Two of our favorite activities post-move are walking and day-trips. Evening walks, day walks, city walks, wilderness walks – anything. We have found that it is the fastest and most relaxing way for us get our bearings and learn about our new home. (And for the first time, also the only way for us to explore…we have no car!)
A recent afternoon rainstorm had us ducking in and out of the shops on the local high street, trying to stay dry as we slowly made our way home. We went from BabyGap to the coffee shop and finally settled in at the bookstore. I was in heaven. Troy was not. I love books. He swears solely by the internet. We headed straight for the travel section to wait out the downpour and much to my surprise, Troy and E were sitting in the window with a pile of travel guides within minutes. For about an hour, we dreamt and did our research, and ultimately, left with a single book – Time Out Country Walks: 52 Walks Near London. The book provides hikes for every weekend of the year ranging between 7 and 15 miles long with various levels of difficulty. It seemed as though someone who knew us had pre-planned 52 adventures and bound them together in book form for us! Troy was determined to try our first excursion the very next weekend.
By Friday evening, our path had been chosen and we were all set to head out first thing Saturday morning. Walk #19. Hever to Leigh. Length: 14.2km (8.8 mi). Time: 3 hrs 40 min. *Allow 8 hrs 30 mins for the full outing. Toughness: 2 out of 10. Perfect!
Everything went downhill from there.
E decided she’d rather not sleep that night, and for the first time ever (yes, we have been blessed), she was awake and ready to play from 1am to 5:30am Saturday morning. Exhausted, but committed to our plan, we finally made it out of the house around 10:00am to find out the local underground train was not running that day. By the time we made it to London Bridge Station, we’d missed the second train for the day, and now weren’t scheduled to arrive at Hever Station until shortly after 1pm. We had considered cancelling the trip on multiple occasions that morning, but we’d already planned for it, and I just couldn’t say no when Troy was so excited. We would just have to walk a little faster to make up for lost time!
The train ride to Hever was beautiful, melting away any tiredness and frustration we’d had that morning. We were dropped off in a tiny, country village and immediately set out on the path outlined in our book. 20 minutes later, and we were already lost in the middle of a meadow with only one (very muddy) way out. Not believing it could be the right path, Troy walked the perimeter of the field and came back with a nervous look on his face. Troy and I, the jogging stroller and baby, and all of our gear would be slip-sliding our way through the mud and past the sheep. They laughed at us. We laughed right along with them.
Our first stop was Hever Castle, the stately home of Anne Boleyne, the second wife of King Henry VIII. The lush landscape, refreshing waterways and vast fields invited visitors to picnic and play on the castle’s grounds. Knowing we would likely never make it back to Hever, we stopped to take in the site.
From there, we continued on our journey through fields, pastures, woods and backyards, enjoying the quiet countryside and time together. After all, we hadn’t had much “quality” time in the last 7 months with Troy travelling most weeks and a newborn at home.
A few hours (and cows, and wild turkeys) later, we arrived at Penshurst Place, an unfortified manor house built in the 1500’s. Think opening scene of a Downton Abbey episode – the magnificent rolling hills, green trees, and grand estate with a picturesque village at the edge of the property – only a little bit less magical (I’m sure that was just due to the lack of dramatic music and tv editing…).
We opted out of touring the grounds and instead headed in to the village in search of a place to sit and have a drink…and after much discussion, a taxi. It was nearing dinner time and with a number of detours (it took us a while to find each “stile” as the definition of the word varied greatly throughout the walk…) increasingly uncomfortable baby, and a very long trip home (we were still two trains and another taxi ride away…) it was time to throw in the towel. We had made it about 2/3 of the way through the walk and were ready to see cars, people, and shops again.
The walk was very beautiful and peaceful, and we’re glad we gave it a try, but I think it will be a while before Troy pulls his book out again to plan another excursion.
Lessons learned? No “prams”/”buggies”/ strollers on country walks. No matter how rough, tough and sturdy they are. “Village” does not mean there will be food, water, or an ATM available.