Browsing Tag


A Walk in the Woods and Back in Time

By 25 August 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Outdoors
Purple heather in Joyden's Wood

I’ve not lived in Folkestone all my life. I actually grew up on Joyden’s Wood estate near Bexley. Many days were spent running around, cycling and generally exploring the ancient woodland less than 200 yards from our front door.

My grandparents still live in the area and yesterday we headed up there to enjoy a tasty lunch and spend some quality time together to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Having eaten at Birchwood Park Golf Club (tasty food if haphazard service) we changed into suitable shoes, i.e. not the 3-inch-heeled boots that I was wearing!

Rachel Birchley's walking boots

You can access the woods from the golf club, which is pretty handy, so we left the cars there. Following the footpath took us off the exposed golf course and into the shaded woodland with its dappled light.

I love being in the woods as you get a proper feeling of being ‘outdoors’. Hubby was like a big kid, swinging off trees, climbing up banks and throwing stones into ponds just so he could take slow-mo video on his iPhone! He even found a den!

Wooden teepee den in Joyden's Wood

The woods have changed a bit since I was a kid. The Woodland Trust has installed information boards and created walks. Previously you could wander around for hours and had to rely on your memory to get back out where you started! Now you simply have to follow the waymarkers and look out for the handy boards with maps on them.

Running through the middle of the woods, which is a combination of broadleaved and conifer trees, is the Anglo-Saxon Faesten Dic. This is a defence structure that would have protected the settlement over 1000 years ago. The strong dike is now a scheduled ancient monument and you can learn all about it in Joyden’s Wood by reading the interpretation boards.

Path through fern and heather by Faesten Dic Joyden's Wood

Acorn from one of the ancient oak trees in Joyden's Wood

We passed our old scout hut and popped out of the woods just up the road from our old house so we had a nose. Apart from the silver birch tree out the front now being about 50ft tall (it was once the same size as me!) the house looked almost the same as it did when we moved out over 13 years ago.

It’s really strange to see your old home that is filled with so many memories. But what I have come to learn, having lived in a few houses since then, is that memories are not attached to the brick and mortar, there are in your mind and your heart forever.

I’ve always been a bit of a ‘wherever I lay my hat that’s my home’ kind of person. I don’t tend to get homesick, even when away travelling for 9 months, and will quickly refer to wherever I’m staying as ‘home’.

Having walked through our old estate, past the shop where we used to fill up on penny sweets, past the library where I read all the Point series of books (remember those?) and the doctor’s surgery where my sister and I would go with Mum in the evenings when she was working as a cleaner, we headed back into the woods to walk back to the cars.

Going back into the woods to get back to the car, we left the past behind and walked back to the cars and the present. It was time for tea and birthday cake back at my grandparents’ house! We all sang ‘happy birthday’ as she looked slightly mortified! Happy 27th birthday little sis. God, that makes me feel old!

The next time we’re going to be in the woods, we’ll be in Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. In 3 weeks’ time, hubby and I will be whizzing through the trees on a zip trekking adventure!

What’s your favourite thing about the woods?

Rachel x

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Walk from Walmer to Kingsdown, Kent

By 22 June 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Outdoors
Walking from Walmer to Kingsdown

As today was such a lovely day I was determined to get out of the house. So we left the washing up on the side and the bathrooms dirty and got in the car.

I wanted hubby to see Kingsdown because it’s so pretty. I’d never been there until we walked through it on one of our Yorkshire Three Peaks preparation walks. We parked up in Walmer near the bandstand. The Gurkha band were playing and the green was packed with people sitting and enjoying the music.

We grabbed some chips from the chippie and started walking towards the sea. All along the front there’s a level path for pedestrians and a cycle path. There were loads of families out on bikes, which was lovely to see. As you start to leave Walmer the grass disappears and the wild flowers take over.

Walmer is a quiet seaside town 6 miles north of Dover. You’d think nothing much happens here but a quick look on Wikipedia reveals that Caesar’s legions landed upon Walmer beach in 55BC and the castle was built on Henry VIII’s orders when he feared a backlash from Rome after his falling out with the Pope. The castle is in the south of the town and still standing; it’s now owned by English Heritage and open to visitors. You can see the castle from the coastal path.

Hubby at Walmer

Between Walmer and Kingsdown

Purple flower on the beach

Rachel Birchley

Beach huts at Kingsdown

Boats and huts Kingsdown

Hut on the beach at Kingsdown

Could never be mistaken for franks

You know you’re arriving in Kingsdown as the houses pop up along the beachfront road. There’s a real mishmash of buildings from cute little bungalows to modernist edifices. Whatever the house looks like, it’s sure to be worth a fortune due to location alone. Right on the beach, at the end of the main road from the village is the pub, The Zetland Arms, named after a lugger that ran aground up the coast at the end of the 19th century.

Passing the pub, we went straight onto the beach where hubby skimmed stones. I can’t do that, I obviously don’t have the technique. My stones just splosh straight into the water. After a few minutes of sitting on the beach we set back on the path towards Walmer, stopping at the pub for a quick drink before we left. Hubby was disappointed that we had to walk back the same way we’d come but I didn’t know how else to get back so that was what we did.
The walk back to the car was much quicker, probably because I didn’t keep stopping to take photographs!

