On Sunday the 7th January 2018 I set off from home to meet up with the Walking For Pleasure South East group. After a short drive of about 40 minutes I arrive at Aylesford at 0930 hours for a 10am start. The parking is free and nearest post code is ME20 7AX.
Viewranger file here
We set off passing a tea room and into the High Street.
We pass 'The Little Gem PH'.
This 12th century building has plenty of exposed beams, some low ceilings and a small galleried seating area. The large inglenook fireplace provides a warm welcome in winter. Formerly a café the Gem has been a public house since 1968 and claims to be Kent's smallest pub.The last pint having been poured in 2010.
The owner allowed it to decay. Despite local opposition a planning application was approved to change to a single residence.
A quick detour off the route to walk onto the bridge and views along the River Medway.
Due to the village's location on its banks, the River Medway has been a key influence on its development. Aylesford takes its name from an Old English personal name, and literally denotes ‘Ægel’s ford’. Its first recorded use is from the tenth century, as Æglesforda.
It was also the place where one of the earliest bridges across the Medway was built, believed to be in the 14th century (although the wide central span seen today is later). Upstream from Rochester Bridge it became the next bridging point. The river was navigable as far as Maidstone until 1740, when barges of forty tons could reach as far as Tonbridge. As a result, wharves were built, one being at Aylesford. Corn, fodder and fruit, along with stone and timber, were the principal cargoes.
Due to increased road traffic in recent years, the ancient bridge has now been superseded by a modern structure nearby, but remains in use for pedestrians.
We rejoin the High Street where we pass Sherlocks Restaurant.
Sherlocks was built as as the post office and general store in around 1874. Built by Thomas Brassey, the railway magnate, to serve the villages needs as he constructed the Medway Valley line, it remains many of its original charming features, especially the wooden spice and post office drawers,shelving and post box shute.
On the High Street, near the steps leading to the Church. A grey plaque in the centre of a wall gives details of the Aylesford Cage. It reads 'During the 19th Century, felons were impounded in a cage or lock-up prior to being taken before the magistrate at West Malling. This practise ceased with the introduction of police stations and the cage at Aylesford was demolished in 1870. In December 1975, remnants of the ironworks were discovered whilst strengthening this wall and this plaque marks the location of the find.
Further up we reach where the High Street meets Bull Lane, here on the left is Aylesford Priory. I stayed here for a weekend when I was a teenager on a youth leader course.
The Friars - Aylesford Priory - is an ancient religious house of the Order of Carmelites dating back to the 13th Century.
Aylesford Priory, or 'The Friars' to give it its traditional name, was founded in 1242 when the first Carmelites arrived from the Holy Land. They came under the patronage of Richard de Grey, a crusader, who gave them a small piece of land at his manor of Aylesford.
Now we pass the sewage plant, with a fragrant smell to the air.
Shortly after you can see across to some industrial buildings that Dave said was a paper recycling centre.
The field above is the site of a Roman Villa, as Dave told us. It was excavated ,recorded and has since been filled back in.
Further along the path was a locked gate, the group took a variety of ways to tackle this, some squeezed past,some did the limbo while a few climbed over!
Now as we round a corner, we can see St Marys Church in Burham come into view.
The church originated in the 12th century, with additions and alterations up to the 15th century. It served a village that later became deserted as the population moved away to higher ground. North and south aisles were added to the church, but have since been demolished. The church was restored in 1956.
Inside the church are two Norman fonts.
The Church has changed a lot over time with major taking place in nearly every century. The most significant change was in the 18th Century due to damage from a major storm in 1702, when the tower was severely damaged, and in 1774, when the body of the church caught fire.
We walk on taking a road alongside the church and passing the Stove and Fireplace centre and an equestrian centre.
We now reach the River Medway.
We follow the Medway as we are battered by the high winds today.
We reach the 'Battle Of The Medway ' Memorial. OS Grid Ref.: TQ 70895 61861
Inscription 'THIS STONE COMMEMORATES THE BATTLE OF MEDWAY AD43 WHEN A ROMAN ARMY CROSSED THE RIVER AND DEFEATED THE BRITISH TRIBES UNDER CARACTACUS.'
The Battle of the Medway took place in 43 AD, probably on the River Medway in the lands of the Iron Age tribe of the Cantiaci, now the English county of Kent. This was an early battle in the Claudian invasion of Britain, led by Aulus Plautius.
