I was luck – no traffic, even on the M25, and the sun came out as I entered Kent! It was a beautiful day: warm, clear skies and a bit of a haze in the air, but clear enough to sea into the distance – perfect. I came off the motorway at Maidstone and checked my maps, coincidentally at a quiet spot on The Pilgrim’s Way. Not knowing the area at all, I planned a rough route, from looking at the lie of the land on the Ordnance Survey maps, taking country lanes south-east, looking for orchards and hop fields where I hoped to find some harvesting going on. Then to Faversham and Canterbury, returning a bit further to the west.
I started exploring on top of the Downs, through well-wooded farmland. The roads were very small and nothing seemed to go anywhere directly, so I got a bit lost, which didn’t matter as I was still heading generally the right way. There were a lot of horses in fields and being ridden. I suddenly emerged from the trees onto the western scarp of the Downs, where the land dropped away and the Kent plain rolled out into the misty distance. The occasional oast house roof could be seen among the fields of stubble, but no orchards or hops.
[singlepic id=518 w=320 h=240 float=right] I then meandered along the lanes, seeking out good views and interesting settlements, but it was rather random, apart from visits to the towns. Faversham is a pretty town, rather like old Rochester and at Canterbury, I tried to get a view from high up on the Downs, such as a pilgrim might see on their approach, but the best I got was an image of the Cathedral towering up above the roads and lamp posts. What I did discover was that this part of Kent is very like Northern France in character, with steep wooded scarps leading up to a plateau of rather dull farmland that stretches for miles into the distance. It is not a land of small fields and hedges, but huge open views and wide skies, and quite unlike the Surrey section of the Downs.
[singlepic id=519 w=320 h=240 float=left] As the afternoon wore on, I stumbled across the ‘Devil’s Kneading Trough’, which is where the Downs drop very steeply down into the Stour Valley, near Wye: it was quite spectacular with the low sun casting long shadows across the bright green turf and long views west.
I took a lot of photographs during the day, constantly stopping the car to look about, but this was just a skim across the countryside, so they didn’t really do it justice. However it is a good preparation for my next visit in which I will target one or more of the areas covered to get a closer look.
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