After the usual bus journeys to Orpington and Green Street Green we find ourselves at Worlds End Lane, which is only the first of several interesting and amusing street names that we will see today. Just a short walk brings us to High Elms Country Park, an expanse of deciduous woodland with broad, unmade, but mud-free paths and lots of birdsong, and a joy to walk through. We head for an area called 'Beech Wood' which, as its name suggests has some very old beech trees in it. By the end of March you'd normally expect to see some leaf buds swelling, ready to burst into spring greenness, but the weather has been a few degrees colder than normal for the past couple of weeks, and nature is a bit late in waking up this year.
We head across a golf course on a footpath protected by a hedge on each side, and this takes us down to a road and past a lovely old house with lots of outbuildings including a large weather-boarded octagonal summerhouse surmounted by an ornate turret with a lead roof.
Crossing the lane we pass an information board outside an even larger house which explains that the area we're in belonged to the Lubbock Family, who had made their money in banking and had connections to Charles Darwin, who of course was quite a near neighbour. The Lubbocks had taken to the then 'new' game of golf and had laid out their own 9 hole golf course in their grounds, which is where the new and larger golf course is today. As we walk along I hear and see a couple of parakeets swooping around noisily in the sky above us.
We reach 'Bogey Lane', which prompts a group photo opportunity in front of the road name sign, with fingers up nostrils! Bogey lane is just an unmade track really, which, before the use of tarmac would have been all that any country lane would have been. Bogey Lane just somehow got missed out when the roads were surfaced.
In the distance a clearing between two huge old cedar trees reveals a brief glimpse of a large mansion house on top of a hill. Its cream coloured stone columns and bright yellow brick walls look cheerful and pristine, as though the place was brand new. Soon we are walking on a path behind a 'country store' selling pet and agricultural and garden products which are jealously protected and guarded by coils of ugly razor wire above a steel mesh fence. We cross a busy main road at the Country store, and walk up a steep path which has marvellous views across a valley to our left where breaks in the trees permit. The sun is now breaking through the clouds. At the top of the hill there is a very welcome seat from which the view can be enjoyed, much as it was by William Wilberforce (who's mansion it was that we glimpsed earlier). A notice here explains that it was in 1788 during a conversation with Pitt the younger beneath an old oak tree on this very spot overlooking the Vale of Keston that Wilberforce resolved that he intended to give notice in the House of Commons of his intent to bring forward the abolition of the slave trade. The remains of the oak tree are still present a few feet away and protected by a fence. Another group photo is taken here at the bench. The former grounds of the Wilberforce estate still contain some ancient and impressive specimens of oak and yew trees, and walking along here in the warm sunshine is most pleasant.
A little further on we are walking through Keston Common, with its dips and hillocks dotted with stunted looking, twisted oak trees, and thickets of Gorse in bright yellow bloom. Suddenly I recognise the familiar sight of the spring at the head of Keston Ponds that is the source of the Ravensbourne River. This brings back happy memories of trips out here to the ponds with Mum and Dad when I was a child, and courting days here later in my teens with a girlfriend.
Pangs of hunger, and tired legs prompt me to suggest a 'scoff stop' at a picnic table by the pondside, but alas, as soon as we have sat down the sky clouds over and the wind freshens.
Our sandwiches are an attraction to the numerous dogs being walked, and there is one dog enthusiastically enjoying a game of 'fetch the ball' in the pond, going back into the icy water again and again.
Sandwiches finished, we walk on across Keston Common and soon we are in Keston Village where we stop at the Fox Public House for a drink. They've got a huge square table inside that comfortably seats all six of us, and a couple of decent real ales at the bar, so we while away half an hour chatting here. As we get up to leave we see that it is now raining, but fortunately it is only a light shower and it has almost stopped by the time we get outside.
We follow the footpath signs for the 'Nash Circular Walk', which takes us through 'Well Wood' which has ancient coppices of ash (hence the name 'Nash') and chestnut which were cut and used to make charcoal by 'colliers' for use in the iron trade (before barbeques were invented!).
We reach the small hamlet of Nash, and I have my photo taken, posing proudly in front of the 'Nash Lane' sign. We walk downhill along a footpath to Jackass Lane, and follow a bridleway alongside the lane before taking a right turn along the depressingly named 'Blackness Lane' which is in one of those semi-rural areas which would nearly a century ago have been lined with little timber framed, asbestos-cement clad bungalow shacks on half-acre plots of land, and which have over the last half century been replaced with neat little detached houses and bungalows that are now, thanks to the 'green belt' planning protection, still in a semi-rural setting and worth a small fortune.
A sharp left, and then a right turn takes us along a track onto open farmland with a row of peculiar shaped 'stunted' electricity pylons close by, whose odd squat shape is soon explained when the row of floodlights marking the end of Biggin Hill airport runway appears at the other side of a fence. We follow the airfield's perimeter fence for a while, then double back and follow it for a while more, to find the correct path that takes us across some open fields beneath the stunted pylons, downhill, uphill and onwards with more views across the countryside with its patchwork of brown ploughed fields and green winter wheat shoots, and the distant silhouettes of leafless trees, distinctly different according to their species.
Soon there are more groups of people about, mostly walking dogs, a sign that we are nearing a town or village. There are football matches being played on a recreation ground, and a last footpath brings us out into Farnborough Village. We could walk another mile to Green Street Green, but a collective decision is taken to catch a bus from here to Orpington where we partake of some refreshment and re-hydration in the Wetherspoons pub.
On the bus ride home I notice that in Blackfen, a lady with brush and a tin of black paint is painting a picture of a Broken Drum on the roller shutter of a soon to be opened micropub of that name. "It's getting better all the time", to quote Lennon and McCartney. Cheers!