Soft light on a December walk in Kent

There’s no doubt about it. Winter walks aren’t always particularly uplifting. Views are subdued and less vibrant. The oranges and reds of autumn have gone, to be replaced by toned-down browns and greens. There’s mud, damp and murkiness that can make you want to flee the country. But the sky picks its moments to remedy everything; pink and orange sunsets, swathes of deep azure; the rush towards dusk bathing ancient Kent rural scenes in yellow and grey light. There are times when you feel that our little pokey-out county is in tune with the timeless far north; Iceland, Norway, Lapland… maybe the Vikings who settled here felt most at home on these dark cold days. Am I being pretentious? Stop me if I am. I’ll stop then.

Here are some pictures from early afternoon on December 16, 2017, on the high-level Meenfield woods walk, to the west of Shoreham and the little valley separating Meenfield and Andrews woods (an extension to walks 2 and 8).

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Special trees on these Kent walks

Of the countless arboreal delights of north-west Kent there are a few standout trees. There’s the tall, straight oak on the Ightam Mote path, the enormous yew near the sandstone holloway’s entrance on the Hever walk, the high, buzzard-friendly larches encountered on the Shoreham eastern valleys walk, just about every tree in Knole…

But few are more striking – or precarious – than this beech growing out of the greensand escarpment at One Tree Hill, which walkers pass on their way towards, or back from, Ightam Mote. The picture below doesn’t do it full justice: because the camera is pointing down, it’s hard to appreciate the gradient this amazing tree is growing out of. Let’s hope it lasts a while yet.

The amazing tree growing out of the escarpment at One Tree Hill

No red October – yet. And a giant kestrel

Walks this weekend (October 7-8) in Downe and Darent Valley revealed shades of green rather than oranges and reds. Is it because of the relative warmth at the moment? Just feels as if the countryside just wants to hang on to summer and its leaves at the moment. Look a bit closer though and there’s plenty of scarlet in the form of rose hips. Apparently they are very edible and full of vitamin C.

One of the largest kestrels I’ve ever seen is currently hunting around the north-western (Eynsford end) of Lullingstone – a spectacular, silent bird. It must have been a female  – they are noticeably bigger than the males. But even so, a real whopper. And on the Downe cycle yesterday we came across a red kite floating and flopping low down. It had probably spotted a dead thing.

Meanwhile, the Biggin Hill two-seater Spitfire was incredibly busy on joy flights. During our two-hour cycle it made three sorties, heading out to east Kent over Toys Hill and back over Shoreham. A great sight and sound. Few other aircraft up, probably due to the stiff breeze. Some pictures from Lullingstone/Eynsford today…

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Suddenly it’s autumn in the Darent Valley

Two weeks ago I did the Shoreham circular in 25C heat. Now, dodging showers and sudden switches in temperature I’ve ventured out on the Shoreham-Eynsford walk ( 3), the Eynsford-Lullingstone (walk 12) and to the eastern valleys of Shoreham (walk 14).

It’s often the case that the sky can make landscape photography easy; with the weather we are having this mid-September, the clarity of air and development of interesting cloudscapes transmit atmosphere and steal the scene with drama. Enjoy this slideshow…

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Recent snaps on the Shoreham circular

Last weekend, with one of my sons, I revisited this walk, the most popular on this website. It was still summer on September 2, clearly! This weekend has felt distinctly autumnal by contrast. Instead of walking along the river and the centre of the village, we went straight on after Mill Lane (instead of turning right) and skirted the village to the north, alongside the vineyard. rejoining the valley path to the east of the church. Anyway, having not done it for several months, it was a great reminder of why the walk has such enduring appeal (apart from the fact that it’s so easy to get there on train from SE London). Incredibly verdant in parts, beautiful old buildings peeping out from behind trees and shrubs, the gentle rushing of the Darent, and ‘garden of England’ views from the hillside beyond Filston Lane. Here are some photos; I’d like to know the eventual score between Shoreham and Sidcup…

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Festivals and blackberries at Hever

Anyone doing the Hever walk  this weekend will be in for a (hopefully pleasant) surprise. At Wilderness Farm, in the south-east corner of the walk, the Neverland Festival is in full swing and the footpath between Stock Wood and Newtye Hurst Wood goes right through it (stewards are on the gate to check wristbands). Expect to see a lot of pirates, mermaids and lost boys, and hear some great bands. As festivals go it’s small scale and in a beautiful setting – definitely one for the diary next year. There are more festivals coming up at the site. I personally think they add to the walk in a funny kind of way.

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Meanwhile, further down the path there are some great unpicked blackberries (well, not any more) lining both sides of the path for 300 metres. In these days of foraging (presumably the whole population will be at it after Brexit!) it’s rare to find so many. Now I just need to freeze them.