Saturday 20 February: Evening walk from Birchington to Herne Hill (Kent)

I had not done a recce and left my map an information at home but how hard could it be to find the seaside!  Ten of us found it within 5 minutes of arriving in Birchington after following the aptly named Beach Road.  It was a windy, grey day and the guard on the train had warned us that the walk to Reculver was exposed and so it was.  We walked along the beach in Birchington and then on the sea wall battling against the strong wind with the Thames estuary on our right and flat countryside on the left.  We could see the Reculver church towers in the distance (they were supposed to be in the sunset but there was no sunset) and, after over 4 miles we reached them.   We arrived at the King Ethelbert Inn at 17.10 and were told they stopped serving at 17.00 and started again at 18.00 so we had a drink and left.  It was dark and the promised full moon was hidden by the clouds but the Reculver ruins were illuminated and we could see lights from the north bank of the Thames and Herne Bay in the distance.  We were soon in complete darkness in the Reculver Country Park but did not need our torches because there was enough light pollution to guide us.  We walked on top on small cliffs and, after a while, we reached stairs leading down to the sea wall.  We continued following the estuary and saw a few people fishing,  We reached Herne Bay, guided by the illuminated clock tower just before 19.00.  We were not sure to get the next hourly train so we had fish and chips at Dean’s Plaice.  We  arrived at the station in plenty of time for the 20.21 train to see a screen that said ‘cancelled’.  Gillian was deputized to use the information help point and we were horrified to hear that the following train was also cancelled.  She then phoned the Southeastern customer service and, after being put on hold for a while, was told that we could go on the 20.44 HS1 as far as Chatham and then catch a train to London.  It seemed that Southeastern was doing us a great favour and we were grateful.  Until the guard on the HS1 told us that the train is slow until Gravesend and our tickets were valid anyway!  We dutifully changed train in Chatham and then crawled back to London on a very slow train to Charing Cross, arriving after 22.30.  Don’t forget to claim delay replay compensation!

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