In search of bluebells

In a week that had snow, rain, sleet and thunder, it was a bit of a surprise to wake up yesterday to blue skies and sunshine (on a Bank Holiday weekend – what?!). And just as well, because my friends and I had planned to head out for a walk and find some bluebells, after an aborted attempt a few weeks ago when we were still in the depths of winter.

We started in Chilham, a village between Ashford and Canterbury, with a pub lunch in the sun at the Woolpack Inn (no, not that Woolpack). Then we headed off on a six-mile walk inspired by Jane Austen, who apparently used to visit the neighbouring village of Godmersham and dined regularly at Chilham Castle. In fact I think the route was even called Mr Darcy’s Chilham Walk, although unfortunately we didn’t run into him.

It all started well; we set out from Chilham Castle, admiring the beautiful houses we could never afford, and into the woods where we finally found some bluebells. We crossed a pretty river, disturbed a flock of sheep and climbed over some very wobbly stiles. Despite a few wrong turns, we were well on track to make it back in the estimated three hours… and then we went quite spectacularly wrong. After climbing the world’s steepest hill* and continuing for quite a long way at the top in the stubborn belief that if we kept going long enough we’d eventually find a right turn to get us back on track, we realised that what we’d identified as a fence might actually have been a gate. (It was a gate.)

So what was supposed to be a six-mile walk ended up closer to nine, we ended up power walking the last mile (the last bit of which was also uphill), and my legs hate me today… but hey, at least we worked off the pub lunch.

*possibly an exaggeration

Photo Sunday: a windy walk on the Saxon Shore Way

It’s been a few weeks since I blogged here (although there’s still plenty going on over at The Blog of Theatre Things if you fancy a visit!) but I thought I’d pop in to share a few photos from a couple of weeks ago, when a friend and I spontaneously decided to join a local walking group for a Sunday hike.

We started at Newington, a village in Swale, Kent, then headed across to Upchurch and along the Saxon Shore Way to Lower Halstow. After a very welcome pub stop for lunch (it was a freezing cold day and we’d been completely blown to bits walking along the estuary), we made our way back to Newington to head home.

It was great to meet some new people and be out in the fresh air – even if was a bit too fresh at times – after a busy week. And I couldn’t resist taking a few photos, particularly along the estuary, where the skies seemed to change by the second. I do love a dramatic cloud 😉

I hope everyone’s having a great International Day of Happiness, by the way! What made you happy today?

Photo Sunday: a grey day in Gravesend

First, a confession: I’ve been a bit rubbish at blogging lately. This is partly because work’s been busy, but mostly because I’ve been focusing most of my attention on developing my other blog, The Blog of Theatre Things (see what I did there?). So for a bit while I concentrate on that, I probably won’t be blogging here as much, although I’ll still try and post at least once a week. In the meantime, if you’re interested in theatre, it would be great to see you over at The Blog of Theatre Things 🙂

Right. Self-promotion over, and on with Photo Sunday. Today I met up with a couple of friends with a vague plan to go for a walk and get some exercise. But because it’s been very wet lately and we didn’t want to end up knee-deep in mud, we ended up exploring Gravesend instead. (And then accidentally stopping at Costa on the way back to buy cake. Oops.)

Gravesend isn’t the most attractive place at the best of times, but particularly on a grey day like today. But it does have some interesting sights, not least the huge Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara. And when we arrived at the river, we found more swans than I’ve ever seen in one place, trying to decide whether to wade through the mud into the river or turn around and make their way over to the lady throwing out bread. Considering the number of birds swooping in her direction, it’s safe to say that lady was a lot braver than I am (I, being a bit of a wuss where birds are concerned, beat a hasty retreat…).

Photo Sunday: Autumn colours

It happens every year. November arrives, and I assume that just because I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet, nobody else has either. And then I pop out to Bluewater, the shopping centre close to where I live, and find it heaving with people, all getting in each other’s way as they try to get their shopping done early. It seems to get a bit earlier each Christmas – soon we’ll all be buying our presents in June.

Fortunately, Bluewater also has a sanctuary from the chaos and noise; at the back of the centre there’s a pretty lake area, with a path to walk round the perimeter, and benches to sit and relax for a while before heading back into the scrum. I headed out there earlier this afternoon, partly to escape from the madness indoors, but also to try and get some good autumnal photos. The moment I turned away from the road, it was like all the noise had been turned off, and I found myself alone but for a handful of other people enjoying the surroundings.

On the photo front, I think I missed the best of the colours, but there are still a few trees that catch the eye – and it’s a lovely area at any time of year, a great place to pause and collect your thoughts before another week begins. Hopefully a little of that tranquility comes through in the photos.

Happy Sunday!

Photo Sunday: The Secret Garden

You know how before you book a restaurant, you’re supposed to do research, read reviews, check menus, that sort of thing?

On the other hand, you could do what my friends and I did, and just choose a place based on its name. But to be fair, if that place is called The Secret Garden, can you really blame us?

This little gem actually is pretty secret, tucked away in a business village near Ashford in Kent. We opted for afternoon tea, which included finger sandwiches, scones and an amazing range of beautiful cakes. And just for fun, we had a glass of bubbly each as well. Because – well, why not?

After filling up on cake, we went for a wander in the garden (although not a very long one, because despite being a lovely day, it was also really cold). The Secret Garden is a popular wedding venue, and I can see why – it’s a gorgeous setting, and I can imagine it’ being a pretty magical place to get married.

They don’t just do afternoon tea at the Secret Garden; you can also enjoy evening tea, Sunday lunch, regular lunch, and – wait for it – Pudding Night. Which I definitely feel needs checking out, purely so I can blog about it, of course. You’re welcome.

So, there you go – now you don’t need to choose the Secret Garden based just on its name. And if you decide to get married there, remember who recommended it to you. (Just saying.)