Welcome to the Journal

This is the journal of two non-intrepid walkers who like to visit places in and around Kent and Sussex.  Myself, James Apps and my Sister Daphne plus the dog Zoid (we borrow him from my nephew) take a casual walk, mostly on Saturdays throughout the year according to our fancy.  There is no pattern although we do decide on a theme of visits depending on whether or not we have the dog with us.

We are not intrepid, that is eating up the kilometres (they are shorter than miles but appear more in numbers) but more for exploration and pleasure.  We like dog friendly pubs, dog friendly places and a mixture of countryside and towns or villages.

We like lunch, a coffee, beer and chatting with other people.  We are not into hiking boots, huge backpacks and the need to get from one place on the map to another.   Now and then we do some longish walks but the main aim is to exercise and to take the time to stop and stare.  Providing the dog will let us – he loves streets and pathways, stiles and tracks are an inconvenience he will tolerate because he is walking with people who love him (everybody loves him).

However, we do see some lovely places and like to share our experience of them with others. Do not expect a detailed description of a walk but do expect some useful comments on the pub or the place.

A view of Luddesdown Court

Looking across the valley to the organic farm at Luddesdown - Kent

And here, just to show you what we mean is a picture taken on one of our walks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Brief Rant on Taxes

This election campaign has thrown into the arena the usual promises about who is going to do what, how and what with. Some want to tax the higher earners more, others want to cut taxes even more, and another suggests a small increase on the NI to pay for the NHS. Whatever the motive it all seems like pandering to their voters and suggesting that as a nation we cut our income down again and add to the misery of Osborne’s Austerity Programme.

On chuntering about taxes it appears that all of our party leaders fight shy of the real issues of funding public services fairly and properly. It is generally understood that Government will provide the public services, or at least control the funding for them and to do so taxes must be gathered. The problem is that recent governments seem to want to please their supporters by cutting taxes that have an effect on them.

However, we have to fund the NHS, Schools and pensions at the least. We need to make sure of our infrastucture such as Railways and Roads and make investments in future power and gas supplies. In addition we also need to provide for those who need support. For that we need to pay taxes or fees.

That last leads to heated arguments and panic when the politicians start to examine our national finances – hands held up in horror and tight-lipped censure of the other party if any raise in taxes is suggested.

So what happens if we take a look at the things we give away, such as “free” medical care, Winter fuel payments, pensions and child benefits etc. The easiest solution, so it seems is to cut the benefits, and adding in prison service to contract out many services to save money. Government may save on their wage bills but end up spending more on fixing the problems when the system fails. The buffer of profit is the problem; that buffer, the money the private company wants is built in to the contract which if the cheapest is chosen lowers the quality of the service. Cleaning in hospitals, care of the elderly and the efficiency of the railways over cost to the customer is all part of the mallaise.

Other countries manage the political will to run services better but they do not do it on the cheap; they collect taxes to pay for it. Britain can also do this. During the referendum the flase promise of diverting £350million per week to the NHS instead of the EU was part of the argument. This argument agrees that the NHS is underfunded. We should be attending to this urgently instead of trying to fiddle around with ‘fresh ideas’.

The reluctance to collect taxes is understandable when as soon as a rise is mooted those who see themselves as affected scream ‘unfair’ and the politicians hit the panic button and think of how many votes they will lose.

Apart from our tangible public services being paid what about my bloody pension!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Kings, Queens, Princes and Presidents

We are reaching the end of a sometimes controversial monarchy; one that has lasted through post war turmoil, peace and anxiety, that has acted as an anchor for our sovereignty and despite the critics has survived. The Queen and her family may be seen as part of the privileged elite that sponges off the people, or a symbol of all that is British, according to your point of view and perhaps, you might say it is time for a change.

Let us bear in mind that the rule of kings is no longer in force since the time of Cromwell and of course the Enlightenment and the effects of the French Revolution, and after WWI  the power of Monarchs was much less. George the Sixth became a figurehead and the present Queen has more than filled that role.

Let us look at the recent developments and remember the bad dictators, and the ghastly choice of Presidents in the US, not taking into account others for the purpose of this rant, and look at the alternatives we are faced with.

