Sunshine, Showers, Slopes and a…SPITFIRE!
With ingredients like that the dish de jour must be the OVFM Ramble!
The gang gathered early and there was a palpable enthusiasm to get on and conquer what we would later call ‘The North Face of Shoreham Hill’. But for now we were blissully ignorant of the trial ahead and we set off with a spring in our step and a wag of our collective tails…energetically led away by Teddy the dog.
The weather was lovely and the company lovelier as we strolled through glade and cross meadow with the picturesque vista of the downs before us. Deborah led the naturalists (no! I don’t mean those who undress in public!) in a hunt for butterflies while the rest of us put the world to rights and enjoyed the entertaining antics of our four legged companion.
But then the hill struck! With the first flight of rough and steep steps stretching out before us, seemingly into the sky, the ramble claimed it first victims and we reluctantly bid farewell to two of our party.
As for the rest of us we soldiered on. Clamp-ons were not needed…but only just, and by hook and by crook we muscled our way to the top. The climb was worth it (yes it was!) as the view from the top of the Darenth Valley was breathtaking (or was it that I was still out of breath!)
We dallied awhile at the chalk cross and took in the scenery. The chalk cross was created in 1920 as a memorial to the local men killed in action during the First World War. Naturally our thoughts turned to war and the conversation of those old enough to childhood memories of the Second World War, bombing raids, doodle-bugs, rationing, evacuation and all the experiences and feelings associated with that time of turmoil.
Rested and eager to reach our goal we set off downhill and into Shoreham Village, following the bank of the River Darent along by the old mill and behind the charming cottages with their tiny gardens that seem to dabble their toes in the cool water of the river. An angler we passed boasted proudly of the multitude of different fish he caught in that river but we spotted nothing but the odd leaf floating by.
Arrival at the pub meant time to break for refreshment. With a plan hatched to lunch and relax and then meet-up for afternoon tea in the Church we went our separate ways.
The churchyard offers a great place to sit and from certain angles you can spy the chalk cross on the hill where we had been just a short time before. It’s a lovely view even when the storm clouds gathered ominously overhead. Fortunately the downpour, the torrential downpour, occurred while we were safe and dry inside the church enjoying our cakes, scones and tea…thanks ladies of Shoreham Village!
Eventually we had to admit that we couldn’t eat anymore and that we must reluctantly take the bit between our teeth and begin the return journey. As we began the Shoreham Hill climb our ears pricked at the sound of an aeroplane, a very special aeroplane, and as we gazed up in wonder a beautiful Spitfire executed a turn in the blue sky above our heads! The sound was fabulous, and the sight of the sun glinting on it’s propeller a perfect picture. What a great climax to our ramble! The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had been at an event at Biggin Hill over the weekend so it seems likely that this lone time traveller from seventy odd years ago was part of that party.
With our spirits lifted we were given wings of our own and practically flew up the hill with Brenda at the head of our formation. Even the sun shone down on us to speed our way. Actually it was hard work tramping back…the hill definitely seems steeper since the last time! But we did eventually make it. Well done all.
To the OVFM Ramblers, I salute you!