Four Romney Marsh Churches from Brookland to Fairfield
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Four Romney Marsh Churches: Brookland - Brenzett - Snargate - Fairfield
Romney Marsh is the antidote to the stress of modern life! Choose, if you can, a bright, clear, still summer's day for this walk. To my mind, Romney Marsh is not a place to be in winter, when the east wind blows, unchecked, from the Urals – or thereabouts! A flat, open landscape of wide skies and fields criss-crossed by a lattice of drainage ditches, where yellow waterlilies float in early summer, it offers the opportunity to wander quiet lanes and paths and to visit some of its famous medieval churches.
On this walk, there is the opportunity to visit four churches, the first of which you'll encounter in the village of Brookland, where you'll leave your car. St Augustine's makes a big impact with its wooden, 'pepper-pot' bell-tower which is separate from the main building and its tall, secretive box-pews inside. Both St Eanswith's at Brenzett and St Dunstan's at Snargate (we like unusual saints down here!), have more recent literary associations, as well as Mediaeval ones and are worth a visit. But St Thomas á Becket Church at Fairfield is the gem. In the past, often inaccessible in winter except by boat, it sits, alone, surrounded by its own green sea of pastureland. There is no sound save the swish of reeds by the drainage ditches, the call of the circling skylark and the inevitable bleating. One could get carried away with waxing lyrical here!
But Romney Marsh is not entirely an idyll. It has its darker side, for it has strong associations with smuggling in the past (tobacco in the belfry and a cask of Hollands gin under the vestry table, claims a former Rector at Snargate!); and according to legend, witches lurked around every corner. Today Romney Marsh gives lie to the myth that the South East is all fast cars and affluence, for there is real rural poverty here, evidenced by the presence of abandoned farms and derelict buildings.
In the second half of this walk, there is just over 3km of road-walking. Do not be discouraged by this! The lanes here are relatively traffic-free (only one car passed us on this stretch). Flanked by scarlet, waving poppies in June, mallow and dog-rose in June, they provide easy walking and much to enjoy in the form of wayside flowers, fields of white (yes, white!) linseed and blowing barley. You may even spot, as we did, a kestrel standing still upon a fence-post, or be hissed at menacingly by a swan from her untidy nest, occupied by two downy cygnets.
This walk should come with a government health warning, for it may take a while to transport yourself back into the 21st Century. Treat yourself gently and round it off with a pint at Brookland's Royal Oak, or to put that more picturesquely perhaps, words from the first licence granted to the ale-house in 1736:
"that he may suffer ale to be tippled in his house,
but may not suffer ale to be tippled during divine service,
that he may not suffer ale to be tippled from pots of illegal measure,
that he may not suffer ale to be tippled
from pots not bearing the district stamp,
that he may not suffer ale to be tippled that is impured by adulteration,
and that he may not suffer ale from a disorderly house".
England - South England - Kent - Romney Marsh
Birds, Butterflies, Church, Flowers, Mostly Flat, Pub, Wildlife
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