If the Queen should abdicate, or pass away we could be stuck with Prince Charles as King, and given the opinion of so many regarding the treatment by the Royal Family of the popular Princess Diana he is not a popular choice.

If Charles should take the throne then the UK should consider holding a referendum as to his suitability for the post. Or ousting him and consider changing the House of Lords to a Senate and creating an elected President as Head of State to replace Queen Elizabeth II. Alternatively the Commons could become an elected Lower House and the Lords the elected Legislative House, with a President as the Coordinator and Voice of the Nation. The President does the visiting and sucking up.

If Charles declines the monarchy then we can adopt Prince Willy as King but perhaps consider changing our method of government. The two house system works because, however awkward, one house will contest the other. We need a lower house to create the laws and run the country, and an upper house linked to the courts to ensure that what the buggers are doing in parliament is legal and sensible.

If we are forced to choose a President be aware that we could get a George  W Bush or a Donald Trump or even a Tony Blair.  Douglas Adams in his book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” suggested that as Zaphod Beeblebrox was the least competent being in the galaxy he was therefore most suited to become its President.  That Adams suggested a little pink pussycat was actually in charge was wishful thinking but totally acceptable. If the UK adopted a President he or she might do well to read Adams’ book for some useful guidance.

However, Willy would be the popular choice if only that lots of blokes fancy his wife, and both men and women admire Willy and Harry for surviving, almost intact, the ostracisation of their beautiful mother.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Post article fifty

Okay, so our glorious leader has punched the button; triggered off the action with a Dear Don letter. What now?  We have  a choice of letting the Tory party run the show and wait patiently to be screwed, or to make plenty of demands and suggestions so that we can be certain that we have screwed ourselves. Either way it is a more or less fifty-fifty result.

Panic2

Scotland’s First Minister is angling for a new referendum that could result in Scotland wanting independence; Northern Ireland is in turmoil and there are questions about the Republic’s relationship with the UK after the break. Wales voted to leave in general and that seems about it. The problem is how to deal with the perceived divisions.

I have a suggestion but in the words of Deep Thought ‘You are not going to like it’ – so here is the James Apps solution to the UK divorce from Europe.

Encourage Ulster and the Republic to form a coalition.

Let Scotland have its referendum and if voting for independence it could become part of the Ulster – Republic coalition to form a Gaelic Union.

England and Wales can be known as The Disunited Kingdom (DUK).

The advantages of this arrangement is that we will not need a border control between Ireland and Ulster. We can then build a wall to complement Hadrian’s Wall – see; the Romans did do something for us, and of course, taking a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book, Scotland can pay for it.  The EU would then find a new route for trade into and out of the Gaelic Union via Scottish and Irish ports and any movement across the DUK can be charged both at the Scottish Border and at Dover.

As an afterthought, we could also get rid of an embarrassing anomaly by ceding Gibralter to the Spanish, bearing in mind that there were may Remainers living there.

If we need to, or if the Welsh get too stroppy in Westminster, we can carve off Wales too and let them become part of the Gaelic Union – it will only need a short wall to close off the border, perhaps following Uffa’s (or Offa’s) Dyke.  And come to think of it there’s not a great distance to cover to isolate Cornwall, but the last two are of course not imperative.

The disadvantage we will only have one Saint’s Day to celebrate, and as the past has shown, poor St George, being a foreigner and shared by many other nations, some of whom do not naturally speak English, has never really been fully appreciated.

Anyway – time will tell and if my fantastic idea is adopted we will all be happy in our disunited land, united by the satisfaction that at last we have our country back.

Whoopee?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Big Bang Theory – the real thing

The thing is that as human beings we cannot contemplate the insignificance of our existence in relation to the vast reaches of what we call The Universe. The enormity of the numbers in our terms, such as 13.7 billion years, or even a few millions when our planet was developing, or the struggle to understand what happened before we were born. To add to our confusion we have to wrestle with distances that cannot be named because there are not enough words to describe a number with so many zeros tagged on. We have to resort to giving the numbers indices that run out of sensible sizes even before we reach Alpha Centaurii.

350px-cmb_timeline300_no_wmap

Our forbears, in various areas of our world came up with tales to explain the inexplicable reason for our existence, often also incorporating a beginning story, and they often came up with Gods or a Supreme being to solve the dilemma. There are evidently many creation stories much like the biblical Adam and Eve tale often giving a time in the past that most people could comprehend. Putting aside crank timelines for the creation of the Earth many of them successfully gave an explanation most people could cope with. 

