IT’S been a few months since my last coastal perambulation and several things got in the way, not least of which were snow and Christmas. I’ve realised though that I’m spending too much time sat on my sofa in front of my computer. Thoughts along these lines were then greatly exacerbated by two visitations of pain, likely related:
Firstly, I did something to the muscles in my spine, an unpleasant development probably not unconnected with the fact that my battered old sofa has become less an item of furniture and more a torture device.
BETWEEN one thing and the other (one being some writing and the other being a vomiting bug of the most spectacular awfulness), it’s been about a fortnight since I last went traipsing round the coast. This is, of course, a scurrilous state of affairs.
I rectified it by the simple expedient of getting up at some unfeasible hour before dawn and jumping on a train back to Sandling, in the parish of Saltwood, where my last perambulatory episode finished up.
FOLLOWING last Saturday’s fun and games, in which I came interestingly close to not so much shuffling off this mortal coil as slipping from it, I decided that I would continue my excursion around the Kentish coast. After all, the weather forecast was ‘sunny intervals with rain later’ and I still had more lovely cliffs to walk, with their slippery-when-wet clay topsoil.
As it happened, the rain didn’t even try to make a showing until after I’d come down from the cliffs and for this I was glad because one or two of them were quite scary enough as it was (I don’t like heights all that much and at a couple of points there was about a foot and half between the edge of the path and a very long way down.
TODAY I learned a terribly important lesson about the White Cliffs of Dover…
Do not walk them in the rain.
I also learned that while the Met Office is one of the world’s best weather forecasters, and not at all the running joke it was when I was little, they are still not always right. Today’s forecast for Kent was mostly for ‘sunny intervals’ giving way to rain tonight. What we actually got was intermittent showers giving way to rain by about four o’clock.
LAST week, after getting home from my walk to Westgate-on-Sea, I sat down and kicked off my walking boots. Or so I thought.
As I looked at the sole I had kicked across the room and waggled my toes in the boot upper still on my foot, I thought to myself ‘time to buy some new boots’. I was impressed with my boots’ longevity though—they were old, battered, had missing eyelets and in some places were held together with two-part epoxy resin but they had lasted an amazing fifteen or so years.
ORIGINALLY, yesterday was not going to involve any walking as I already had plans. But then I got to thinking that my plans mostly involved the evening and, if I got up really early, I could also go for a walk. Which is how I came to be catching a train at the ungodly hour of not quite six in the morning. Even with this early start, the complications of a Saturday service and multiple connections meant that I only arrived at Whitstable at about 8 am. I immediately made my way back to the harbour, which is where I left off last time.
I KNEW my plan to get up at silly o’clock this morning was doomed before I’d even gone to bed—I’d gotten engrossed in something and was still up and awake at 3 am. So, I decided there and then that today was obviously not going to be another walking day.
YESTERDAY, I was up with the metaphorical lark and, in a break with recent habit, actually caught the very same train that I had intended to catch. The world didn’t end or anything, which was slightly disappointing.
A series of trains carried me away across North Kent to Swale with enough time between connections to buy a coffee and some breakfast, which I sorely needed. I arrived at Swale halt by twenty past nine and stood in the shadow of the colossal Sheppey Crossing.
‘It looks big in daylight,’ I thought. ‘I wonder how small it will look later?’ And so, I set off at a suitably brisk pace…
OVER the weekend it started to occur to me that I might not be entirely well, a development that threatened my further perambulation around Kent.
I first suspected on Saturday when I was wrapped up in a jumper and coat and still shivering, while others passed me in t-shirts enjoying a balmy evening. Given that I normally am impervious to cold, this was a bad sign. Waking up on Sunday morning drenched in sweat after a night of surreal, feverish and oddly disturbing dreams (involving my OS map of North Kent, characters from the original Swedish series of Wallander and Harry Lime’s theme from The Third Man) was pretty much the icing on the cake.
YESTERDAY, I had a plan to get up bright and early and perambulate part of the Saxon Shore Way from Gravesend to Strood in Kent.
Not out of the blue, you understand, but as part of a wider project. I have long wanted to walk the South West Coast Path, which is some distance from me (I live in London). But then, I wondered, could I walk to the SWCP?
From there it was a short mental step (and a promise of many physical ones) to wonder why I should stop there? A vague intention to walk the coast of Great Britainemerged. Well, more-or-less; I’m no purist about these things.