Well my companion and I have returned safe and sound, if a little footsore and stiff, from our short break walking on the South Downs. Despite the forecast the weather was kind (mainly dull and overcast, but dry apart from the last half hour on the last day!). The scenery (when we weren't engulfed in cloud) was superb, the places we stayed in were all first class, as were the pubs we visited. Between us there was not a single bad pint or a sub-standard meal to be had, and we met some really nice people over the course of the four days (both on and off the trail). In short, the break has restored my faith in the countryside and its people, and has given my friend and I an appetite to complete the final leg of the South Downs Way as soon as possible, and then to cast our eyes further afield.
Now we are back though, how different this all seems from our home town. Once a thriving market town, Tonbridge has been spoiled by its closeness to London. Not only has it increasingly become a dormitory town for commuters who work in the City, but its proximity to the capital has led to an influx of not just people, but more especially attitudes, that seem far more typical of "souf London" than a Kentish market town. This point was brought home to us when we compared the nice, characterful places we were visiting (especially the pubs), with what we have back home.
When we alighted at Tonbridge station last night, stiff and sore from over fifty miles of walking in the glorious Sussex countryside, neither of us could think of a suitable hostelry in which to toast the success of our walk. Instead we wished each other goodnight and wandered off back to our respective families. Although this could be viewed as depressing, the thought that there still are unspoilt pubs in picturesque small towns and villages, just a short journey away from here means that, for the moment at least, I'm going to keep on smiling!