My problem with the creation stories and the idea of God as a supreme being is the need to have faith in the idea and accept it as the truth. 

Likewise, my problem with the Big Bang Theory is the same. 

I cannot comprehend the vastness of space and like our forbears struggle with the thought that in comparison to the Universe my existence is a mere blink in the time line, and the longest journey I can make on this Earth is so short in comparison to the vast distances of space as to seem as if I have not moved. 

When I was a young man I sometimes staggered back from the Robin Hood and Little John pub on Bluebell Hill with my mate and we would gaze at the stars (you could see the buggers then) and imagine travelling to the furthest star to stand on a planet similar to Earth and imagine doing the same there. The exercise bemused our already befuddled minds, yet if taken to a logical end was terrifying because you could not imagine reaching an end. 

And then we are told we have the beginning. Not God’s six days and rest on the seventh, nor the sudden creation of fully formed creatures but an explosion, a chemical and gaseous fart that spewed galaxies of stars into space. We are told that this might possibly be (a theory) the start of something big which is beyond our full understanding, and an event we hope we can actually detect. 

 When an Astronomer suggested that there was a glow behind the Big Bang a Christian Leader (bless him) made the comment that what the Astronomer saw was the Holy Light of God. 

My thought at the time was quite simply that this man of God had yet to evolve, and that perhaps the Astronomer’s equipment had reached its limit of perception. It was this that prompted me to consider that perhaps we have yet to discover the real reason for the Big Bang. What if the Universe we live in is much bigger than we thought it was. 

In most religions the idea that we have a beginning and an end in all things bears out the reality of our mortality and the “mortality” of planets, stars and galaxies, replacing cold, natural indifference with something we can understand, or at least deal with. 

The Big Bang theory gives us an conceivable beginning and allows us to cope with the vastness of our Universe. 

Naturally most of us are just managing to cope with paying the rent, finding out what’s on the telly, trying to cope with illnesses and relationships and all the normalities of human life. We fight our wars, complain about governments, raise our children and mourn our dead. 

Most of us say “Sod the Big Bang” and get on with our own organic and chemical explosions. But to me the thought of what went before the Big Bang occupies my thoughts, and I hope that on reading this short piece you also start speculation. 

I may be wrong but after all it is only a theory. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seddlescombe Geese, Mods and Rockers

 

IMG_5691

Travelling Geese

Seddlescombe on the road from Hawkhurst to Hastings was one of the places we rode through on our motorcycles in the days when the Mods and the Rockers were creating the setting for the movie Quadrophenia.   It was rarely a place to stop but on the way and on the way back it was always the thing to ‘do the ton’ across the border between Kent and Sussex.

A small Italian Scooter

A small Italian Scooter

Today we stopped having left the potholes of Kent for the pleasant roads of Sussex and settled in the car park.   We had Poppy the dog with us and that would make the walk interesting especially when on the grass near the car park was a small flock off geese.  Surprisingly Poppy took very little notice of them.

We had a pleasant walk from the car park wandering through the village via the footpaths and minor roads.  We ate blackberries ripened on the bramble and wandered rather than hiked.  There a few paved footpaths around the village, narrow but worth the walk.  The treat was meeting a local resident who was proud to display three Italian Capri scooters – the mod part of the day – one immaculate and two being readied for restoration. I liked his enthusiasm for this little known marque (in the UK that is) and wished him all the best in his enterprise hoping to see them finished one day.

We walked along and up the main road to the church and from there across the paddocks, Poppy successfully negotiating her first stile, to complete the circle back to the village.  On the way Poppy the dog decided that she should improve her image by rolling in a dollop of Fox poo.  Yuk!   Cleaning was effected by encouraging her to roll on the clean grass at intervals and eventually applying the wet wipes.  This was done once we were off the farmlands. 

