Let’s not talk about how during the second Rail To Trail race of this series, I had to drop down to a half marathon, felt like I hobbled the last few kilometres back to base, am currently nursing a swollen ankle and am now feeling pretty sorry for myself. For I want to focus on when I can next run comfortably (the optimist in me says Tuesday). Instead I want to talk about the areas that this race explores and surrounding places which may be of interest to anyone who wants to venture to the Medway towns.
Now as someone who was born and bred in Medway (or the Med), Chatham to be exact, I have ties to Cuxton and the surrounding area mainly because it was the place where we used to head to party. There used to be a nightclub called Amadeus in Cuxton, which garnered quite a reputation in North Kent simply because it was so huge, had several podiums, a VIP area and “celebs” such as Dane Bowers were known to show their faces in there. It was the place to go to when I was a teenager and we spent much of our misspent youth circling the dancefloor, pretending we were much older than we were (it was an over 18s club not that you’d know it) and generally trying to chat up boys. Little did we know that just up the road was an area of outstanding beauty.
Trailscape East Route
Fast forward 15 years and the once sticky floors of Amadeus are now home to a Hollywood Bowl but those beautiful fields of Kent outside Cuxton still ring true as the one loop of the Trailscape East demonstrated. Through woods, along trails and across farmland at the foot of the North Downs, this year’s route took us towards Ryarsh, an old Saxon village, past Vigo Village, which was built-in the mid-20th century on the grounds of a former World War II army camp, and then by the very pretty parish of Luddesdown. Apparently, much of the woodland we ran through in Cuxton is classed as ‘ancient’, which means it has existed since at least 1600AD.
Lord Darnley’s Estate and Shorne Country Park
I have to admit, it’s an area I’m not familiar with. My father who was bought up in Strood knows more about the land around Cobham and the Darnley estate, mainly because my grandfather (my dad’s father) was the gamekeeper (or poacher, in dad’s words: “we were the only council estate in the 50s to serve up pheasant on a Sunday”). Again, here you’ll find a very interesting trail walk which features the Darnley family’s Mausoleum, the ancient Ashenbank wood and Cobham Hall’s gardens, where I’m told the daffodils in my dad’s garden come from.
Both areas are pretty and worth making a day trip for. I found this piece put together from National Trails about walks in and around Cuxton, which sums up what to do when you get there.
Shorne Woods Country Park is also not far away and at its best in the Springtime. I remember many a childhood going there for a picnic and getting lost in the many Rhododendrons. Again, my father knew this area very well as this was the stomping ground of the late and lovable rogue Grandpa Bryant. Now one of the most popular parks in Kent, Shorne Country Park has many trails and also hosts a Parkrun on a Saturday. It links up with the Darnley Estate offering woodland, wetland and meadows typical of the North Kent countryside to explore.