The village of Wouldham on the Medway River until now was a place we rarely thought to visit. We went to Boxley to put Easter flowers on our parent’s grave, and to remember a dearly loved and departed brother and needed a place afterwards for a walk and to let our thoughts wander.
We found the Waterman’s Inn where normally a standard pub lunch can be had. However this day they were getting ready for a local Ruby Wedding party but offered to make us some sandwiches instead. This is a local pub, a drinkers place as often found in villages, but although it was cold we were made welcome. The place is a convenient stop off and starting point for a walk, but please ask permission to park there, and oblige by having refreshments there as well – it is worth it.
We followed a marked route from the pub along the high street toward Maidstone (up river) and passing the village sign chose to take the footpath across and behind the sports field which leads up to Knowle Road. A short distance along from there take the next footpath and follow it to the Pilgrim’s Way.
Some excellent views over the river and the village can be had from here and also one is made aware that this is chalk quarry land. This side of the downs in the Medway Valley (or Gap as it is called) there is much chalk in evidence and although the soil is ploughed up brown and fertile there is an underlying white sheen to the surfaces. This is covered in summer (if we get one) by crops.
On the way we saw some sheep quietly taking it easy in the paddock from the pathway that was lined with fencing we recognised from way back when we children. This is a village living in the past and the present, with such modern additions as new, well designed housing, an electrical transfer station, and yet here we have the rural scene.
Walk along the Pilgrim’s Way – we managed to make most of the journey on the verge which saved us getting flattened by vehicles. Most drivers are careful but there is always the exceptions, in this case one in particular, a young woman in a rattletrap car travelling quite fast with her children in the back. She seemed to be taking lessons from Formula One TV coverage.
Now here comes the hard bit.
We reached a row of cottages and from there we had elected to walk up the steep hillside amongst the Yew trees and deciduous trees cladding the downs to the North Downs Way that runs along the top from Rochester through Bluebell Hill and on to Detling and further. We met a bloke with a fat, active dog and had a nice chat – later at the top of the hill we chatted with another walked and a cyclist. The hard bit is that this track is steep, but there is a series of steps cut into the hill to aid walking. Much easier. The only thing is the legs and thighs get a hammering.
Reaching the top we were cut in two by the cold breeze (lovely Spring weather) with flurries of snow then and on the way up, with the occasional sunny bit. This is Wouldham Warren and a pleasant place to view the river and beyond. The hike up the steps is worth every step to gain the view, and also the view across the fields to the Medway Towns and the Thamesside in the distance.
We walked down the hills from there, meeting the cyclists on the way and then on down to Wouldham to School Road passing the old School Farm, down to the school and to the church on the riverbank. We wandered around the church, and along the riverbank back to the pub to finish the stroll.
It was cold but we discovered other places to walk and quite enjoyed getting out of our ‘comfort zone’ that has kept us more or less confined to exploring favourites. Wouldham is not an attractive looking place, but then neither is Burham or Eccles close by, but when we finished up we were quite impressed with the village.
Walking around the old church was pleasant with memories related of my brother – in -law’s family connections with the place, and the peace of the river watching birds cruising the waters, listening to the trains calling as they pass on the other side where the industry is busy. On the Wouldham side there is a monument to the lime kiln workers, and once there was a ferry crossing the river to Halling.
Above the villages of Burham, Eccles and Wouldham are the woods of Bluebell hill and the Common where the North Downs Way passes, as mentioned before, but also with pathways leading off to discover the ancient monument of Kits Coty, the odd Kits Coty estate and footpaths and narrow lanes to Aylesford, Allington, places where the river can be crossed to give access to Snodland and Halling, the lakes close to Hythe and a walk along the river. Beyond that there are walks from Halling and Cuxton up to Luddesdown and beyond. The Medway Gap it is called and rightly so, cutting a piece in the hills to allow the river to flow. It is nice to know that we had nothing to do with the formation of the river valley and can take pleasure in walking a small part of it and think of grand excursions. Between toilet and pub stops of course.