My appetite was huge. I couldn’t stop munching. Placing snacks in side pockets to save me delving into the pack, I spent most of the day doing precisely that to retrieve further supplies as my calorie calculations fell far short. I blamed the obvious physical exertion but also the chilly air; it was past 2pm before I removed my jacket, due to a steep climb up Otford Mount which had me sweating and reaching for water. Thirty-two miles at day’s end and I pulled up, deciding that was an admirable distance for a Saturday.
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Early in the morning I descended from the Downs and caught glimpses of the Medway Bridge carrying traffic along the M2, and over the River Medway itself. It took an eternity to cross the bridge. The hills on the other side never seemed to get nearer, and those behind no further away. I climbed up to the Downs summit, escaping the hum of engines and drone of rubber. Reaching the top, I lay back in the grass, the meadow flowers drawing over me and dancing, while a ferocious wind whipped over. I stopped at Kit’s Coty, part of a stone burial chamber built 2,800 to 3,500 years ago as a final resting place for those from local farming communities.
As the sun emerged it warmed. Vast swathes of meadow, fields and other open spaces interrupted the woods. A faint track wove through and I checked the occasional signpost to make sure I was on the right route. Families lay on blankets spread upon sun-drenched hills. Children ran around screaming, dogs dangled tongues looking for water and birds played with thermals. The wind, still intense, blasted me sideways, and summer clouds sped overhead as I watched my feet progress over chalk, flint, grass and baked mud. Kissing gates squeaked as I squeezed through them, back into the cool of the woods once more.
I reached Hollingbourne and the Dirty Habit pub. I remember missing this last time because I passed by early morning when it was shut but now the timing was perfect. Lunch beckoned and I tentatively opened the front door and peered inside, trying to get a quick glimpse of the interior before deciding if it was worth entering. “Hello, good morning,” was the welcome offered by the barmaid. “Hi,” I replied.