With the Curse off to a Boxing Day footy match, I took the opportunity to strike out to the Medway for a nice leg stretch today.
Whenever I have driven over the River Medway on the M2 motorway bridge, I have gazed upstream along the valley and suspected that glorious walks await me on its wooded shoulders.
So despite the rather grey demeanour of the day, the occasional glimpses of sunshine persuaded me to pack my bag, print out the directions for a walk, and head off eastwards to Cuxton near Rochester. The basic walk on the leaflet is less than 4 miles - a bit too short to qualify as a leg stretch for me - but it has the so-called Darnley Diversion which brings it closer to 6 miles.
There's lots of ups and downs (although mostly quite short), a really rich variety of woodlands (including some dangerous trees!) and views over the Medway and a few of the valleys that surround it.
The Darnley diversion took me into denser woodland, and through the old deer park where the sun caught these skeletal trees with a breathtaking winter light.
The Darnley Mausoleum itself is the big reveal of the walk - the drama marred only by the enormous steel fence that has been erected around it since its restoration, presumably to prevent vandalism and theft. It's a real shame that the visual impact of this incredible structure and its rural setting are totally ruined by the security fence.
Upper Bush is a delightful little hamlet with only half a dozen houses - according to the walk leaflet there used to be many more and the remaining ones were only saved from being demolished in the 1960s by a campaign by locals.
This being Kent, of course there were also one or two oast houses here and there.
The woodlands were decorated with nature's winter colours and textures; brightly coloured lichen, wispy Old Man's Beard and these mysterious bright red berries which I've always thought were bindweed but it seems not - any ideas?
Update: the berries belong to Bryony although I'm not sure whether they are White Bryony or Black Bryony, without having studied the plants and leaves. Oddly the two plants are unrelated, although the berries of both are poisonous. Thanks mum & dad for the ID!