I placed my pack in the corner, sat on a stool, dripped sweat on the bar and drooled as I eyed up the beers on offer. The barmaid smiled, rested her hand on a beer pump and waited patiently. Let me tell you, I find few greater pleasures in life than trying to decide which ale to sample first whilst a lovely barmaid smiles at me.
The Dirty Habit has a story to tell, as do many places on the NDW. Monks were brewing beer here as far back as 980 AD, and even then it was a popular resting place for those travelling the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury.
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I pondered how many pilgrims had reached its doors, tired, thirsty and hungry to be welcomed just as I had. Thousands no, wait, millions surely?
Katherine Howard, born to the Culpeper family of nearby Hollingbourne Manor, spent much of her childhood in the village. She later became one of King Henry VIII’s wives.
Fuelled by more ale (obviously these circumstances have to be taken full advantage of), I enjoyed one of the best burgers I had ever eaten, said my goodbyes and left marvelling at the novel idea of being able to exchange money for beer.
I spent most of the afternoon humming Can’t Get Used To Losing You by Andy Williams while cloud shadows raced over the surrounding landscape. It had turned into an incredible day. The wind tossed me about, slamming into me as I crossed open stretches before diving back into the shelter of the woods. The trees were alive; gales ripped through them as they screamed for mercy, their limbs swaying violently as dead wood littered the trail ahead.
I stopped just before a campsite at Westwell and, in true thru-hiker fashion, decided I didn’t need a shower, nor the camping fee, and hunkered down in the field next door after thirty-three miles. I was just shy of where the NDW splits into a loop. My options were to turn right and south through Dover, Canterbury and back to this point, or left and north to do it the opposite way. I dozed off, happy in the thought that this was the only major decision I had to make that evening.