The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday 25 March 2010

Day 4 - Bluebell Hill to Dartford

25 March
Distance: 17 miles
Number of faffs per mile (av.): 3
Number of kit failure recoveries: 1

My prediction for a poor night's sleep turned out to be true. All was fine between 9pm and just gone midnight (during which a party could have been going on outside of the tent for all I would have known). Then I woke up and whilst lying there contemplating the fact that I really did need to go and visit the en-suite (which was being countered by the fact that it was very warm in my sleeping bag so I didn't want to have to move), the sound of an engine was heard, swiftly followed by the tent being lit up by headlights.

Up I sprang to peer out of the vent, only then to hear the vehicle stop and the handbrake applied, apparently very close to us. At this point Mick got rudely woken by a violent shaking.

Five minutes later another set of headlights lit us up, which compounded my (completely irrational) terror that we were going to be sprung kipping unlawfully in someone's field.

I lay awake for hours wondering what was going on out there (not helped by another car going by just as I was dropping back off at 1am).

Now, I've probably made that sound like we were pitched adjacent to a busy track - and in my irrational frame of mind in the middle of the night it felt like we were. In the reality of daylight we were a respectable distance away, in a field which had no external entrance (we got in by bashing through scrub and clambering), plus we were pretty well secreted behind trees and scrub, such that I would be very surprised if a passing vehicle could see us. As for why cars were going back and forth along what had appeared to be a little-used by-way in the middle of the night, I know not.

So, with Mick mocking me for being such a scaredy-cat, and with me having no idea (by the light of the day) what I had found so scary, feeling a little less than fresh-as-a-daisy, off we set towards Rochester this morning.

Fantastically slow progress was then made. I don't think we have ever before achieved such a level of faffing within the first mile.

In the second mile, with the faffing temporarily under control, we met a chap walking his dog, with whom we chatted for quite a while. Having bade him good day we had only gone a hundred yards further when we saw a chap with a backpack coming towards us.

Trevor was his name and except for being notable by the fact that he was also backpacking (the NDW, heading south, and wild camping all the way), he was also dressed in the exact same waterproof jacket and overtrousers as Mick (after a decidedly wet night, it was a bit of an inclement day). I did take a photo of Howard and Hilda, and shall post it when I download the camera.

After a good chat we were on our way again, but thanks to having gleaned from Trevor that there was a Co-op 100 yards off route, just around the corner, we detoured to stock up on ibuprofen (Mick: sore knee; me: sore achilles).

The day then continued in the same vein with a huge number of faffs and distractions, during which time we left the NDW and set off across fields and through villages.

Some very nice villages were passed through, giving us plenty of opportunity to oggle some fantastic houses, but the niceness of the day was marred by Kent's apparent monster problem with litter and fly-tipping.

We found ourselves in one of those villages at lunchtime, so it seemed rude not to give some custom to a pub there (note Alan, we passed 9 pubs today, albeit we only visited the one).

With only a handful of miles to cover after lunch, our approach to Dartford would have been frustrating had it not been for a chance conversation with the owner of Bean Farm, who handily told us that the by-way we intended to take came to a dead end one side of the A2 and restarted the other side, with no way of crossing what is in effect a motorway. Not only did he save us the annoying backtrack which would have become necessary, but he gave us directions across his fields (not on RoWs) to take an alternative route to the nearest bridge. We were most grateful.

The walk past Blue Water and into Stone (which is where we actually are tonight) wasn't the most inspiring, but it was a small part of the day and led us to our Travelodge room for the night.

Within 5 minutes of arriving the room was liberally strewn with all of our kit. After three nights out in decidedly damp weather much airing of kit was our first priority. After four days out, getting ourselves washed came a close second!

As for the kit revival, Mick's altimeter watch is now fully functioning again. I discovered that if you press all of the buttons at once it resets it. Alas, the mopping cloth still refuses to mop effectively and I still keep forgetting to buy a new one when we pass a shop.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


  1. Pleased to see the altimeter is working again. I expect it's getting heavy use. Shame about the continuing mopping cloth problem - hope you weren't using it to lubricate your achilles. If so, I reckon it must be your... (no, I can't bring myself to type the last two words of that sentence, I'm afraid).
    Word = 'wizesse' - a female wizard (Gayle)

  2. Your disturbed night rang a lot of bells for me from my LEJOG walk. I hope this kind of thing doesn't continue. From your report you seem to have been in a countryfied location. After my experience in Easton-in-Gordano I vowed not to camp again outside a camp site in a rural or townified area.

    I'm still having problems with email and iPhone. for the moment I am using the Tiscali email until I get some sense out of Vodafone.