At over 10 miles, this trip forms the longest of the stages of the Home to Dojo route. We started a little late having dropped Thomas off for a sleepover in Greenwich (rivers run through our lives!), but the weather was kind and with no deadline to reach Rochester we were confident of a really special day.
This hike is more accurately described as a series of disparate walks, loosely connected. We followed parts of the Wealdway and North Downs Way routes. We traversed fields stocked with many horses and strolled along rows of apple trees laden with pink blossom before stopping at Cobham for a brief rest. The walk to Darnley Mausoleum is one we know well, but it was interesting — if mildly alarming — to see bees preparing to swarm.
It may not be open very often, but we can personally recommend a visit to the mausoleum. It has been beautifully restored by the National Trust, and the volunteers tell some great stories, explaining the meaning behind the symbols and shape of this astonishing building.
Cobham Woods adjoins Ranscombe Farm Reserve, but these two reserves are managed very differently, so our walk took on a different flavour again, with more trees and undulating paths. From the top of Ranscombe we were given a lovely view of Chatham — Rochester was hidden in a fold of the hills above the Medway.
It is always an eye-opener to approach an area one (thinks) one knows well from an alternative perspective, and we spent a little while identifying points of interest before venturing down onto the bridge.
Walking over the Medway along the M2 road bridge proved to be the greatest challenge on this route, confronting us with the height above the river, a long stretch of tarmac and overwhelming noise. Nonetheless we could hear the birds in the scrub on the riverbanks and were treated to fantastic views of the landscape and blackback gulls.
We enjoyed the final stretch along the southern shore of the Medway in the fading light, and took the opportunity to finish our snacks with views of the River.
The late afternoons sounds of the estuary were restful and prepared us perfectly for our arrival in Rochester.
Our well-deserved pint of proper beer in the historic town tasted of nectar, and we could not resist the opportunity to dine out before rolling onto the train, homeward bound.
One of the best results was that Lee’s shin splints didn’t seem to be affected too badly by this walk, and he can see a time when he will be joining me on a trail run; preparing himself for his return to the Dojo.