Monday, 25 July 2016

Putting it into Practice

After my last post about the benefits of  walking, I took the opportunity on Sunday to join three friends on a ramble to the Windmill at Sevenoaks Weald; one of our favourite pubs and West Kent CAMRA pub of the year. I have previously walked to the pub from either Hildenborough or Penshurst railway stations, but Sunday’s ramble followed a different route as it started off from Sevenoaks station.

We caught the 11.10 train from Tonbridge and 10 minutes later alighted at Sevenoaks. We exited from the opposite side of the station to normal, and after ascending a series of steps found ourselves heading towards the Kippington area of the town. Now if you thought Sevenoaks was posh, Kippington is posher still, and as we followed the road steadily upwards, in an approximate south-westerly direction, the houses became larger and more and more ostentatious. One particularly large pile had formerly belonged to Winston Churchill; as a plaque on the wall outside testified.

Who lived in a house like this?
This was new territory for me, but two of my companions knew the area quite well. It was certainly interesting to see how the other half live, even in a town which I thought I knew quite well! After climbing some more steps, and passing through the churchyard of the Victorian Kippington church, and walking past yet more grandiose properties, we eventually passed into more open countryside.

We followed an underpass under the main A21 trunk-road, before passing into Mill Bank Wood; an extensive area of mature pine trees. A slightly winding path led us steadily upwards in a southerly direction allowing us to slowly ascend the dip-slope of the Greensand Ridge. It was nice and cool walking through the pine forest, although there were more open areas where the sun was able to penetrate. In one such sunlit glade we even noticed a dragoon flies buzzing delicately around.

What goes up must come down, and after reaching the top of the Greensand Ridge, we began the steep descent of the scarp slope, passing a few more substantial looking properties; each blessed with spectacular southward looking views across the Weald of Kent.

I hadn’t really been following the map, as I was relying on my companions for guidance, so I was quite surprised when after a further mile or so, we suddenly emerged in Sevenoaks Weald, virtually opposite the Windmill. We walked in through the open door to find the pub practically deserted, but soon realised most people were sitting out in the garden enjoying the fine weather.

Licensees Matt and Emma were behind the bar and greeted us in their usual friendly manner, as we perused the beers which were on offer. At the lower end of the scale were Larkin’s Traditional and Rockin’ Robin – Robin Reliant; whilst at the top end was Fellowship Porter from Redemption Brewery. In between were two beers which none of us had come across before; Lytham Brewery Gold 4.2% and North Cotswold Shagweaver 4.5%. (Both 3.0 NBSS).

I started on the Lytham before working my way upwards to the North Cotswold offering, preferring the later out of the two. We joined the majority of the pub’s customers out in the garden, which is a real suntrap. None of us were sufficiently hungry to warrant a main meal, but we noticed from the menu that the Windmill offers smaller portions of most of the mains options, as starters. I opted for the pulled pork, with new potatoes and salad, which was just about right, but I must say my companions’ scampi and chips also looked rather appealing.

Apart from one member of our party who was knocking back the 7.0% Turner’s Sweet Cider, we decided to end with the Redemption Porter, but after bringing it back from the bar we realised it was on the turn, with a definite sourness lurking in the background. I took mine back and Emma changed it changed it straight away. Matt then came and found us in the garden and apologised for the beer, and offered us the excellent Gun Brewery Extra Pale, by way of replacement. Now if only more licensees were as honest and accommodating as that, a beer drinker’s life would be a lot easier!

We decided to walk back to Hildenborough station, along the well-trodden route of Egg Pie and Philpots Lanes and arrived with plenty of time to spare before our train arrived. There is only an hourly service from Hildenborough on a Sunday, so we had allowed ample time for the walk back.

Wherever I lay my hat......
I enjoyed both the outward and return walks, but as the former was through unfamiliar territory and along paths I had not trodden previously, that was the best part of the day for me. I logged it on my “Map My Walk” phone-App at just under four and a half miles. A walk like that through the lovely Kent countryside certainly takes some beating, and when there’s a top notch pub waiting at the far end, then what more could a rambling beer lover want?

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