The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Life in the Palace
Our February trip to Kent looks like it will be the last one for a while. Whilst walking is generally being encouraged as good exercise during our social isolation, it’s hard to argue our weekends away are essential travel. So it is with fondness that I recall our pub meal on Friday night, followed by a couple of convivial beers. The late comers even managed to join us in time for pudding, it was all very lovely. We have stayed at Palace Farm several times before and Doddington is a lovely village in a very picturesque part of Kent.
Saturday morning and the scent of roasting sausages raised us from our slumbers and steeled us for the day’s activities. There were also the ingredients for a continental breakfast, but somehow a chilly March morning demands more than just a croissant. Cress had planned a walk from the door, which is always a bonus. We started out with a visit to the Church at Doddington, somewhat dramatically dedicated to the ‘Beheading of John the Baptist’ – one of only two such churches in England. The origin of the odd name is apparently a stone brought back from the crusades, which was said to be the one St John lost his head on. As with many saintly ‘relics’, it disappeared during the reformation.
From here it was a short walk across the hills to the more traditionally named St Mary’s at Eastling. No gruesome stones here, but a huge yew tree allegedly older than Christianity itself.
A bit more slithering about in the mud and we were ready for lunch. Not really wanting to sit on damp grass, it was with some gratitude that we found public benches on the green and Stalisfield Green. Just the other side of the village green we could hear The Plough calling to us with a tempting offer of beer, coffee and a roaring fire. Hard to resist, so naturally we didn’t try. Full de-booting or the deployment of boot covers was required to save the carpets, but it was worth it!
A pint later and feeling warmed through and much more relaxed, it was time to continue on the final half of the walk. Possibly it was the beer, but part 2 seemed to go particularly quickly. We joked about being back in Doddinton in time for the tearoom, but we very nearly made it (just 3mins too late - I doubt we’d have been popular piling in just as they were wiping down the tables). However we were definitely in time for the pub. This was the same Chequers Inn we’d enjoyed on Friday night and a pint of Harveys went down very nicely.
If Saturday had been a bit slithery, it was nothing compared to the walk on Sunday. We set off from Harrietsham and slithered along the Pilgrims Way to a very atmospheric pub at Ringlestone. It was brick flooring rather than carpet, but by this point we’d got extremely muddy so de-booting was advisable. The reason for all this was that the Pilgrims Way is a BOAT (byway open to all traffic) and apparently that includes mountain bikes, four by fours and even joy riders. It’s not many of our walks where ‘police aware’ tape is a feature. Still, mud aside, it was fresh air and largely dry weather and a great way to spend a weekend.
Taking our lives in our hands, this was the last chance (as it turned out) for day out with friends before the dreaded Covid-19 restrictions kicked in. Not only did 8 of us meet up for a bit of social interaction, but we also bagged our last pub for a few weeks. Sad times. Although if we did promise to stay 2 metres apart…
On 23rd February, 11 of us met up in Danbury despite the stormy weather forecast for a tour of Danbury. In just 8 miles, there was lots of variety from the heath of Danbury common, the woodland and lakes of Danbury Country Park including the ice-house with the benefit of Robin's local knowledge Danbury Palace, open fields, and the ridge of Lingwood Common overlooking the town. In the end the only downpour was at lunchtime, when there just happened to be a very conveniently placed shelter for us to take cover.
At the beginning of March, CYHA visited Palace Farm bunk house in Kent for our 5th visit. Over two days, we walked on the North Downs through coppiced woodlands, muddy fields and Land-Rover tracks and the grounds of the estates of Doddington Place, Sharsted, Belmont, and Otterden.
Highlights included 13th century Frescos of in The Beheading of St John the Baptist Church, the 18th Century Sharsted Court, and two welcoming rural pubs, including the Ringlestone Inn which has been a pub since the 1630s. Despite the mud from recent rains, signs of the spring were in the air, such as the sky-larks taking off of and singing to mark their territory as we walked through their field.
Unbeknown to us at the time, this may be the last trip for some months due to the ongoing, and tightening Coronavirus measures. We look forward to seeing you all on a walk or trip once normal service is resumed.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer