Once again off to Chiddingstone, this time without birding maestro Dave. But saw my first two bullfinches of the year, plus very large slow worm (too fast for me to take pic of however), skylarks and cuckoo. Plus the best variety of dragonflies – some real beasts – I’ve ever seen on a walk, perhaps brought out by the number of winged insects after the huge storm last nght. Some awesome cumulus nimbus forming beyond north London (Channel 4 news’ weatherforecaster Liam Dutton reckons this storm was the one that wrought temporary havoc to Buckinghamshire yesterday evening). The cloud tops of this storm reached 40,000ft so everyone who saw it from Kent and Surrey thought it was much closer than it actually was.
Awful weather this week – overcast, cold – but at least there was some snow today to enliven proceedings. I decided to get some fresh air on the Downe walk. In south-east London the snowfall didn’t stick whatsoever but by the time I reached Keston there were extensive patches. Below are some iPhone images of the Downe circular walk taken sequentially. I nipped off-piste down to the golf course after point 5 – the unblemished snow on the fairway made me feel as if I were walking on goose feathers; the powder had a strangely translucent appearance I’d never seen in snow before. Popped into the Queen’s Head where a half of Westerham Ales’ Grasshopper by the fire, with Italy v Ireland rugby on the telly, was a splendid ‘warm down’. Once again, a rotten day for weather comes up trumps (whoops, sorry, banned word there).
The weekend has started abysmally, with heavy rain, low temperatures and general murk. Great for walking! Yes, there’s a real frisson in donning hat, gloves and coat and striding off on a ridge amid horizontal precipitation. Failure to remember hat or gloves, however, is detrimental to the cause. Some places take on a whole new atmosphere of wilderness when you walk in poor conditions. Knole Park suddenly seems like a Scottish glen, the Ashdown Forest becomes Dartmoor, Lullingstone the Cheviot hills (bit of a stretch that). Anyway, whatever, my point is that waiting for perfect conditions is just not good form if you want to enjoy the local countryside. I can see from my exalted position as webmaster that the number of views on this website fall dramatically as the clouds gather. So don’t delay, ignore the moisture, get out there. I’ll be watching.
Ide Hil walk, Ram Pump Pond
A great walk on a grey day is my latest offering here… Eynsford/Lullingstone (4 miles; 90 mins). It’s mostly mud-free, has two good pubs waiting for you, and up on the hill by Eagle Heights you’ll feel the elements alright. It’s also a great choice of walk if car-less; it starts from Eynsford station.
I won’t bother with a picture; grey, rainy days aren’t very photogenic. They’re all about feeling it.
A few hours later… went to Knole Park in awful conditions, but got an OK shot with the iphone
– had to brighten it a bit so a bit pixelly but still…
Stag at Knole, November 2016 (Point 1 on the Knole Walk)
The weather forecasters were spot on: sunny Good Friday, dreary Saturday, all over the place Sunday and Monday (with a dose of tropical storm bringing down branches and fences on Sunday night). A lot of the paths returned to peak mud status and the magnolias at Emmetts, usually so beautiful at this time of year, were looking a bit windblown and fed up. Looking at the pictures I put up below, on my previous post, I realise they must have been taken in mid-April last year – certainly the tulips at Emmetts were some way off flowering this weekend. So apologies to anyone I mis-sold on that! In the meantime, above are some pictures from Sunday and Monday at Knole and Ide Hill.
Dreadful Saturday weather-wise today, but, undaunted, we – my younger son and I – decided to venture out to familiar pastures. We went to Eynsford village and did a circular walk from the riverside diagonally uphill across fields to Eagle Heights, enjoying lovely, rain-swept views across the railway viaduct down the valley towards Sevenoaks. Passing the bird of prey centre (and being lucky enough to see a vast raptor wheeling in the murk above, pursued – at a distance – by two gulls) we strode on, entering Lullingstone park, turning around its central hill (the one topped by pines and cedar of Lebanon trees) and returning the way we came to Eynsford. It’s now 9.30pm – the pre-Match of the Day hour – and I’ve still not entirely warmed up; a really raw afternoon. I’ll write up the walk soon; it’ll make another good one for train users being easy to adapt to start from and return to Eynford station. Some of it covers the same ground as the Shoreham-Eynsford walk on this site.
What an appalling bank holiday weekend for weather. I can’t remember one like it; only Saturday morning was up to scratch. And this on top of a week of heavy rain. In need of exercise though, we drove over towards Shoreham and walked for five miles on various paths in the the western Darent Valley above the village to Andrew’s Wood, then through Pilot’s Wood and Meenfield Wood back to where we’d parked (where Shacklands Rd meets Castle Farm Rd and the High St). With the humid, steamy, very damp conditions the woods had the feel of a tropical cloud forest. At the highest points we were in the clouds, draped over the tops of the North Downs. The wildlife consisted of wrens, pigeons and a robin, however; not quite up there with howler monkeys and the three-toed sloth.