Robust Rambles


Tips and Advice about the Robust Rambles walks

These walks are the result of a variety of commissions and walking events over the last ten years. The Isle of Thanet is a relatively small area with a long coastline, urban development is concentrated in the resorts of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, and there is a much larger hinterland of rich farmland with a network of footpaths largely underused. The series of Landscape Walks and shorter strolls were written to encourage local walking. These walks are also featured in the annual Thanet Walking Festival which takes place in the first week in May. Other half day walks were written for publication in the local newspaper, the Thanet Gazette.

Kent has over 4000 miles of public rights of way; a rich feast of walking opportunities. The main robust rambles are the long distance walks which start in East Kent, currently Dover, Folkestone and Dymchurch, and cross the county to, respectively, Dorking, Farnham and Didcot. These trails are set out as a series of day circular walks. However all the 'out' sections make one continuous trail and all the 'return' sections a completely different route in the opposite direction. Each section starts and ends in a village and, in most cases, at a country pub.

These walks are free to download for personal use. The copyright remains with the author who should be contacted regarding any proposals for wider publication.

The title Robust Rambles was chosen to highlight the demands that country walking makes. Although the south of England is regarded as a benign landscape, setting off away from roads for a day should be undertaken with some thought and care. Although most paths are signposted where they leave public roads, thereafter waymarking is patchy. Many paths are not evident on the ground and crossfield and field edge paths are constantly ploughed out. In woods, golf courses and caravan parks there may be little waymarking but a conflicting system of internal access paths. Paths are subject to vegetation growth and it is sensible to carry secateurs. Many paths follow river valleys and can be very wet and boggy most of the year. In most of the region there is arable farming and ploughed fields yield large amounts of mud as well as crops of rape, potatoes, broadbeans and peas which considerably slow the pace of walking. Path furniture offers many challenges. There are thousands of stiles in this region and many are old and in poor condition. Fieldgates on public footpaths should not be locked but occasionally they are and need climbing. There are also many footbridges often made of old railway sleepers. The wood of stiles and bridges becomes very slippery when wet and a major cause of accidents. Test wood before stepping onto it, don't rush and don't jump off stiles. Electric fences appear everywhere and temporary wirefencing even barbed wire is not uncommon. Animals need approaching with discretion. Keep clear of herds of cows especially with calves; ferocious dogs are common but usually caged in gardens but be prepared for those that aren't. Many of these hazards are eased if the walker has walking poles or sticks, two being strongly recommended. Road walking is kept to a minimum but is necessary to link paths. All roads are dangerous and country traffic travels at great speed. Always walk in single file, close to the edge and use grass verges where possible. It is sensible to carry a high-viz waistcoat, they take little space and have a real effect on drivers. Even with instructions and sketchmaps there are times when the user will be lost. Always carry the appropriate OS Explorer map. Occasionally paths are completely blocked and the map is necessary to give a picture of the surrounding countryside and suggest ways of improvising an alternative route.

It is sensible always to carry water and some emergency rations if walking all day. Most walkers now take mobile phones and the advice always is to let someone know where you are walking especially if travelling alone. Always wear footwear designed for walking and, for most of the year, waterproof. Properly fitting wellington boots can be the best answer in winter when the ground may be waterlogged and extremely muddy to a depth that overwhelms ordinary boots. Simple first aid kit is advisable, and always take the appropriate clothes for rain or intense sun. If setting off in winter remember the days are short, carry a small torch.

All these things are described so that the rambles are not undertaken lightly. Every walk of any length will encounter some of the possible hazards so also think carefully if taking children, dogs or anyone with restricted mobility. However walking is a challenge, an adventure and a chance to explore and use skills and ingenuity in daily surroundings which may offer little of these things. The physical and mental satisfaction at the end of a day's walking is difficult to equal.