The distance from Walmer bandstand to Kingsdown is 2 miles. It’s a really easy walk along a beautiful stretch of coastline. The path forms part of the Saxon Shore Way, a long distance (160 miles) footpath that winds its way along the coast from Hastings in East Sussex to Gravesend on the Thames estuary.

How was your weekend? Did you make the most of the gorgeous weather?

Rachel x

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Preparing for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

By 15 June 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Outdoors
Walking in the woods

This time in 6 weeks, I’m going to be about halfway through the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with 9 of my work mates! We’re travelling up to the Yorkshire Dales on Friday after work, ready to start walking about 6am Saturday. The walk itself is about 24 miles and takes in the three peaks of the Yorkshire Dales: Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The aim is to get the walk done is less than 12 hours.

Now I’m not being modest when I tell you that I am not the fittest of people. This is going to be a massive challenge. So I’m having to do some preparation to make sure I’m not going to be left to die on the top of a mountain. But it’s for charity so what are you gonna do? We’re raising money for Combat Stress.

Practice walks

Now I walk all the time but when it comes to hills I’ve never been much good. To try and get some practice in, and wear in my new boots and other equipment, I’ve organised some practice walks.

The first walk was the Tolsford Trek, which was supposed to be about 8 miles but we ended up walking nearly 10 because we took a wrong turn. Oops! There was only one hill climb in this walk, and it was puny compared to any of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The best bit was the lovely cup of tea back at the country park where we’d parked our cars. 80p for a mug of tea. Bargain.

A couple of weeks ago we did another walk, but this time there was no accompanying leaflet. I simply made it up. An OS map and a highlighter were my tools! We started at my colleague’s house in Walmer and walked across the fields, along country lanes and battled many overgrown footpaths through the Kentish countryside. The last couple of miles were along the seafront from Kingsdown back towards Deal, which was completely flat, very warm and very pretty. We walked 11 miles in 4 hours. By the time we got back to my friend’s house we were all knackered and our feet were killing us! God knows how we’re going to walk 24 miles!

Kingsdown - Saxon Shore Way

Beautiful wild flowers at Kingsdown

The next walk I’m planning is the length of the Elham Valley Way. This 22 mile long-distance path winds its way from Hythe, by the sea, to the historic city of Canterbury. Some of the route runs along the disused railway line, which closed after the Second World Way. It needs to take us less than 12 hours, otherwise we’ll never complete the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge!

I went to school in Canterbury and the old railway line was at the bottom of one the fields. My friends told me that the line was haunted and that you could sometimes still hear the steam trains. Strangely enough, I never heard any!

Overgrown footpath - Whitecliffs Country Trail

There’s a footpath through here somewhere!

Trekking clothing and equipment

To ensure my comfort while on this arduous trek, I’m investing in some decent trekking clothing. Well, I say investing, but really I mean buying stuff that’s on special offer! I don’t want to spend a fortune but at the same time I want the equipment to last as we’re off on our holidays to the Lake District and Scotland in September, so they’re going to get a lot of use.

I bought my walking boots from Sports Direct and they seem relatively comfortable. I think I need to spend out on the socks though. From what I’ve read, your choice of socks can make or break a trek.

For trousers, I picked up some convertible trousers from Sports Direct. They can be rolled up to make 3/4 lengths and zipped off just below my knee to make shorts. Pretty handy I think since we’re doing this walk in July, it could still be cold in the morning but it might get pretty warm in the middle of the day.

I’ve just done a shop at Mountain Warehouse for a few other bits and pieces. They’ve got half price off everything this week, plus I’ve got a discount code for 15% off that came with my last order. I bought:

    • a 35l rucksack that is designed to hold a hydration bladder and has plenty of pockets to make it ideal for a long hike
    • a pair of walking poles because I’ve heard that they’ll help my feet out by spreading the pressure
    • a short sleeve technical t-shirt that’s wicking, quick dry and has built in SPF 30
    • a compass so we don’t get lost!
    • waterproof gaiters to stop my ankles getting wet/water getting in my boots
    • and lastly a retainer headstrap for my sunglasses to stop them falling off my face! I’m going to look like a bit of a prat but they’re prescription sunglasses so quite expensive to replace.

All that cost £60. Not bad, eh?

All that’s left to buy now is some anti-blister socks, a hydration bladder and smaller things like first aid kit, anti-bac hand gel, a map and some food.

Even though it’s going to be really hard work, I’m looking forward to this trip so much. It’s going to be a weekend away with my mates, just with a 12 hour trek in the middle! We’re staying in a bunkhouse, which I’ve booked just for our group, so we’re going to have the run of the place. I think it’s going to be awesome!

Fundraising for Combat Stress

But what we mustn’t forget is why we’re going this walk. Yes it’s going to be fun, but it’s also majorly challenging, especially for the less fit of the group. The reason why we’re doing this trek is to raise money for Combat Stress. This charity relies on fundraising and donations to continue its good work treating ex-Service men and women who are suffering with the psychological injuries of combat such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you wish, you can sponsor me by visiting my Just Giving page.

Have you done any long-distance walking? Do you have any tips you can share?

Rachel x

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