There was no bridge over the river where the battle was fought, so a detachment of specially-trained Roman auxiliaries (described by Cassius Dio, the only contemporary source for the battle, as "Celtic") swam across the river and attacked the natives' chariot horses. In the chaos that followed, the bulk of the invasion force spearheaded by Legio II Augusta under Vespasian crossed the river, under the overall command of Titus Flavius Sabinus. The natives were taken by surprise at how fully armed legionaries were able to cross the river, and Peter Salway has stated even Dio seems taken aback. The Romans were unable to press on to victory immediately, and the first day of fighting ended without a result. During the second day, a daring attack led by Gnaeus Hosidius Geta almost led to the Roman officer being captured. His troops retaliated, however, and put the Britons to flight. Geta was awarded a triumph for securing victory, a rare honour for someone who had not been consul. Given the primary roles taken by Geta and Sabinus on different days, it has been suggested by the historian Malcolm Todd that the Romans were operating as two, or possibly three, battle groups.
Such a long battle was unusual in ancient warfare, and it is likely that the Romans defeated a significant native force. The Britons fell back to the Thames, where they were afforded a greater strategic advantage.
|All Saints Church,Snodland across the river.|
We walk on following the path as we walk towards Peters Village.
Peters Village is a new village being constructed with a new River Medway bridge crossing midway between Maidstone and Rochester.
|The New bridge spanning the Medway.|
|Peters Village sign on the roundabout.|
We now enter Wouldham and pass The Medway Inn. The pub was built in the 1860's and catered for the thirsty cement workers and quarry men who then lived in the village. Those days are now gone and the cement works are a distant memory, but the pub remains an important focal point in the community.
On the Wouldham Marshes is Starkey House built in 1483: a now-restored Grade II listed medieval manor house called Starkey Castle.
|An old Austin|
|Another old Austin|
We now reach All Saints Church in Wouldham.
The medieval structure developed from the 12th to 15th centuries; the rather oddly placed tower, (north of the north aisle), was built from 1460 to 1483.
There are some Roman bricks and pieces of pink Roman concrete at the west end of the church.
Here we sat and had lunch, the wind was howling and wherever we chose to sit, we couldn't escape the wind and the church was closed.
Here in the graveyard is the gravestone to Walter Burke.The link to the 'Kiss Me Hardy' name for the walk.
Born in Limerick, Ireland, Walter Burke was the purser who is famous for holding Admiral Lord Nelson in his last moments abroad the famous HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. He was also the oldest man to serve in the British fleet, at the age of 59.
After the battle, Walter Burke retired to live in Wouldham where he owned two houses - Purser Place and Burke House.
Walter Burke died in Wouldham in 1815 at the age of 79. Walter Burke is buried in Wouldham Church's graveyard, where his headstone reads:
"Walter Burke Esq of this parish died on the 12th of September 1815 in the year of his age he was Purser on his majesty's ship Victory in the glorious battle of Trafalgar and in his arms the immortal Nelson died".
Nelson, England's greatest naval hero, died at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805. He was hit by a musket ball, fired from a French ship, at about 1.15pm and died below decks at about 4.30pm. His body was preserved in a barrel of brandy.
The details are relevant in attempting to authenticate whether Nelson ever spoke those words. The best argument in support of it being authentic is the fact that the events surrounding Nelson's death were witnessed by several people at close quarters, all of whom would have had intense interest in it.
There are at least three eye-witness accounts recording that Nelson asked Hardy to kiss him. The precise words said aren't recorded verbatim, but "kiss me Hardy" can't have differed in any material way from reality.
The witnesses, William Beatty, Chaplain Alexander Scott and Walter Burke are shown in Arthur Devis's painting Death of Nelson. As a consequence of Nelson's importance as a historical and heroic figure, there are many Death of Nelson paintings. Devis had the advantage over other painters of being present on the Victory for the event though and we can be assured that his painting is an accurate representation of Nelson's death.
According to the contemporary accounts, Nelson last words were:
"Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy, take care of poor Lady Hamilton". He paused then said very faintly, "Kiss me, Hardy". This, Hardy did, on the cheek. Nelson then said, "Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty".
We leave Wouldham behind and walk up School Lane.
At the end of School Lane we cross the road and up Hill Road, a steep climb upwards.
At the top we walk along before we stop at a viewpoint, looking down to The Medway from where we have come.
We walk onward on what is now a part of the North Downs Way.
We pass The Robin Hood PH on Common Road.