Woodlands

Woodlands

Seddlescombe is a typical Sussex village as far as the style of buildings goes although it has some pleasant modern homes (bungalows you call them) and a fair share of ancient houses that still look look like a village.  One house is dated 1509 and others mark the  later centuries.  Nestled in a valley the village is on the 1066 walking route and travelling a little way along that we discovered the riverside walks and the woodlands that are popular with local dog walkers.  Poppy got excited when she saw two squirrels and wanted to chase them up a tree but she was on the lead so the animals were safe.

We lunched at the Queen’s Head which turned out to be a dog friendly pub.  Yippee!  Not only that but parked outside was a Norton motorcycle possibly circa 1926 – used regularly with the owner chatting with friends at the bar.   Hardly a Rocker but at least it balances out the scooters we saw earlier.  Restored and working is the theme.

A working Norton

A working Norton

What with the water pump on the village green, the geese wandering about dodging the cars, veteran motorcycles, and classic scooters plus a village that is attractive and interesting with some pleasant walks, then Seddlescombe is a pleasant place to visit. Good lunch too.

In all it was a pleasant place to stop and wander.  

 

 

 

Seddlescombe Cottages

Seddlescombe Cottages

 

 

Posted in Sussex Village walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The hidden gem – Saint Mary’s Platt

 

Cottages in the village

Cottages in the village

Lying four square on the A25 before reaching Borough Green in the region of Great Comp gardens is the village of Saint Mary’s Platt, known as Platt in the Parish of Platt.  You pass through it noting, if you are observant, two things, the first is an active local primary school  asking you to slow down, and the second is the niggling feeling that you are missing something.  Well, you would be right, you are, unless you stop and take a look.

Saint Mary's Church

Saint Mary’s Church

The weather on the day was cloudy and at times wet but with enough sunshine in bursts to make a pleasantly warm day although we carried woolies and light raincoats with us.  It was a good day for walking and a good day for discoveries.  Saint Mary’s Platt is a pretty place and within the parish there is a gem of a place to visit but more of that later.

There is a limited amount of parking places, some few outside the church, a few in the Stonehouse Fields and some at the Blue Anchor pub, where you should stop for a pint and lunch. The village is a mixture of modern and ancient but you need to take a stroll around and explore maybe admiring the neat gardens of the modern homes but taking a walk around the minor roads of the village and find those places tucked away in the quiet little nooks.  The distinguishing feature of the older buildings is the dark sandstone and brick – there used to be brickfields nearby – from the local brick I should imagine.  There was once a Brickmaker’s Arms but that space is now a small housing block off the main A25, and opposite is the place where once bricks were made although it appears that the activity was further along toward Wrotham Heath.

Glade of Larches

Glade of Larches

Visit Saint Mary’s church where from intelligence gathered at the Blue Anchor we discovered that Richard Hearne OBE the one time Mr Pastry is buried.  We found his grave looking scruffy and neglected but with evidence that somebody cared, judging by the old Christmas wreath and plastic flowers left there.  We later added a geranium in a pot and tidied up the weeds a little – the pot plant purchased at the village fete that was in progress.

But, lingering a little while in the churchyard, a peaceful and pleasant place, we explored a pathway that led up the hill behind the church.  This was the hidden gem.   Of course, it is marked on the map, it is well known by the locals and it is mapped with pathways and tidy walks with proper gates and such but we knew not of its existence, forsooth.

The woodlands were/are a delight and promise a wonderful springtime display of rhododendrons and with the greenery in full summer bloom even on such a dull day with occasional bursts of sunshine, we came upon mysterious looking glades and stands of trees – including forty larches planted by the Platt primary school children celebrating forty years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.   The pathways, overarched by trees and rhododendrons led us to glades that suggested a fantasy of fairy tales which any child worthy of an imagination should find fascinating.  I know that I did.

We wandered across the Windmill Hill road to the close opposite, met some friendly dogs and people to discover a footpath that possibly led out to the woods and fields down to Great Comp.  We walked back through the woodland choosing a different path and arrived back on the main road close to the school, again on the way meeting friendly dogs and people.

We had a light lunch at the Blue Anchor  – a starter of whitebait and bread each with a dish of olives between us.  Tasty.  The beer was good too.

We wandered aimlessly it seemed to visit the fete which was winding down a little by then and was delighted to witness a couple of people from Eagle Heights were flying some of their large dicky birds, if you can call a Bald Eagle and Hawks and Owls large dicky birds,  and dids’t tarry awhile.   A good display.

