Starting the final leg of the Wealdway at Gover Hill I had just 16 miles or so to get to Gravesend. The first few miles of walking was through a lovely woodland of chestnut coppice and oak standards. It had been the first be of decent production woodland I had walked through on my entire journey. It was not long however until I reached the other side and the view over to the North Downs.
Today (day 3) started off with quite a bit of road walking so I was able to make good progress on the tarmac of the narrow country lanes. Before long I was high up on Bidborough ridge and the snow started up again – though this time they were large delicate flakes which drifted haphazardly in the breeze.
Thankfully the strong northerly winds had blown itself out overnight, though the forecast still mentioned wintery showers, as I started out on day 2 from East Hoathly. The frost on the ground had stiffened up the mud just a little, though most of the fields were permanent pasture and not too muddy or slippery underfoot.
I was soon walking through Great Wood, its name the reminder of what was once here. It had probably been decimated several times over the centuries – nearby there are extensive remains of former iron-foundries which would have used the wood as fuel, but more recently the Great Storm of 1987 destroyed much woodland in the area.
Did they get me? Am I on GoogleEarth?? What are the views like…
Overnight another band of rain had raced through, leaving a trail of heavy showers in its wake. The forecast was not great and the wind was up again. I headed back to Gravesend on the bus and decided to catch a train up to Greenhithe.
I missed out a bit of coast but the map and guide showed it as full of industrial areas and waste ground – not pleasant walking particularly in this weather. From Greenhithe I was able to make it quickly back onto the path and soon the Dartford Bridge was looming above me.
For some reason there was a big gap in the scheduling of buses, I could wait for more than an hour or I could set off now and probably make it to the next village before the bus would arrive. It meant a lot of road tramping but there was little in Grain to hold my interest.
After a day off, and a later than normal start, I was keen to get going. I again walked passed the Cathedral and Castle, and then it was over Rochester Bridge to get onto the path on the northern shore of the River Medway.
With time off for a walk around the town.
The Medway towns of Chatham and Rochester have a long history. Chatham is famous for its historic dockyards, it was once the largest navel base in England (during the time of Charles II) and in 1765 HMS Victory was launched here. Rochester is dominated by its Norman castle and the cathedral â€“ although it has a cathedral Rochester is no longer officially a city due to an administrative oversight in 2002.
The Isle of Sheppey was now off the list due to the bad weather, perhaps another time. The forecast was still not great so I headed out of Sittingbourne by the most direct route â€“ the A2, which follows the line of an old roman road in almost a straight line all the way to Rochester.
I soon became bored of the A2 and, with the weather improving, I decided to cut back to the coast and rejoined the shoreline path at Lower Halstow. The path now followed the estuary of the River Medway and the outgoing tide had exposed great swathes of marsh and mud.
Having been given a room at the very top of the B&B I had half expected to be woken in the night by the wind, and perhaps have made it to France. The weather forecast on the morning news did not provide much to look forward to, much of the country seemed to have been hit with severe weather, roads were closed, trees were down, electricity supplies had failed.
As I walked back towards the shore it was breezy but while it had been raining there were only a few spots of rain in the air. I soon found that I was being sheltered from most of the bad weather by the town, walking along the beach I soon found I was walking into gale force winds and driving rain. The sky was almost black and the sea was churning violently.