Our enthusiastic and gung-ho East Kent Co-ordinator Robert Pou led us on an adventurous? - Strenuous! - weekend of canoeing and walking along the Medway Valley.
Six of us met at Hempstead Marina Yalding on Saturday morning, Robert, Gary Coppins, David White, Andrew Fisher , Christopher Loy and Simeon Cooper on his first GOC event ( sorry Simeon a real baptism of water! ). Suitably kitted up ( but only 3 with previous experience ) we set off in pairs for the 10 mile trip amidst some lovely riverside scenery passing the ancient Nettlestead Abbey, through the colourful boats at Wateringbury and on to Teston Lock where we all braved the canoe shoots to the amusement of some onlookers. Lunch stop was at East Farleigh bridge then on to Maidstone passing some lovely fluffy ducklings and witnessing a domestic between a large swan and some geese!
The Archbishops Palace looked impressive from the river and after a brief stop it was onto Allington Lock and the camp site where we met up with Bill Fuller and his trusty camper van. Bill had been down for a couple of days exploring the local area. After a well earned rest we had a meal at the Beefeater by the lock then after saying goodbye to David, five of us slept in the two huts on the campsite run very efficiently by the Environment Agency. The beds were comfortable and the noise from the M20 wasn’t too bad. The Lock is really well kept with lovely flowers and trees and the nearby roads aren’t visible at all.
On Sunday we met at Aylesford old bridge for the 12 mile walk to Rochester and were joined by Richard Auckland, Stuart Watts, Matthew Bensberg, and eventually Chris Wools who unfortunately was directed onto a rail replacement bus at Strood station heading east but Robert drove to collect him at Chatham and we still set off on time ! The walk is varied with some nice countryside but also some industrial sites as the area was well known for quarrying, cement works and paper mills, many now closed. Having walked it the week before Robert and Gary were able to avoid the least interesting bits especially a large new housing estate by Wouldham. This meant a hard pull up the hill to meet the North Downs way and a welcome diversion to the Robin Hood pub for lunch. Thereafter it was mainly level and downhill walking with huge views across the Medway Valley. On reaching Rochester we walked along the riverside and saw a swan by her nest with 4 eggs and a rather too interested looking rat living just a couple of feet away. We finished at Rochester Castle and had tea and cake at Tiny Tim’s before making our separate ways home.
Thanks to Robert for coming up with such a great idea which we all thoroughly enjoyed and look forward to the Tonbridge to Yalding section next year!
And thanks to Gary, Simeon, Chris and the other Chris for all the pictures.