There is a hint of France on the horizon in this picture!
Speeding along the Channel Coast – yes speeding – I fancied I could see the monument to Napoleon’s Grand Army on the ridge of hills behind Ambleteuse. That fine, hot summer two centuries ago did not raise a wind to get the men, horses, artillery, supplies and camp followers across to Kent, so back to barracks they had to go. Enterprising oarsmen from ports like Broadstairs and Dover are said to have taken tourists across to see the enemy ships; from a safe distance of course. No doubt the fishermen used the tides and currents to help speed them back and forth.
The Orange Army of engineering workers worked in all seasons to reinstate the track between Folkestone and Dover and enable us to speed along this afternoon. Well done them!
Read about the work here.
Where have I been all this time? Partly travelling across Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. We noticed one thing in common between Polish and British railways: the fruit trees beside the tracks, convenient for the railway workers’ rest huts. These plums were somewhere in Western Poland, between the border and Warsaw. At centre-right, in the opening between the trees, is the silhouette (take my word for it) of one of three young men foraging them.
I warmed to Poland at once!
And their plums are very tasty.
Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the idea of a political marriage to become a nun, had her feast this week. She reminds me to harvest the walnuts.
It’s harvest time because right now they have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.
The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.
Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!
Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent. John Salmon
In the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies the village of Bodsham: barely a village really, but once again it is blessed with a pub. Mr and Mrs Berry have moved their Kaos Blacksmith’s business up here and are reopening the pub, the Timber Batts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to begin with.
On their second day of trading we found a warm welcome, cold Kentish Gadd’s beer and cold Dudda’s Tun Kentish cider, both designed for the end of a warm walk through fields of barley growing for Gadd’s future brews. Crusty baguettes were well filled and presented; we enjoyed them looking across the valley. Kent’s beauty is all its own and on our doorstep.
Two years without a pub, and now this! The quirky interior looked most inviting, but perhaps next time. The sun was shining, we sat outside. I’m sure we’ll be back.
Rainbow over the Skye Bridge.
We have had rain every day this week, filling the rivers, but giving us many rainbows. A bit of a cheat to show this one which was taken in June in the West of Scotland, where such weather is less remarkable, but I’ve been out without camera or phone. Our rainbows have been as welcome, even with an urban backdrop.
Looking back along the canal from the bridge, only the well-laid path hints at the urban sprawl we started from. Had we continued walking toward that cloudy Western sky, we’d soon have been grateful for the shelter of another bridge, but
our walk away from the waterway passes these stone buildings – I have seen their like in Southern Ontario.
The lane soon meets a main road; we cross it and make for the Lodge.
Quite different in style! This was the entrance to the big estate around which the Heriot Watt University was built.
The woods, with their rhododendrons and foxgloves, hide the buildings where graduands have worked and played for four years. Their families are celebrating and enjoying Scotland, even if they have to wrap up warm to photograph their loved one with the piper.
Our guide led us to a quiet corner of the campus, shared with oystercatchers, busily hunting worms inland. The rain had brought the worms to the surface, and now down it came again! No chance to sit on that inviting bench, so past a wet Watt, and into the hall to await the graduation ceremony. Well done, HDGB!
A few yards from the aqueduct an overbridge marked the end of urban sprawl and the start of a tamed but beautiful stretch of countryside. Not far ahead an orchid was growing at the water’s edge. How long has that been there?
And away from the banks it was not quite roses, roses, all the way, though they were scenting the damp air.
More thistles alongside them; this is Scotland; but also buttercups, forget-me-not, comfrey and more, all thriving in this green corridor.
Half a mile into the walk and the trees have drowned the sound of the road, and all is green.
To the North, framed by the developing haws of the Mayflower, the Hills can be seen through the haze: the rain is holding off.
While it may have been too damp for dragonfly or mayfly to be on the wing, here they are in a blacksmith’s work of art. I like the way the fine lines of stems, ripples and tails add strength as well as beauty and interest to this gate. Near to it, small fry are gathered just below the surface.
Is this our last bridge? We could enjoy extending this walk, but we have a destination, so time to leave the canal and climb up to the road.