walk but this time we headed down a new path and a quiet lane to avoid a field that we knew was home to a very large bull. On this lane I managed to bag a rather beautiful (if slightly weak) Faces in Things cottage :
As you can see it was really rather cloudy and it was already starting to feel muggy. We were only around 5 miles in at this point and I was already feeling very sticky so layers started to be shed. We walked out through the sweeping apple orchards towards Furnace Lake and on towards Horsmonden.
We shortly arrived at Sprivers, Horsmonden. A National Trust estate. The house here is not open to the public but the woodlands and fields around it are. We decided whilst we were ‘fresh’ to loop around the grounds to gain some extra mileage early on. Its no hardship as its well kept grounds and woodlands and the house itself is beautiful (and available for weddings – if you are interested). The name comes from the early owner of the estate, Robert Sprivers when in 1447 it was one of the medieval manors. Subsequently the Courthope family – who gained their wealth from the local iron industry (hence Furnace Lake) took ownership in 1700 and added the Georgian frontage that remains today. (thank you Google…)
Loop completed we were now out onto the new part of the walk for us. Heading from Horsmonden towards Goudhurst village. Goudhurst (as with most local villages here) sits on top of a big hill – so cunningly I had plotted to skirt the edge of Goudhurst and head back on a different loop to avoid actually climbing the hill.
It was very muggy now and I was navigating on the hoof. I try and remember key decision points on any new route so I’m not walking with my head in the App and missing the beautiful countryside. I’m roughly aware when the footpath will split and which one we should take – but its not always so straightforward to spot.
This new route took us into something we hadn’t come across before. A stunning Kentish Hop field. The hopbines spread out in all directions and created archways to walk through on the path.
Somewhat distracted and a little a bit excited about discovering a hop field – I’d missed the decision point here. We had a quick stop for water whilst I fired up the OS Map app and checked where we were to the route. When you aren’t walking on an official trail , as we have done on some other walks – such as Cuckoo Trail, Forest Way and Oyster Bay, you become very aware that local footpaths are often just that. They don’t readily connect up to take you where you planned. Many footpaths around villages have evolved from historic routes – from farm worker cottages to farms for example or small hamlets to the local school or church. They weren’t intended to be part of a full network. So walks like this mean you have to keep the route in mind to avoid hitting a dead end.
It was then that I realised the battery on my watch was draining fast. It was freshly, and fully, charged when we left home . So far on every walk it has always lasted the full walk, and then some, and had become the creator of the definitive ‘log’ of each walk. Now, it was linking to the OS Map App on my phone so whenever I was spot checking the route it was draining my watch battery. Not normally an issue but as Neil’s App was, of course, running nearly 3/4 of a mile behind mine we had something new to keep an eye on.
Route sorted we found the gap in the hedge and headed out into a vineyard! Not quite the garden of Kent these fields – more a fledgling off licence- first beer and now wine!
We were now at a footpath crossroads and heading on towards Goudhurst. A 4 way crossroads should be straightforward but in reality they are not always a proper ‘cross’, so whilst I knew we wanted to go straight ahead – I had to head up each path a bit to confirm what was straight ahead. I should add I can map read (brownie badge confirms this) and spent a good month or so three years ago refreshing map reading and compass skills ahead of a highland walk – but when you are walking locally and only occasionally referring to an App and not a paper map, you are constantly resetting and relying on the magic ‘you are here’ arrow to tell you which direction you are facing. I don’t know why but I instantly get confused and start spinning in each direction to work out if I am where I think I am. I should have more faith in my plans as we inevitably head off in the original direction I’d thought was right!
This path gave us a wonderful view of Goudhurst on the (hilly) horizon. If you look closely you can make out the square tower of the Church.
It was at this point we mooted an idea. Going off plan and into Goudhurst village for a short refreshment & loo break. It was the first walk since Walk 3 that this was going to maybe, actually, be possible and even with a hill we felt it was worth a try..
We were now out in open meadows and almost missed the stile that led us back towards another quiet lane to connect to the next footpath and our route into Goudhurst.
We crossed the River Teise to continue out into a beautiful collection of farm buildings. Ruby was very frustrated that the banks of the river were too high for her to jump in and cool her paws.
On the original plan here we would turn and pick up a path that led us back towards that Vineyard, but now we were heading out on the lanes and turned up Blind Lane towards Goudhurst village. The fields around us here were full of sheep and cows but this menagerie caught our eye through the hedge.
