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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Post 18 Romney Marsh.‏

31st January. Good journey through pretty little villages, crossed the Otter Channel near Wittersham into Kent. Went across Romney Marsh, very flooded, stopped on some grass near Ham Street. I got there at dusk, just in time. 20 miles. I would have liked to stop earlier as the horse and l were getting tired but there was nowhere. The rain stayed off until half an hour before l got there, sharp cold rain that stings your ears. The wind got up again and l put a rug on the horse. The wind howled and shook the wagon all night.
Romney Marsh, Kent, Plenty of water
I woke up at 7.45am and lit the stove. The wind has dropped and the sun has come out. I haven't seen it for days. The batteries are almost out of power, but they are quickly recharged by the solar panel. I got the stove roaring away, opened the back windows and aired my mattress and bedding. The horse sunbathed and l hung up his rug to dry. By mid-day it was clouding over and time to be on my way. I went up onto the hills via Ruckinge to Aldington. Just 5 miles. I took a picture of the church at Ruckinge. Some of my ancestors are buried there, two of them, brothers, were hung on Penenden Heath near Maidstone, for thieving. The judge said it was a sad day for him, [he also had a few other people hung that day]. This area was well known for smuggling and my ancestors did a bit of that too.
Church at Ruckinge 1st February
I'm stopped on some rough grass on the edge of the green at Aldington. A parish councillor called Trevor came and knocked on my door. I lent out of the window, smiled at him and said, 'hello, how are you'. He said he was fine and enquired if l had permission to stop here. I said,'no'. He said he'd had several phone calls from villagers asking what was going on, l said, 'l expect you have.' He was friendly and re-assured when l said l was going in the morning. He remarked on how warm and cosy my wagon was.
A short while later a very indignant old man came over and banged loudly on my door with his stick, he demanded to know what l was doing and did l have permission? I smiled at him and told him l didn't want permission. [Why and from whom would l want to ask permission [and probably be refused] on a cold wet wintery afternoon when l'd already given myself permission]. I'm only taking what l need, the crime is when you take more than you need. He was angry and said 'we don't want want your type here.' He wanted to know my name and address, so the council could send me a bill for the damage to the grass. I smiled and told him he'd better go away or l'd give him a bill, wished him good afternoon and shut my window. He went, disappointed that his mission had been a failure.
A few minutes later another man came over, he knocked gently on the door and said ,'hello' and enquired how long l was stopping for, l smiled and said until the morning, and he said, 'Oh that's alright.' He was friendly and after chatting went away happy, a bit later on he and the first man came back and politely asked if they could come and take photos in the morning. They turned my visit into a good experience and were glad to meet me.
Oast houses, near Wittersham, Kent
It's unusual on a wet cold wintry day that l get anyone come to me. People normally stay in doors keeping warm. It's 5pm now, dark and raining hard, l doubt l'll get any more visitors.
I went to The Walnut Tree pub for dinner, the food was quite good. The landlord was hospitable and let me sample the beers. The local ales are strongly flavoured with hops. Hops were grown all around here and there are many old oast houses, but l believe that most hops are now imported from Poland. The hops are grown up poles of coppiced Chestnut. This area has many woods full of chestnut that is coppiced to provide the thousands of hop poles that were needed. Nowadays, much of the chestnut is used to make paling fences and attractive post and rail fencing. Chestnut lasts about 25 years before it rots. When the hop poles were too old, they were made into charcoal, which was then used to dry the hops in the oast houses. The oast houses have a cowl at the top and these turn according to the way the wind is blowing for ventilation. Hops are very soporific and l'm falling asleep.....
In the morning Trevor and his wife came over and said goodbye, another man asked me if there was anything l needed and another man brought me some biscuits his wife had baked. I went along an old Roman road high up on the downs with good views over Romney Marsh and the sea. I thought l might be able to see France but couldn't. It must be 30 miles away.
Tarateeno in stable at John Parker International
Stopped in the yard at John Parker lnternational. They are going to take the horse in a lorry and the wagon on a trailer to Calais for me. They are professional horse transporters. I've put my horse in a stable and he can dry out, then l can give him a good grooming, so he looks clean when l get to France.