“Up and down the Downs through woods and fields” pretty much sums up our morning. We’d left The Bull after accepting a gift of picnic sandwiches for our lunch and we made good progress through the warming and humid day.
After crossing the Medway (at Peter’s Bridge – irony), a major obstacle for both ancient and medieval pilgrims, we took a shortcut that avoided yet another trip up the Downs but carried us along major roads. It was harrowing! The cars were zooming past in close proximity. However I did find that if I stuck my hiking pole out a few inches cars gave me a wide berth. I think some odd thought process goes through a driver’s mind – “Ah, there is a hiker. Hikers are soft. I’ll try not to hit him, but I can get pretty close without too much damage.” vs “Oh wow, that hiker has his pole sticking out into the road. That could scratch my car! I better move way over.”
At a divided highway we really needed to get of onto a side path but none were available and we had a precarious 10 minutes of hugging the nettle infested hedges as cars flew by. Actually most of the cars slowed and moved over as best they could to give us some room….most.
An opening appeared and we quickly dodged into a field that just happened to be a vineyard. Finding a bit of shade we stopped to enjoy our lunch. I had been give a hearty brie sandwich and Allison a ham sandwich. As is our habit, Allison and I swapped lunches halfway through.
Four miles from our evening destination, thunderstorm clouds began appearing. Three miles away we saw rain in the distance. Two miles away the skies let loose but we trudged-on like true pilgrims. Actually we had few options. One mile from our destination we scampered into the Cock Horse Pub – drowned rats coming in from a storm.
<musings from inside the pub> The Cock Horse is a typical English pub. It has a white plaster exterior and inside the floor has 8 or 9 steps all less than 2in high. The bar is well stocked and the proprietor stands behind the taps and despite our appearance welcomes us in. Instantly the oak floor, stained with hundreds of years of life, is soaked by 3 pilgrims.
We ordered two bitter lemons (lemonade to us Yanks) and tap water. Despite our drenching we were thirsty from the days walking.
In the corner is a young family having dinner; in the other are two friends chatting over a beer. The latter strike up a conversation with us, curious what we were doing walking in a storm like this. Like most people, these two were shocked to hear Rome as our destination – at first disbelieving us, next thinking they’d misheard and finally staring slack-jawed at the thought. Honestly, I still feel that way too sometimes. <end musings>
The rain started to ease up, and assured that we only had a mile to go, we said farewell to the Cock Horse. No sooner had we thrown on our soaked packs and stepped outside when the skies let loose with round two. We hesitated, and I think we all thought about going back inside, – but we just couldn’t. Not only did we want to get to our lodging up ahead, but we just couldn’t soak the floors of the pub a second time.
So on we plodded down a small a lane. The oncoming traffic tried miss the puddles and thus avoid splashing us with muddy water, but it was impossible. With each car that passed another sheet of dirty storm water lifted itself from the road and coated us again. Not that it mattered. You can only get 100% wet. The storm had brought a chill to the air. At first it was welcome. There’s few things worse than wearing rain jacket in the heat. But in that last mile it got just a little chilly.
Needless to say, we made it safe and sound. We’ve all showered and our room is filled with clothes and packs hanging from every conceivable object. Life remains good.