Despite the walk coming with a warning of unusual amounts of mud & waterlogging, 24 walkers gathered off the hourly – remember this detail- train, in the sun at Hever station, which is a long way from Hever village & is completely un-manned – remember this too! I had the timings nicely worked out with time for a sandwich at Chiddingstone & a swift half in Bough Beech & back in time to catch the 16.05 train. However, we have a few prescient or maybe sensibly suspicious members who had checked & seen that the 16.05 train was cancelled so, having an extra hour, we set off at a more leisurely pace than usual.
It was a beautiful morning with the sun sparkling on a lake complete with duck house, pleasant country lanes, an ancient church & the lovely village of Chiddingstone where we whiled away a lunch hour & some took advantage of the cafe & pub. Then we had a flattish section of walk across fields & arrived at the Wheatsheaf pub in Bough Beech for a leisurely pint or two. I’m learning to be suspicious so I checked the train times & discovered that the 17.05 was also cancelled with no reason given, of course. The response was impressive. Everyone reached for their phones & tried to find out what was going on & it seemed that a replacement bus was to appear at Hever at 16.42, so we cut short our pints & set off for the last section of the walk which contained the challenging bit!
The field which, on the walkover, had been waterlogged to well over the top of anyone’s boots, was a little less deep but still unpleasant & impossible to get over without becoming soaked but we are a club made up of people of stout heart & good humour so we all just sloshed through, helping & encouraging one another – again, really impressive.
The final part was where the serious mud was on a narrow fenced-in path with no escape but again, despite becoming covered in deep, slippery & unpleasant smelling stuff, we all made it through without complaint.
Arriving at Hever station we waited for the promised bus but – of course it didn’t appear & someone discovered that the Replacement Bus stop is a mile or so away & nowhere near the station. This was where the club really showed what a fine thing it is. Everyone tried to find a solution, someone had a long phone conversation with a lady at Southern Rail who, despite being very nice & actually ringing us back, had no clue what was going on & eventually, in an admirably democratic fashion, we resigned ourselves to having to wait on the cold, dark platform for the 18.05 train. No one complained, no one whinged despite many wet, cold feet & no one went into passive mode & expected someone else to sort things out. There was a party atmosphere in the tiny shelter on the platform where we waited with many jokes & great good humour & I have to say that I felt the Polytechnic Rambling Club to be a wholly excellent thing!
Harriet. Photos by Gillian and Melida