North Kent was the area chosen for this year’s walk; a gentle 5 mile circular stroll from Newington station, to the Three Tuns at Lower Halstow and back. As is often the case over the Easter weekend, train travel was disrupted by engineering works, but for once the disruption and the rail-replacement buses laid on by the train company worked in our favour (or at least it should have done).
As the work affected a large chunk of North Kent, there was a bus running from Maidstone East, via the Medway Towns, all the way to Faversham. As this bus also stopped at Newington, we were able to take advantage of this direct service, rather than travelling half way around the county in order to reach our destination. For my friend John and me this was a simple case of catching a train from Tonbridge to Maidstone West and then walking across town to the East station and jumping on the bus.
That was the theory; but unfortunately our driver took a wrong turn in Rainham, which then involved a long detour to get back on track. The bottom-line was we were about 40 minutes late reaching our destination. Around half of the group had driven to Newington, so a quick phone call from those of us on the bus, told them to get going and we would see them at the pub. As it happened we caught up with the stragglers in the other group before we reached Lower Halstow.
The weather was sunny and surprisingly warm. I didn’t need the thick coat I had set out in. The walk followed a mainly northerly direction towards the Medway Estuary, and we were rewarded with some spectacular view across the river, towards the Isle of Grain as we mounted what must have been the only hill on the walk.
We made our way towards the river, the ground gradually sloping downwards. The countryside was looking good in the bright sunshine; although the going underfoot was quite soggy in places, after the previous day’s heavy rain. It was somewhat disparaging to learn that Friday was going to be the best day of the Easter weekend, but it was good to be out in the fresh air enjoying the sunshine.
On the path round to the creek, passes the picturesque church of St Margaret of Antioch. The church has parts dating back to the 8th Century; although it was largely re-modelled during the 12th and 13th Centuries. It is in a lovely setting, on raised ground overlooking the creek, and on the lovely spring day which we experienced on Friday, was looking at its absolute best. There was an old Thames sailing barge, moored in the creek opposite, and all the way out into the estuary, the water looked as calm as a millpond.
|St Margaret of Antioch|
The Three Tuns is a free-house, and on Friday had beers from Bexley Brewery, Brew Buddies, Canterbury Brewers and Goachers on offer. Unfortunately the German Twin Hop from Canterbury had just run out, but the un-fined house beer, produced specially for the pub by Brew Buddies of Swanley, was in good form. The Goachers Imperial Stout was also in excellent condition; mind you it needed to be, as sitting next to me at the dinner table were Phil and Debbie Goacher; owners and founders of Goachers Brewery. The Three Tuns is a regular outlet for the company’s beers, and often stocks their mild. Several of us complemented Phil on the quality of the stout, but he said that with winter now over, they would unfortunately not be brewing any more of the beer until the autumn.
|The Three Tuns|
When the pie arrived I was at first disappointed as it appeared to be the all too common pub thing of the meat and gravy in a small casserole, with a pastry lid on top. A closer inspection however, revealed that this was indeed a proper pie, as not only was the pastry short-crust, but it also extended down into the dish, completely enclosing the filling – just as a “proper pie” should! With new potatoes, vegetables plus a small jug of extra gravy, it was just what I needed after my walk, and with a pint of Imperial Stout to accompany the food, it was the perfect pub meal experience, so far as I was concerned.
|A "proper pie", but in a dish|
Our walk back from the pub followed a different route, and given the warm weather, I could definitely have done with a thinner coat. It was a steady uphill climb from Newington, but eventually we reached the golf-course where Keith had parked his car. It was nice being driven back to Tonbridge, instead of having to rely on the vagaries of the rail-replacement bus service, and we were back home an hour earlier than we would have been otherwise.
Once again the Good Friday ramble had proved a most enjoyable day out; affording the opportunity to catch up with old friends whilst enjoying a walk in the lovely countryside of a part of Kent I don’t get to see that often. The attendance was 23 persons; although I’m not sure it included Dick and Pam’s two grandchildren. Oddly enough there were no dogs this year, but it was not because our canine friends would have been unwelcome in the pub; far from it. Next year will see Dick and Pam leading what will be their 40th yearly ramble, so we will wait and see whether the couple have something extra special in store for us.
I would also recommend a visit to the Three Tuns. According to WhatPub, the pub is close to a bus route; presumably one leading out from the Medway Towns. Even better is the fact the Saxon Shore Way* long-distance footpath, runs through Lower Halstow, so it would be good to combine a visit to the pub with a gentle walk along the coastline.
*The Saxon Shore Way is a long-distance footpath in England. It starts at Gravesend, and traces the coast of South-East England as it was in Roman times as far as Hastings; a distance of 163 miles (262 km) in total