True to the weather forecast, it is a wet day for our walk, but even so there are ten of us walking today. Our walk starts at Wrotham Village, within sight and earshot of the church whose bells are being enthusiastically rung rather out of sequence.
We walk along the Pilgrims Way with our hoods up, and soon leave the easy, hedgerow-sheltered track to walk along the top edge of a field where we are exposed to a stiff crosswind which ensures a good soaking on our left side. My new mud coloured ski-ing trousers which were claimed as 'virtually waterproof' prove to be far from that, and I can soon feel cold water running down my legs and wetting the tops of my socks. If I were to take them back I'm sure that I'll be told that I had worn them in 'the wrong type of rain'!
Eventually we come down off the hillside, and the wind isn't as cruel. In fact after half an hour or so it stops raining. We walk through the St. Clare estate, passing the Huge old Manor house of Upper St Clare on the right, and its smaller neighbour, Lower St Clare on the left, with its Italianate summerhouse perched idyllically on the edge of a lake. It starts to rain as we leave the estate and walk through the small hamlet of Heverham and the Chequers pub.
We walk across meadows of sodden grass, across ploughed fields of sticky mud, and cross little streams that are swollen with torrents of brown, muddy water draining from the surface of saturated fields. We stop for lunch in a small wooded gulley at the edge of a strawberry field, making ourselves as comfortable as we can on fallen tree branches or on the ground-cover vegetation. My bacon sarnies taste delicious, and Keith offers us words of encouragement, such as "Theres a pub not far away." then adds "but we're not stopping there!" -and ducks to avoid a hail of bits of tree.
On we go, and soon we reach the village of Ightham, which yields up a very cosy pub to visit. We struggle out of wet coats and rucksacks, soaking the wooden floor in the process. It's nice to be somewhere warm and dry at last. After a couple of good pints of Shepherd Neame beer we put our wet coats back on, and brave the elements again. The little stream that would normally trickle past the side of the cottage next to the pub is now a deep, writhing mass of tea-coloured water travelling at a deadly speed as it enters the culvert beneath the road.
Further on, we climb a hill out of the village, and travel on a path through a sand quarry with a lake at the bottom with lots of ducks on it. No doubt they're enjoying this weather more than us. Keith has cut our route short, so it isn't very long before we're back at Wrotham Village. I collect a small top secret package from the car, and carry it to the Bull Hotel, where we assemble to present a trophy to Keith for his dedication and hard work for the walking group over the past year. I make a short speech and present the trophy. It's a painted figurine of a skinny, bald, old codger with a pot belly, running in 'plums' coloured vest and shorts, carrying a can of beer. The award has come as a total surprise to Keith. Cookie takes a few photos of Keith and his trophy and we enjoy another excellent pint of Dark Star ‘Hophead' in this lovely old pub, warmed by open fires.