The weekend has arrived. I have a day with no plans, so in my head this is a perfect opportunity to plan a small adventure somewhere local. The other day I decided to treat myself to some new maps of the area I live. I love maps. Whenever I look at them I get inspired to explore. For centuries maps have been used to plan all sorts from expeditions to great battles, so planning a day out walking from my front door shouldn't be a problem.
The night before I had a good look over the map. I knew I wanted to stay away from the tarmac as much as possible and pick a route that involved a bit of map and compass work. From day one basic training in the Army I got taught skills to survive, one of which is using a map and a compass. Its always a great skill to have for anyone venturing out off the beaten track and you can never have enough practice. I see far too many people relying on technology to get them around and unfortunately they do not not understand the basics. When technology is not there to help you its just your map and compass to get you out. Keep practicing and you will get more confident. Above all, it's great fun and very rewarding.
My route was roughly planned. I found a cool looking church in the middle of nowhere on the map that I wanted to check out, I wanted to have my lunch on the banks of the Thames and an old disused fort that just had to be explored. An old fort with nobody around to see me, this is now bringing out the inner child in me, I have to check it out!
Morning is here and to be honest, I enjoyed my lay in a bit too much. Didn't get up as early as I hoped for. Had breakfast and I cooked up some lunch for the walk, lots of pasta and tuna to hopefully keep me going and a few bottles of water. It was just before 1000 and I'm out the door. Bag packed with supplies, some extra warm kit and most of all, my waterproofs. Its got to rain at some point right?
The weather was good, it was fresh which was great as I have a habit of walking too fast sometimes so it kept me cool. I was following some tracks and slowly meandering my way to the first check point. The church. On route as I got further away from the town you start to notice country life. Cattle being herded and lots of people out in the fields shooting. At one point I thought I was in the middle of a civil war, people standing up on the back of pick up trucks armed with guns! Luckily, I'm in the Kent countryside heading for marshland looking for cool places to find. They all looked like they were having a great day out together.
After about 2 hours I arrived at the church. St Marys Church, in Higham. This place was old and just really cool. I really like exploring little old churches. So much history and normally whoever is running the place is more than happy to give you a quick tour. However, this place was empty. There was a gate across the entrance and the wooden door was shut. Outside is a sign that says open. The door is unlocked in my head that means I can go in. I'm sure no rules are being broken here. Walking inside I discover this place is a hidden gem. It's so quiet with only me present. I'm stood in all my walking gear and really soaking up the atmosphere. I still can't believe that it's left open for people to come and see. Perhaps living in a built up town things like trust and honesty are not as common as they are in small village communities. That is a real shame.
I head off and now I'm heading into the marsh lands towards the river thames which is my next stop. The route through the marshes proved to be quite difficult at times. I'm glad I had some good waterproof boots. So boggy at times but good fun. Out in the marshes was great. Nobody around for what seems miles. The wildlife was out and was great to see it all in their natural environment.
It was about 1300 when I got to the banks of the River Thames and I was in need of some food. It was windy and started to rain but it didn't bother me. What a great place to eat lunch. So peaceful and the view was fantastic. I didn't stop for too long because it was getting cold and I needed to move to keep warm. Plus I became conscious of the time and wanted to get off the marshland before it got dark. Next stop the fort.
Having followed the banks of the River Thames for just over 2km I arrived at Cliffe Fort. This place is awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn't get inside. Due to the weather recently it looked like it had its own moat, plus there is a sign for danger. At least from the public path you can get a good look at the structure and get some good pictures.
The weather by now had deteriorated so on with the waterproofs. Also, time was pressing on so I decided to pick up the pace a bit to at least get off the marshes. My route back took me through a bird sanctuary and the views were fantastic even in the wind and rain, and now snow had started to fall. I think the wildlife had the right idea and decided to take shelter. The good thing about going out in inclement weather is you get a lot of the place to yourself. Definitely recommend it if you want a more private walk. I got through the bird sanctuary and ended up back in civilisation at a little village called Cliffe. Within about 100m I had walked past 3 pubs! I was very tempted to go for a drink but time was pressing on. Plus, my legs were starting to tighten up and I'm not too sure I would have made the mileage back home after beer and warmth. I did however find a bus shelter to take refuge in for more food and water. It was snowing and was nice to get under a shelter and have a quick look at the map.
Unfortunately the route back involved a lot of road. For those of you that go walking a lot will know that walking on the tarmac really does take it out of you on the knees. But this was the last leg to push so I just got on with it and kept walking. By the time I got home, almost 7 hours later, I was in much need of hot food and a long shower, but most importantly was a large mug of tea!! All my kit was wet so that got hung up to dry ready for my next adventure. What a great day I've had. Completed my personal tasks for the day and took in some great scenery. Most of all though, I got to explore some fantastic places from my door step. So... Go out to your local book shop, buy a map and have a good look at what is in your area. Take some supplies and go, but remember to take your camera and tell me how you get on. I would love to hear your stories too.