Yesterday I was in Middlewich. Today by the magic of the internal combustion engine, I am in Kent. I don't know for how long but it's not going to be a permanent arrangement. The great thing about a peripatetic lifestyle, deliberate or, as in my case not, is that every now and then one comes across something unusual. So, while the gaps between the rivers in the rest of the country were being filled in, my little corner of the kingdom actually experienced summer. It rained before I got up but by the time I came to hang my washing out, it was blazing sunshine. Come 4pm it was positively scorching and I was forced to remove my t-shirt, albeit fleetingly. I even have evidence:
I thought I ought to take even further advantage of the fine weather and go for a stroll. So I did, along the Royal Military Canal. Students of history will know that this is not a canal in the navigation sense. It is a fortification, designed to keep out the expansionist Frenchies in the early part of the 19th century. Yes yes, go on. How was a ditch across the top of the Romney Marsh, itself fringed on the marine side by shallow mud beaches or vicious tidal rips around Dungeness, neither of which would form ideal beacheads, supposed to prevent us from becoming a nation of shrugging Renault drivers with nary a clue about rock music and gravy? Don't ask me. I can only assume it was a cunning plan, the rest of the coastline being rather less hospitable and strongly fortified and 120 sq miles of sparsely populated flatlands quite an invitation to the invader. Achlly, it is quite clever. It's meant as a hindrance, you see. The design, a series of stepped straight lines with no curves meaning there was a clean line of fire along the enemy bank from the opposite side, was a top piece of engineering. No blue on blue here. Obviously it was never tested. More useless triva: Hamstreet, where these pictures were taken and where I went to primary school, was the first place to be mapped by the Ordnance Survey, around the time the canal was built. Not a coincidence, for what is ordnance? Artillery. The things we take for granted.
Nowadays, the canal is nothing more than a semi-stagnant 20 mile pond with a few decent fish in. It also helps to drain the marsh as many of the drainage dykes pump into it. Indeed today, a pumphouse started up and emptied a few thousand gallons into the canal as I passed by. Sadly, the run-off from the copious amounts of dung is presumably responsible for increasing the weed growth in the water to the point where in many places it's actually difficult to see the surface at all. More useless marsh trivia: in some of the dykes one can catch flounder. The canal joins the River Rother at Iden Lock near Rye. The river here is tidal and brackish and bass (not the fish Americans know as bass), grey mullet and flounder, three species of fish known to favour brackish water have all been caught in it and the bottom hugging flounder have occasionally found their way into the dykes that drain into the river.
Look, you can just see my shadow. I am directing the cows further down the canal. I am telling them that if they carry on in that direction they will reach Peasemarsh, where major cow enemy No 1 lives. I am also telling them that they can also shit all over his lawn for releasing "C Moon", a song that briefly made my life a nickname nightmare in 1972. I'm not sure they fully understood so on leaving, I said I would have to eat one of their number as a punishment. It's OK, they're all vegetarians and their packaging is 100% biodegradable.