This Ship Has Stayed Afloat

P1020758It may have had a couple of changes of licensees over the recent years but my late October Saturday lunchtime it was busy with food and for a rural, isolated village that keeps The Ship alive and well.

A few years ago, I remember a wet April walk with a group of six walkers, dripping through the side door into a linoleumed bar for a couple of pints before the final two miles to Istead Rise. A brief respite from the drizzle. The next year it was a cold dry day and, with clean boots, we sat in the corner of the lounge by a roaring fire, leaving with memories of a pub fit for a walker’s dream.

Somehow, The Ship Inn of 2018 has a different flavour than before. Carpeted throughout, it has raised its game for an eating and drinking clientele. The newish ‘Orangery’ was filled with a lunchtime party and every table in this one roomed pub was complete with eaters.

There is still the old dining room tucked out of the way behind the bar and there is still an open fire but for me, it has lost a little of that old country atmosphere that wrapped around you like an old warm coat. Perhaps if it had stayed that way it would not have survived to 2018.

More to the point, my Tim Taylor’s Landlord was a treat and as this is the last pub before a ‘dry’ Istead Rise it was fitting toast to this section of 1066 Harold’s Way from Dartford but always remember that there is still a couple of miles to go to the finish and the bus to Gravesend or Meopham.

Also on offer were Sharp’s Doom, Adnams Broadside, Adnams Ghost Ship and a Wantsum Montgomery from Canterbury.

The Ship Inn would make a fine end to any walk but the vagaries of the bus service make this difficult.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Ship Inn, Southfleet will be No 28 in Beer Notes


An Inglorious Past


Sitting under a vivid azure blue sky in light summer clothes, it was strange to see the first leaves of autumn falling.

It was definitely an Indian Summer day when I finished the walk from Staplehurst to Sissinghurst sitting in the garden of The Milkhouse that was once known as The Bull.

The Bull was well-worn and almost confined to the old bar that served Harvey’s Best and a local Benenden cider on draft, the strength perhaps of which was never advertised. The settees would now be called ‘shabby chic’, the tables beer stained and the occasional lunchtime local, hunched over The Times crossword before their afternoon nap, decorated the bar.

On the day that I ventured in after my walk, mine host was very welcoming and a joy to talk to and the beer was good but next time I passed, it was closed.

The Bull had gone to the abattoir, another rural pub closed, the last in Sissinghurst and with its large carpark and grounds it was surely doomed to the builder’s whim. The end of future walks would indeed be dry.

Two years down the line, the Bull became The Milkhouse with its reference to the village’s inglorious past of the Hawkhurst Gang, gambling and drinking dens and all the criminal activity that you could mention. (Once known as Milkhouse Street it was in the 1850s that the village residents decided that a name change to Sissinghurst would rid them of their ‘dodgy’ past)

That shabby chic has been reinvented into a ‘dining pub with rooms’, a style that has succeeded where the Bull ultimately failed. Now the uniformed staff delight in good service, the menu is more ‘deli’ than bar snacks, the wine chosen and the beers wholesome – Harvey’s Best, Brains Reverend James and Old Dairy Green Hop from down the road at Tenterden.

It has been a special and successful transformation that has still left space for walkers in what was the old bar but, despite the wooden floor, it may be best to cover muddy boots on wet and difficult days.

On my azure day, Stef and I sat outside with my pint of Harvey’s, a white wine and more white wine with the food to celebrate the last breaths of summer and a special walking day in a pub that has stayed alive.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Milkhouse will be No 40 in Beer Notes


That ‘je ne sais quoi’


That elusive quality, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ of the framed jigsaws on the wall have gone as has the dark carpet, plush banquettes, the rows of lager pumps, the indifferent reviews and that seventies feel to the old Abbey.

Now there are framed photographs of bygone Abbey Wood, charabancs and buses and outings.

Now there are wooden floors and high tables to stand and chat and even draft beer, Doom and a guest to savour and both on hand pump.

On my visit, the guest was Wadworths 6X at £3.50 a pint and cheerily served, an infinitely better reward for the walk from Greenwich. It was a splendid pint with a few minutes spent watching rugby on the big screen before climbing the stairs to the new Abbey Wood Station awaiting its first Elizabeth Line Train (due to open in 2019).

Even with the changes, the Abbey has not become an expression of ‘urban chic’. Cross Rail has yet to wave its magic wand and it remains that essential community pub and that community has not changed. Saturday lunchtimes continue into the afternoons watching sport and listening the local ‘banter’. It may be different on a weekday afternoon.

