John Nash's Walking Diary

Alfie's Walk

Sunday 27th January 2008

I'm walking with the Plums today. A shorter and easier walk with few stiles in remembrance of Alfie (who in common with most of us didn't much like stiles). It is certainly a lovely day for it, and hopefully the strong breeze and lack of rain last week will have helped to dry the ground a little.

We're starting at Bexley village so I cycle there .There's no one in the car park as I chain my bike to the lamp post. That's odd I don't think I'm all that early. Then I remember that there's another larger car park on the other side of the high street walk across to it and find everyone assembled there.

We set off and cross the railway next to the cricket ground and eventually reach and crossed the river Cray which we follow as it meanders its way through Footscray Meadows to the Five Aches bridge. As predicted the footpath is quite dry and firm so far. We stop at the bridge where I inspect the restoration work carried out on it a few years ago and then gaze into the water at it tumbles over the weirs beneath the arches. I suppose that my blank, mesmerised expression must be the thing that attracts the simpleton to come over and talk incessantly to me for the next five minutes. Actually, that's unfair, he's not a simpleton, more of an anorak really, one who's obsessed with rivers and lakes.

The Plums set off along the lakeside, so I make my excuses and say farewell to the anorak. We walk through the meadow until we reach a gate into Rectory Lane. The next mile or so is along the Maidstone Road to Ruxley where we turn left into a farm track and pass a flock of geese browsing around a muckheap. There's a quick photo shoot in front of the most desirable properties in the area before we cross a field to reach Joydens Wood.

I've never been to Joydens Wood before. It seems to have been painstakingly sculpted with numerous broad, fenced bridleways, which means mud in some places. Keith leads us off the bridleway and through the woods from time to time, and at one stage he manages to find some really deep, wet mud. Linda isn't very pleased with the new dark colour her nice nubuck boots have taken on. I reckon that Keith will become well acquainted with a scrubbing brush later this afternoon!

We stop to look down into a Deane hole cut into the chalk many centuries ago. It is too deep to see the bottom, so it must have been cut after the ladder had been invented. We also stop to look at the remains of a defensive ditch, which seems like a good opportunity to eat my cheese sandwich in the afternoon sunshine. Our walk continues along the paths and bridleways through Oxleas Woods until we come to a lane which leads through a livery stables and eventually to Vicarage Lane where I am looking forward to having a good pint or two in the Old Wick Public House.

How disappointing to see three out of four of the pumps have their clips turned around, and to find that the fourth pump delivers just one pint of porter before drying up. Apparently the pub's landlord is away on holiday and his staff don't seem able to run the cellar properly in his absence. So, bottled beer it is then, and spritzers for a couple of us, once we've explained how to make them!

We only stay for the one drink before completing the last ‘leg' of our walk into Bexley Village. I find that my bike hasn't been touched while I've been away, and I put the front wheel back on it (because it goes better with both wheels working!).

I decide to detour via Sidcup to pay a visit to Mum and Dad. My timing or arrival is perfect as the tea has just been brewed at 'half time'. I stay and watch the second half of the Man U v Spurs F.A. Cup Tie with them in front of a blazing log fire, but have to leave shortly after the full time whistle as I haven't got any lights on my bike.

I spend the evening making celery soup and watching T.V. I have a busy day at work tomorrow so I stay a safe distance from the Old Mill!

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