Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Another Bluebell Walk

Bluebells at their finest
Three weeks after my walk through the bluebell woods to the Dovecote at Capel, I was fortunate to go on another pub walk and this time the bluebells were, if anything, even more spectacular.

This walk was to the award-winning Windmill, at Sevenoaks Weald; a real gem of a village pub and a true community local. The occasion was to present licensees Matthew and Emma with their certificate for winning the West Kent CAMRA Pub of the Year 2015. This worthy award follows on from their success in the same competition last year. The couple then went on to win Kent Pub of the Year 2014 followed by Finalist in the National CAMRA Pub of the Year 2014 competition.

The Windmill at Weald - our destination
Despite emailing various interested people, there were only three of us undertaking the walk in the end, as the others either drove to the pub or travelled by bus. Nevertheless it was one of the most enjoyable, and scenic walks I have enjoyed for a long time, with the route taking us through some unspoilt countryside and along little-used lanes. This was despite the route following the same corridor as the A21 trunk road and the main London to Folkestone railway.

The three of us caught the train, one stop from Tonbridge to Hildenborough station, from where we headed off up the hill before crossing into Philpotts Lane. My friend Don was leading the walk, as he had walked this way several times before. After a short distance the road crosses the busy A21 Tonbridge-Sevenoaks By-Pass, by means of a bridge, and soon after afterwards we turned off to the right and headed off in a north-westerly direction. 

More bluebells
Eventually we left the road altogether and set off across some gently undulating countryside. The route took us through a wooded area which contained one of the best displays of bluebells I have seen in a long time; it certainly knocked spots off what we saw a few weeks ago. The photos I have shown here don’t really do justice to the vivid blue carpet which lit up the banks on either side of our path.

After skirting the local golf course, we reached a track which took us past a couple of isolated cottages, before descending through some thicker woodland (and more bluebells), towards railway line. We crossed under the tracks by means of a narrow pedestrian underpass. This was the only wet and muddy spot on the entire walk. We then crossed a couple more fields, divided by a stream, before coming out onto a narrow lane. After passing a riding stables, and a farm, we reached a T-Junction, and turned right into the strangely named Scabharbour Road towards our destination of Sevenoaks Weald. I was back in familiar territory now, as I know this road quite well. Some fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Windmill keen to see which beers were on offer in order to slake our thirst.

That first, much anticipated pint is always even more eagerly awaited by the time one reaches the end of a long country walk, and this pint was no exception. As is always the case at the Windmill, there was an excellent selection of beers on sale, including local offerings in the form of Goacher’s Light, Larkins Traditional, Musket Muzzleloader and Dark Star Victorian Ruby Mild, plus Redemption Big Chief and Truman’s Swift from slightly further a field. I opted for the latter to begin with; an excellent gold coloured pale ale, well-hopped with some thirst-quenching citrus flavours.

The pub was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon, but the barman told us it had been busy with diners earlier. Being the first fine warm day for some time we decided to sit out in the suntrap of a garden at the side of the pub. Here we met up with the other members of our party. A second pint was called for, and this time I went for an old favourite, in the form of Goacher’s Fine Light. It didn’t have quite as much hop character as the Truman’s, but it was still a very good beer.
The excellent beer selection

Shortly after 4pm, we were joined by the Windmill’s licensees, Matthew and Emma. After a few pleasantries, Don presented the couple with their well-deserved certificate for West Kent CAMRA Pub of the Year. We stayed out in the garden chatting to Matthew and Emma whilst enjoying the pleasant warm afternoon sunshine. I also enjoyed a further two beers; Redemption Big Chief, a 5.5% well-hopped Golden Ale, followed by the chewy dark malt of the 6.4% Dark Star Victorian Ruby Mild.

Worthy winners, Emma & Matthew
We said goodbye to our hosts, and left the pub shortly after 6.30pm. Don reckoned it would take an hour to walk back to Hildenborough station, where we would be able to catch the 19.36 train back to Tonbridge. Unfortunately he slightly underestimated the time, and we arrived at the bridge over the railway, just in time to see the train departing from the station below us! Another three or four minutes and we would have been ok.

The walk back from the pub though had been worth us missing the train, as although we stuck to the lanes, we passed some really impressive and, at times, quite stunning multi-million pound properties, all tucked away down the intriguingly named Egg Pie Lane, which leads down from Scabharbour Road to Philpotts Lane. There is certainly some money tucked away in this part of the county.

Missing the train meant an hour’s wait for the next one. There used to be a pub, called the Gate, just down the hill from the station, but this was converted, years ago, into an eatery. After various incarnations, the pub is now a rather good Indian Restaurant. Eric, who was walking with us, took the opportunity to call in for a curry, but Don and I, decided to catch the up-train to Sevenoaks, where we knew we could get a fast train back down to Tonbridge.

I arrived home slightly later than anticipated, but there was a welcoming pot of beef stew waiting for me in the slow-cooker; courtesy of my lovely wife. I was rather hungry following the walk, but fortunately there was sufficient stew for a second helping.

Once again the enjoyment of a gentle ramble through the unspoilt Kent countryside, coupled with the excellence of an award-winning village pub, had proved an irresistible combination. I am looking forward to further such delights as the summer unfolds.

1 comment:

Martin, Cambridge said...

Love the detail and bluebells pictures Paul. Would love the Windmill close to my doorstep (rather than my inlaws !); it struck me as a great all-rounder, and I had the benefit of a Burning Sky beer on my visit.