The Abbey is definitely worth a pint or two and is far more welcoming than its old reviews, prior to its refurbishment in 2015, would suggest.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Abbey Arms will be No 24 in Beer Notes


Talking the Walk

3 Castles Cranbrook U3A

This talk is an engaging account of a walk between four National Trust properties; Bodiam Castle, Sissinghurst Castle, Scotney Castle and Bateman’s, that explores the history and the industrial past of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in this part of Kent and East Sussex.

Three Castles is an opportunity to take the time to explore the castles and houses and towns and villages along the route. It follows man’s ingenuity and progress and a changing industry from agriculture to iron, to sheep, to the woollen trade, smuggling, hopfields and back to agriculture.

There is a soul to the High Weald; one that reflects the passions and industry of man and also the tensions of war and rebellion. It is now a very pastoral picture with only occasional reminders of the noise, smoke and fire of the iron industry. The ironmasters and the rich woollen trade are survived by their architecture at Sissinghurst, Cranbrook and Burwash and Brightling. The derelict hoppickers cottages, next to the River Teise in Lamberhurst, provide a startling contrast to the rich and landed.

And such a varied landscape brings together tales to tell of Mad Jack Fuller and Bloody Baker, Admiral ‘Foulweather Jack’ Norris, and Captain Swing. There are tales of smugglers and Mechanical riots, Napoleon’s horse, aliens in Robertsbridge and, of course, that ‘vengeful dragon’ in Angley Wood.

For information on this and other talks visit:

Huffed Hufflers

41530883955_b66d5a7d70_b[1]Those six miles of hard walking around the Cray Marshes had finished and Dartford Station was almost in sight.

Dartford is changing. With its mainline station into London Bridge, development is afoot and new building now lines the River Darent. Closer to town, new flats are being built on old factory sites with little homage to their industrial past.

Times are a-changing but sadly they have not yet touched the Hufflers Arms.

Only a few minutes from the station, it remains a no frills pub, serving cold lager and little else, and if you want a decent cask beer, now that the Station Hotel has been demolished, it is walk further down Hythe Street for that illusive pint at The Stage Door (Shepherd Neame).

Once, The Hufflers was close to a busy river, bustling with work and a huffler was a porter who carried provisions from a ship’s chandler aboard waiting vessels. I am sure that he would have been most disappointed to find no real ale being served but with all that re-development the demand for a good pint may soon herald a change in outlook.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Hufflers Arms will be No 25 in Beer Notes




Great News!

1066 Harold’s Way is to be a ‘Waymarked Trail’ for 2019.

Waymark v21066 Harold’s Way has been adopted by Beyond Marathon for their 2019 Ultra Marathon event to be completed over the weekend of 6th to 7th July 2019 and in the spirit of the men of King Harold’s army they aim to finish in 30 hours.

My especial thanks to Mark and Richard of Beyond Marathon who have undertaken to waymark the whole route for the benefit of the competing runners and for all future walkers inspired by King Harold’s epic march to battle.

London, 11th October 1066

“Listen carefully. Cross London Bridge and turn left at Watling Street, it should be signposted Rochester, Canterbury and Dover. When you get to the big river and the old Roman bridge stop, the army will camp there the night. Tomorrow, turn right – south, along another Roman road to Maidstone and Bodiam. Wait for me there and we will cross the estuary together before meeting with the rest of our army at the Old Hoar Apple Tree, Caldbec Hill on the 13th. Everybody knows where to meet and how to get there – good, off you go and be careful – we have a battle to fight. Don’t get lost!”

Following the new ‘Waymarked Trail’ would have helped King Harold’s men.

Walking Capital to the Coast. Walking 1066 Harold’s Way from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle.



A Path Worth Walking

1066 Harold’s Way

Be inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings.

Diversions, amendments, additions and re-routes to ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ will be published on the website, the blog and social media and hard copies will be free to download, with the exception of 1066 William’s Way which will be available at a discounted price from History Walks.


Thank you to all those who plan to walk 1066 Harold’s Way next year – 2019.

This year I have re-walked, revised and updated ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ with a view to re-publish during 2019.

Little has changed apart from a new bridge at Greenwich, a slight re-route around Sissinghurst and a couple of good pubs that have sadly closed but, importantly, the route remains fundamentally unchanged from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey.

However, the new edition of ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way will include an extra section from Battle Abbey to Hastings Castle (1066 William’s Way) creating a true Capital to Coast Walk, adding ten miles to the journey and completing the story of the Battle of Hastings.

The Thames Path along the Embankment has diversions because of the work building London’s new ‘super sewer’ and with all new riverside development between Greenwich and the O2 Arena, there is a trek around the backstreets which is a little tedious to say the least.

The Tideway project is scheduled to last until at least 2022 but there is hope that the Thames Path, after Greenwich, will be reinstated next year.

If you need further information or to clarify the route, please e-mail me at

Happy Walking