last post I wrote about the north Kent town of Faversham, and the time my son and I spent in the town, in the company of a group of friends from Maidstone and Mid-Kent CAMRA. I also described how easy it was for us to get there, by train, from Tonbridge; the town where we live in the west of the county.
The main purpose of our visit to Faversham was to take part in MMK’s Good Friday Ramble; an annual event which is now in its 41st year. Keen rambler, Dick Wilkinson, has organised and led all but one of these walks, helped by his wife Pam; and whilst they are perhaps now shorter and gentler than they were a few decades ago, they are still very enjoyable.
There is no getting away from the fact that age is creeping up on many of us, and with our children now grown up, and some even with children of their own, the walks are gentler and less arduous than they were 40 years ago. They are shorter in length; typically between six and eight miles, and with less hills and other natural obstacles, but we all still enjoy these walks, which have been held in various locations, all over the county.
We invariably start from a convenient station, and then walk three or four miles to an accommodating country pub, where we stop for a pub-lunch plus a few pints! After the lunchtime halt, we return to the meeting point, via a different, but similar length, route.
Shipwrights Arms at Hollow Shore. This isolated pub stands at the confluence of Faversham and Oare Creeks, on the edge of the Ham Marshes, to the north of Faversham. It’s a place I last visited 30 years or more ago, and I remember this old weather-boarded pub being both timeless and atmospheric.
I didn’t do an accurate headcount of the assembled party, but I was told there 22 of us. We set off in two groups, and I made sure that son Matthew and I were in the first group. The reasoning behind this was to get to the pub in time to place our food order; especially as the landlord was reported as only expecting around 15 of us. This proved to be a wise move, as I will recount later.
|Heading out of town|
We turned into Court Street and passed the attractive offices of Shepherd Neame; Britain’s oldest brewery and a major employer in Faversham. We skirted the brewery site and headed towards Faversham Creek, crossing it by means of a bridge. We then continued on the opposite bank, in the direction of the sea. The tide was out, and with just a small trickle running in between the mud banks, at the bottom of the channel, the creek was not looking its prettiest.
|Saxon Shore Way|
We basically followed the course of Faversham Creek, as it first headed northwards, before turning off in a westerly direction. To our left we could see back towards Faversham, with the North Downs rising gently behind the town. To our right we could see the Isle of Sheppey, with its low hills standing out against the sky.
Beers from Goacher’s of Maidstone (Kent’s second oldest brewery after Sheps), feature prominently, and include a 3.8% “house beer”, called “Shipwrecked”, brewed especially for the pub by Goacher’s, alongside the company’s Dark Mild. Just to keep everything Kentish, there were also beers from both Kent Brewery and Gadd’s. During our stay in the pub, I enjoyed the two aforementioned Goacher’s beers, plus the excellent No. 3 from Gadd's.
The Shipwright’s prides itself on its old-fashioned approach, and with no TV, fruit machines, piped muzak or Wi-Fi, conversation was very much the order of the day. The only fly in the ointment was there was no food left for the stragglers, as it appears the pub had taken Dick’s estimate of 15 souls, strictly on face value.
We left the pub shortly after 2.30pm, but as we again left in two parties, there wasn’t the usual obligatory team photo taken outside the pub. Before leaving, I climbed the embankment for a final look at the creek. The tide had come in whilst we had been in the pub, giving a completely different outlook to the view towards Sheppey. We walked back into Faversham via a slightly shorter, and certainly less exposed route, which basically followed the track and the road from Hollow Shore.
As with all these annual rambles it had been a great day out, combining healthy exercise out in the fresh air, with good company, good ale and good food. There was a slight tinge of sadness though, as Dick announced this would be the last such walk he would be leading. After 40 years though, few could blame him for wanting to step down and let someone else take up the reins.
Fortunately I think there is someone waiting in the wings, but I’ll state categorically, here and now that it isn’t me!