So up, and up, and up Blind Lane we climbed. Nicola has an amazing fast walking pace and its consistent whatever the terrain, so we watched her speed up the hill. I’m definitely not fast on steep hills. I can take them in my stride, without issue, but my pace will definitely ease off as I know its a potential trigger for an ocular migraine – raising my heart rate is great, but not too fast or too much.
Blind Lane brings you almost into the centre of Goudhurst. Its a very pretty busy village, and its history is also linked not only to hop growing and ironworks but also to weaving. There are original weavers cottages still in the Village by the Church.
The first ‘hostelry’ was closed. It was just past 2.30pm on a Tuesday to be fair, but the Star and Eagle Hotel looked promising. To be honest, in the current climate we weren’t hopeful for any room at the Inn but we were in luck and were sent through to the rear terrace.
My watch App was struggling. We had walked 11.07 miles on my record and 10.37 on Neil’s. I had to switch my App off and we were relying now on Neil’s. I screen shotted (is that a word?) the record, so we could confirm the 20 miles between us at the end (darn Neil for forgetting to switch his app on at the start), and we’d be keeping the mental maths going on the way home to check mileage!
Now to head back – after our detour I was now navigating as we went for a bit. So this saw us head out across a field only to have to head back down it again to find the footpath hidden in the corner.
We were now picking up where we would have turned around if we hadn’t been lured by the promise of a pub and a drink stop. There was a little bit of road work here again in the lanes – so another map check to make sure we were a) on the right lane and b) heading the right way!
We were now just a short path away from the midpoint of the figure of 8. The area with the vineyard/hopfield and Sprivers where we would head out in the opposite direction to this morning and back into Matfield through more fruit farms. The clouds were gathering again now and looked more threatening.
From Sprivers we headed down towards Marle Place. The gardens here used to be open to the public and held exhibitions of sculptures in the grounds. Even from the outside its still very pretty from what we could see peeking over the wall. The road leading to Marle Place and its grounds are dotted with idyllic cottages often with lovely wild cottage gardens.
Out through a field of horses, into another orchard and onto a lane. Back on familiar territory now.
The skies now were looking very ominous, but made for some beautiful pictures. It was around 6pm – the weather forecast had predicted light rain around 7. We had just under 4 miles to go – it would be tight to avoid the rain.
Originally – here we would have looped back into Matfield, and out again towards Cinderhill Woods and the last half mile home. It was getting a little confusing with Neil’s data being behind and constantly calculating the ‘true’ amount left to cover, but we decided to walk up towards Matfield Church instead and down to the footpaths that leads us back to those woods.
What we hadn’t considered was our way could be blocked..
Now as lovely and seemingly friendly this lovely horse was – she had her boyfriend also hanging around who seemed, well, lets just say, he seemed unlikely to let us pass without incident!
I tried – I stepped onto the stile and stroked her nose – let her sniff the backpack – clearly apple and polo free but she still seemed reluctant to let us through. A short debate – send Neil over first.., maybe someone who felt ‘horsey’ could try and encourage them away from the path so others could make a run for it… did they seem bothered about Ruby? We then just decided to head back and walk down the lane instead and take a risk free route to get back to the kettle quicker.
So back we went. Now it was here that Nicola surprised us with a throwaway remark as we walked down the lane: ” I would definite call this a fairy lane if I was driving down here”. To us it felt similar to all the other lanes we had walked but something about the way the trees hung over the lane appealed to Nicola’s “spirit “- or as Neil said ” I think its either lockdown or her hats too tight”..
We were now at the entrance to the woods, but Neil’s calculations meant we had to head up a steep slope through the cobnut orchard to gain a longer loop of the woods. At least it was familiar..
Then as we came out of the woods, at just about 7pm light rain started falling. Neil’s App buzzed to register the 20 miles in full on his App although we were still a 1/4 mile from home (maybe we didn’t need that last steep slope!) and we were soon at the gate. 20 miles plus done (mental maths says actually 21 miles ish..)
A quick sorry to Maggie for not discovering a Cherry Orchard on this route, but lovely to have both yours and Nicola’s company – thank you for joining us!
Here’s the data (note the hills please!!) followed by the link to the donation page (you know, just in case…). Again a big thanks to all have supported – it really makes a difference to the work that the Macular Society can support.
If you would like to support this challenge you can make a donation here – Thanks for following my challenge 🙂