The "Robin Hood" Pub, though not actually in the village of Burham itself, but resides on the North Downs above the village within the bounds of the parish. It is very much an isolated country Inn, which probably came in very useful in the past when (so rumour has it!) it indulged in joint smuggling operations with the "Watermans Arms" public house in the neighbouring village of Wouldham.
The building is Grade II listed and about 700 years old although I do not know when it first started serving beers. It is reported to be one of the oldest in England and was visited by pilgrims on their journey along The Pilgrims Way.
Many characters from ballads and folklore have given their names to pubs, and Robin Hood is one of the most popular. In the past the following verse was often inscribed on the pub sign for Robin Hood pubs (although I'm not sure if it was ever on this one):
"You Gentlemen and yeomen good,
Come in and drink with [or to] Robin Hood,
If Robin Hood be not at home,
Come in and drink with Little John."
Hopefully their beer was better than their rhyming!
The pub, was at one time involved in the smuggling of liquor, along with the neighbouring "Waterman's Arms" in Wouldham.
A way later we start our descent down into Eccles.
Prior to 1850, the area now occupied by Eccles was mostly farms and arable land. Around that time, the renowned Victorian master builder Thomas Cubitt bought 2 farms near the river and opened a brickyard and cement works. The brick works was the most advanced in the world producing up to 30 million bricks a year. Situated on a gentle slope, the buildings were positioned along tram lines so that each stage of maufacture moved closer to the quay; with this arrangement production progressed by gravity rather haulage. At its peak, the works employed almost a thousand men and boys. The plant formally closed in 1941 and was later demolished.
As the brick works was established, a local farmer Thomas Abbot built a terrace of 22 cottages to house the workers, the settlement soon increased to 300. The area was known as ‘Bull Lane’ before it adopted the name of ‘Eccles’. The former name still appears on the Ordnance Survey map of 1897.
Although the village did not acquire the name ‘Eccles’ until some time in the second half of the 19th century, the name is not new. In her book “The Place Names of Kent”, Judith Glover traces it in its present form back to 1208 and suggests that it derived from the l0th century 'Aecclesse', meaning the 'meadow of the oak'. The Domesday Book records Eccles as ‘Aiglessa’. It has also been suggested that the name 'Eccles' comes from the Latin word 'ecclesia' meaning 'church', implying that a post-Roman Christian community existed in the area, although there is no evidence for this. Volume 4 of "The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent", published in 1798, reports that Eccles was a manor of the parish of Aylesford, "which was of some note in the time of the Conqueror, being then part of the possessions of Odo, bishop of Baieux, the king's half brother, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in the book of Domesday".The site of the manor of Eccles was lost to public knowledge by the 18th Century, but it was surmised to be somewhere at the eastern extremity of the parish, near Boxley hill.
We reach the bottom of the hill and turn left onto Pilgrims Way and walk up the road for a short distance before taking a footpath over on our right.
|Converted Oast House|
|A rather elaborate stile|
We pass Kits Coty Vineyard.
A piece from their website
'The white cliffs of Dover. Iconic chalk soil, the same as that of Champagne just 90 miles to the south
This, coupled with our cool climate, enables us to produce truly world-class sparkling wines, aromatic white wines and elegant light red wines from grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Bacchus. And without the baggage of 350 years of rules, with its eye firmly on the needs of today's consumer, and the most modern viticulture and winemaking.'
CEMEX quarry lake on way down into Aylesford. CEMEX provides a wide range of aggregates from decorative to high-PSV aggregates to limestone, rock armour and sand and gravel.
We exit out onto Mount Pleasant where I got a shot of the group on a bridge over a stream.
We walk out onto Rochester Road and pass some Almshouses.
The almshouses were endowed by the will of John Sedley, in 1605, for a warden and six poor persons. They were restored in 1841, and a new wing was added by the Brassey family in 1892.
These houses, are also known as the Hospital of the Holy Trinity.
Now we arrive back at the High Street and the group head back to the car park, but I quickly dash off in the opposite direction to get some pictures of the bridge.
The old bridge at Aylesford, on the River Medway, was constructed in the middle of the 13th Century. Originally the Medway was crossed here by a ford, hence the village name, but the bridge was built to improve access and, at the same time, possibly raise tolls. The widest span central arch of the bridge is an alteration made in 1811. The bridge is still in use today for pedestrian and cycle traffic only.
A 11.5 mile walk in great company on a cold windy day.Another great TSE meet and thanks to Dave for leading the walk.