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Rambling around Kent

It occurs to us that we are once again travelling around Britain in an anti-clockwise direction. Having done this around the coast by boat, turning left at every corner, we wonder whether the fact that we are now describing the same motion on land might mean that we are, like the water in the plughole, programmed against rotating clockwise, forever constrained by gravity and the motion of the earth. Whatever the reason, we travel onward in an easterly direction until we nearly run out of land, which neatly brings us into Kent.Ducky at Dungate

Ducky fits tidily into the drive of Rich and Gerry’s house at Dungate where we are accommodated during this part of our travels. Our friends, in training for future trekking holidays, take us with them on one of their jaunts around the Kentish countryside, in company with a few others, and we revel in the sudden warm spell that conveniently arrives for us. This part of the country is familiar to us but after so long away the vegetation appears dried out compared to what we might find in Scotland. We walk all day without once getting water inside our boots, an experience unheard of on any Scottish hillside, but despite this we enjoy ourselves and find the company engaging and enjoyable. TheMondayRamblersThis group regularly go walking together, usually on a Monday for some strange reason, taking pains to ensure the chosen route has interest and sufficient length to satisfy without exhausting anyone. Our day out as incomers to the group happened to be planned by Rich himself, so we just knew it would be entertaining somewhere along the way, and we were not to be disappointed. Although mostly walking on vaguely marked paths across farm land, on arriving at the edge of one largish village (or maybe it would be a small town) we are directed straight through a fully operational industrial estate where large lorries are being loaded, fork-lift trucks careering about everywhere. The signposted footpath, clearly of much greater vintage than the industrial park, is marked on the ground here with yellow paint and beset with safety barriers and warnings so that meandering walkers do not impede the important business operations or vehicle movements. We follow, although not without some trepidation, until safely back on more familiar ground again. Surely only in the garden of little England could so much effort be dedicated to preserving the historic route of a footpath across a piece of land regardless of what is subsequently built there.

Swale walkers

Several days later we are on another ramble, this time along the north Kent shore of The Swale, that stretch of water separating the inhabitants of the Isle of Sheppey from the rest of us. With all this exercise we feel that total fitness ought to strike us at any moment… but somehow it eludes us still and we are left with the same aching limbs and wonky knees.

The Swale fails to achieve the status of a river largely because it has an exit to the sea at each end, but this does not prevent it having currents, strong ones too, that ebb and flow simultaneously towards or away from a watershed at the centre. During each tide the precise spot at which both tides meet migrates along the Swale due to an imbalance in the flows from each end so that calculating direction of the current and the depth of water at any single point along the way is a complex, almost mystical, business. It is, however, wisdom that is deeply ingrained in many of the sailors who use these waters and at least some of that knowledge still remains within Kate and me from the days when we used  to sail here regularly. Memories from our earliest sailing days, with young children on board our small boat, come back to us as we dawdle along the Kent shore, past the crumbling remains of the explosives factory and beside the low-tide mud of the Swale itself.Ducky and caonpy

After our walk we all climb into Ducky for a brew of tea whilst I enthuse about her virtues as a mobile home. The latest addition to our caravanning armoury, I point out to those still awake, is the canopy which fits over our side door. This was very much a trial and error thing but we are pleased to be able to report, to all those along our journey who have helped with ladders, advice and electric drills, that it now works precisely as intended, as this picture shows. A big thanks to everyone on the canopy committee.

This is the point in our journey around Britain where we turn left towards home. We still have a few friends to visit (and some to make, we hope), some relations to drop in on, but heading north has a different feel now as we can taste the mountains of Scotland over the horizon.

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