It looks as though it's going to be a lovely sunny day for the Plums' walk around the Bough Beech Reservoir. In anticipation of there being lots of midges and mossies I slap on a generous coat of tropical strength insect repellent before I leave home.
Most of the walkers meet at my house, and Ray comes over to pick us all up in his type 2, bay window VW campervan. We go to the clubhouse, where we are joined by Rene, making our number up to six.
The drive to four Elms in the 'bus' is quite an experience, and considering the load it is carrying the bus performs exceptionally well, though the brakes only just manage to stop us at the road junction at the bottom of Toys Hill.
Having found a convenient shaded lay-by at Four Elms, Ray parks and we walk to the Four Elms Inn, which conveniently for Rene has an outside toilet which is open, even though it is the gents'. We walk alongside a stream, and through a meadow full of Buttercup flowers, so vivid and pretty. Then there's a field of cut hay and a converted oast house with a neat vegetable garden with some very large, tame chickens in it.
Further on we walk along a lane and can hear the distinctive, loud squawk of peacocks, and a couple of minutes later we pass the garden in which they live, about five or six of them, one posing as 'king of the castle' on the roof of an old car. The hedgerows have honeysuckle just coming into flower, and I spot a heron flying nearby, so we may be close to the reservoir now.
Soon we catch a glimpse of the reservoir as we cross a field, and not long afterwards we are walking along the shore of its East side. The water looks as though it is only about three feet below the high water line, and there are a few oak trees growing out of the water a score of feet from the shoreline. The trees must be about fifty years old, and the reservoir has to be younger than they are. There's wild mint growing on the margin too.
A bit further along we come across the Bough Beech Nature Reserve Visitor Centre, which is a convenient place to pause and eat a sandwich as there is an open fronted barn with picnic tables and chairs in it. There's a swift's nest in the roof of the barn, and the resident is perched on a purlin nearby, preening its feathers and observing us, and perhaps keeping a record of where we're dropping crumbs.
Behind the barn there's a pond with swans on it, and an island in the middle is an un-attended nest of twigs and four or five large eggs, some of which have rolled out and are laying on the sand at the water's edge. I suppose that the eggs are too big for the swans to replace them in the nest, so there they must remain. There's an old iron plough, minus blades, lying on the grass. David grabs the handles and poses for a photo. Yes, he looks quite authentic.
We walk through the hop garden and up the track to the road that crosses the northern tip of the reservoir, a favourite place for bird watchers as there are lots of waterfowl to be seen. To my uneducated eye they're all ducks and seagulls, but I daresay that there's more to them than that.
We walk away from the reservoir and cross another field of buttercups, walking towards what appears to be a field where boats are grown. There are dozens of masts sprouting from a mass of blue tarpaulins. In fact it is a sort of dry boat parking area used to store small craft on trailers.
We pass a small pond by the roadside which has thousands of fat black tadpoles sunning themselves at the surface of the still water. We cross a field at the side of a railway and cross the railway tracks at a level pedestrian crossing place, and reach a road on the other side which leads us to the 'Wheatsheaf' pub. The pub looks very ancient, with red tiled roofs and creeper clad walls, and was once used as a hunting lodge by the gentry of Hever Castle. There's a date of 1604 inscribed on a timber lintel above the Fireplace. The pub serves a good range of real ales, and a cider, and the food looks and smells good too. There's a really lovely lawned garden to the side, and we manage to get a big table in the shade of a tree. It's so nice here that we decide to stay for a second round of drinks.
The next part of our walk is across a golf course, and as is often the case on golf courses, the public footpath signage leaves a lot to be desired, so we tend to make our own way across the course as best we can using map and compass, and being wary of low flying golf balls. We pass a patch of ground where the dredgings from a pond have been spread out. On the surface are visible the tops of dozens of golf balls, and Ray, Cookie and I spend a couple of minutes digging around in the mud, collecting a bagful of them.
We catch the others up, and find a gap in the hedge that puts us on a road. Further on there's a house with a table of potted plants for sale at the front gate. Rene buys a few of them. Good job we're nearing the end of our walk! We leave the road, and walk along a path that runs under the railway line and alongside a very large derelict orchard, with huge old apple trees competing with thick brambles and other tall weeds. We walk along the edge of a field of wheat with an unusual phenomenon in the centre - a crop triangle! I think it must be the result of the farmer running out of seed, and leaving a bald patch of ground.
There are quite a few stiles towards the end of our walk, just when we're getting a bit weary. Some of them are ridiculously high too. Ray 'modifies' one of them to make it more 'user friendly', and the last couple actually have hinged tops that lift up. Soon I can see the familiar slender church spire at Four Elms. We stop at the Four Elms Inn for a pint, before making the return trip in Ray's 'bus'.