This week, while we have had sunny days, I have been going walkabout again – not with the intention of reporting on any of these treks around places within Medway, but just as preliminaries.
Today's was highly unusual, starting with a 'bus ride to the Bligh Way shopping parade in Strood. I trekked around the immediate area for a while, most notably Albatross Avenue, before crossing the Knights Place Recreation Ground, ending up in Sharfleet Drive, leading to The Shades and onto the A2 Watling Street. The place and road names aren't essential, especially to non-locals, but can be looked up and viewed in the likes of Google Maps by anyone sufficiently interested.
Anyway, I headed west, crossing over the M2 motorway and continuing on past a farm-cum-equestrian training centre, eventually finding a place to turn off before I headed too far out of Medway. This led under a bridge for the high speed rail line, and to the only alternative to another farm: the Rochester and Cobham Park Golf Club.
Fortunately, there is a public footpath across the course, though one does need to be wary of flying golf balls, especially those coming at speed. It is advisable to cross as quickly as possible!
Unfortunately, probably because of my very poor sight these days, part-way across I lost track of the indicators showing which way the public footpath was going, and I had to ask a group of golfers – but it was their first time on the course, so they didn't know either. One of them did spot a yellow-tipped post and pointed me toward that. After waiting for them to deliver their drives in that general direction, I headed that way and found it was indeed a footpath marker.
Finally reaching the far side, I emerged into a backtrack leading left and right – no signposts or other indications of where it led, though. I struck off in one direction, which looked promising though it felt to me to probably be the wrong way. That ended in a farm. I headed back.
The other way was long, oh so long. I encountered the local woods caretaker (the place was like a collection of woodlands) on a bicycle, who said that Cobham had been down the way I had just been; but Strood was up ahead in this my current direction, but around three miles (5km) away. Well, I don't know of a way to get home from Cobham, so it seemed I was in for the long haul.
This by now wearying trek took me past an unlabelled monument, via cattle grids with side gates for humans, and eventually led me into Ranscombe Farm Reserve. Wow! I had hoped to visit this botanical nature reserve one day, and now here it was before me. As no less a personage than David Bellamy had described it, the place was indeed "Medway's miracle", and well worth a visit, I can now state from experience.
The far end of that came out into a narrow footpath that led to a bridge with the M2 motorway (again!) running overhead, but with no obvious way back to civilisation. There simply was no connection, and I tried the paths on both sides of the bridge that ran in parallel with the motorway. I ignored one leading away from the road on the opposite side.
Eventually I realised I was stumped, so had to ask a couple of young ladies who were sitting under the bridge intently doing whatever on their mobile 'phones. They were very kind, and pointed me to the path I had previously ignored, giving me very clear directions concerning a car park, some flats and a large pub', getting me to a 'bus stop.
I was amazed to discover that it was the car park on the edge of Knights Place Recreation Ground, which I had traversed nearly three hours before, and that I was back at the Bligh Way shops! I never had an inkling that the seemingly remote place I had been just minutes before was so close to this or any other part of urban Strood. To have been walking for three hours solid and unexpectedly coming back to the exact same spot has to be the ultimate irony.
It reminded me of Michael Caine in The Ipcress File, when he escaped from what he thought was an overseas concentration camp or similar, clambered over the perimeter fence and was suddenly on a road with ordinary traffic including a London 'bus.
I chuckled all the way home, despite my aching feet, on the top deck of the Number 141...