Bald Eagle taking off

Bald Eagle taking off

I purchased two small Hebes to plant in my garden for the princely sum of one English pound and my sister did same with a geranium which we planned to put on Richard Hearne’s grave – saying thanks to his memory  for all the fun.  For those of you who do not know who he was then look him up on the net. Or just click on Mr Pastry and browse a little.  The man was an actor but was well known for his silly slapstick routines and his children’s programmes.

Beside all that, the visit to another village we had often passed through proved to be a pleasant afternoon’s enjoyment.

"Mr Pastry's" grave with our tribute.

“Mr Pastry’s” grave with our tribute.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hadlow – the gardens

Hadlow gardens - a general view

Hadlow gardens – a general view

 

A nice day, chilly start, a good breakfast and I was on my own this day.  I remembered a trip to Hadlow and the gardens attached to the college and its horticultural teaching faculty.   So, it was gird the loins, and head off after tidying up, cuddling the cat and head toward Tonbridge on the A26.  From Sheppey I deviated and drove around the back roads to the A249 at Stockbury; not because the main road worries me but because travelling on it is boring.  Besides, I enjoy watching the F1 wannabe’s racing up behind me in the speed limits and buggering it up when it comes to the narrow country roads with – horror’s! – bends!

Water feature

Water feature

Just a note: Having done a lot of two wheel knee scraping at high speeds I have gotten the hang of getting around bends safely and quickly.  It never fails to amaze me how many drivers don’t seem to manage it.   (You lower your high speed and raise your low speed – let the bend take you around it after slowing or braking on the straight bit and power steadily out)

Anyway, apart from the assumption by some drivers that the speed limit signs are advisory it was pleasant, incident free journey and I arrived at the Broadview Garden centre safely.   There is normally plenty of parking room and admission to the gardens is free.  You are not obliged to buy anything but the quality of the plants for sale will mean that you will more than likely dig in the moth receptacle and fork out.

Established trees

Established trees

There are toilets and a cafe.  The food is nice, cake, and I had a sandwich for lunch washed down with excellent tea, cake, which was taken outside, buns, the soup looked good too and the staff were friendly.  Cake buns – the terezt is because there is cake and buns.  Nice.

The gardens are unique in that other than hedges and the annual plantings, permanent trees and the layout in general you are likely to see changes each time you go there.  They are seasonal so you will get a selection of spring blooms, summer and plants selected and treated to give a progressive change in appearance throughout the year.   The winter display is impressive.  As a teaching area students are encouraged to work on themes and designs and present them as part of the project, hence the changes.   This year it is a Japanese style garden, sans the raked pebbles and sand but with an echo of that minimalistic beauty that takes years to achieve.  This is a beautiful piece of  work and well worth seeing, although it is contained within the very European look of the surroundings it works.  It lacks the bamboo and the acer background for summer and autumn shape and colour, but if you can transport yourself to the land of the rising sun and imagine spring cherry blossom followed by azaleas you have the idea.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

However, this is an English setting and a training ground for young horticulturalists which means that you will see a changing, well managed garden using combinations that you could easily use in your own suburban plot.

I like the idea of growing shrubs, flowers and vegetables including essential herbs (with an ‘H’ so it is not Urbs or ‘erbs) that you want to grow and plants such as lavender and marigolds that liven up a plot as well as help your beans and spuds.  It is all about pollination and attracting bees and insects and in this garden I was glad to see plenty.

The bees seemed to like the Grevillia, a plant that likes a hot spot and will produce a wealth of flowers on spiky leaves and stems.  We used to grow them in New Zealand and I recall creating a plot with azaleas, grevillias,  flax, pittisporums, small seasonal bedding plants and the Kowhai for its yellow, aromatic flowers in spring.

Where the bee sucks...

Where the bee sucks…

These gardens utilise tulips and there was evidence of daffodils and narcissus and all the gardens were separated by trimmed yew hedges that act as wind breaks creating localised eco-systems that seem to work well.

As I said, I had lunch in the cafe sitting outside in the sunshine and afterwards finished my walk around to return to the nursery and buy some sturdy brassicas.  I was impressed by the quality of the plants on sale, but then I should be, they know what to do with them.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment