The Good Friday Ramble

This Good Friday, as in previous years, branch members were spoilt for choice as to which particular beery function to choose from. Whilst many members made the journey to Margate, in order to sample the delights of the “Planet Thanet Beer Festival”, myself and a handful of others attended the annual Good Friday Ramble, organised by Maidstone & Mid-Kent branch. This walk has become something of a tradition, having taken place every Good Friday since 1977. Having lived myself in the county town for five years, and served on the branch committee for most of that time, I’ve always tried to attend this walk. I particularly enjoy the chance to meet up with old friends from Maidstone on this annual basis, and catch up with what’s been happening.

Each year when we meet we pass a comment along the lines that we’ve all survived another year and whilst we all might be getting older and greyer, it doesn’t stop our enthusiasm. Thirty years ago the walks were a lot longer than they are now; however
they still involve the obligatory lunch-time halt stop at a decent pub; one that welcomes walkers and which provides a good range of ales. The pub stop is in fact the main raison d’etre for the ramble, that and the pleasure of being out in the open air, enjoying the Kent countryside at its spring best, plus of course the opportunity to catch up with old friends.

This year’s walk was led as usual by keen rambler Dick Wilkinson, who has conducted every one of these walks apart from one in 1981. Dick usually walks the route in advance, to check that the foot paths are clear and also to confirm the pub can accommodate up to forty thirsty and hungry ramblers. For West Kent CAMRA members, this year’s ramble was quite a local affair. We met up with our Maidstone colleagues at Paddock Wood station, the aim being to walk to the Halfway House at Brenchley. Most of you will know that this excellent hostelry is a former branch pub of the year, and was runner up in this year’s competition.

As in previous years there was a good turnout, amounting to thirty-five humans plus one dog! Although the weather forecast had threatened rain, it was dry and fairly bright as we set from Paddock Wood. Climbing up onto the start of the High Weald, we passed through farms and apple orchards, along with some very expensive looking and well tucked away properties, before eventually reaching the pub at around 12.30pm. The walk took about an hour and a half, and was just under four miles (even though it seemed longer).

The Outward Journeyrambling1

There were about a dozen beers on sale at the pub, including a dark mild. I sampled four of them; two from King & Co of Horsham, plus one from both Caledonian and Roosters. I have to say the Roosters Farmyard, plus the two beers from Kings were excellent, overshadowing somewhat the Caledonian Double Dutch from north of the border. There was only a limited menu on offer, but seeing as this included a carvery option, many of us went for this rather than the alternative of filled baguettes

Re-fuelling Stop!rambling2

For the first half of the session, most of us sat out in the extensive garden. But unfortunately the sky grew steadily darker, and the wind started to get a real bite to it. We slowly drifted inside, to finish off the session in the warm, and I spent a very pleasant hour or so reminiscing with a group of old friends from MMK branch.

Soon it was time to leave and brave the increasingly damp weather outside. After posing in front of the pub for the obligatory group photo, we set off back to Paddock Wood, by a different, but no less pleasant route. The rain didn’t seem to bother us as we had all come well-prepared with proper walking boots and wet-weather gear, and before too ling we found ourselves back at the station.

The Assembled Party
After saying our farewells we all went our separate ways vowing to meet up again next year for what will be the 34th annual Good Friday Ramble!