Kent Ramblers

Royal Military Canal: Warehorne to Aldington Extension

Royal Military Canal Path: Warehorne to Aldington Extension

These two articles, taken from the Spring and Autumn 1997 editions of Kent Area News, outline the contribution made by Kent Ramblers to the creation of this excellent long distance path, now available for all walkers to enjoy.

From Kent Area News, Spring 1997

Laughter in Court: But who laughs last?

There was astonished surprise at the outset of the Public Inquiry into the proposed Public Footpath Creation Order which, if confirmed, would allow walkers to traverse the "missing link" of the Royal Military Canal path between Warehorne and Aldington. When he asked witnesses to identify themselves Mr Peter McMaster, the inspector appointed by the DoE, realised that he and Peter Whitestone, Chairman of Ashford Ramblers, had served together in Hong Kong and Malaya in the 1950's, as Army colleagues. Everyone in the hall agreed that this was no reason to prevent the Inquiry from continuing.

Ruckinge Village Hall seemed a most unlikely setting for a legal battleground. Somewhat decrepit and sadly in need of a lick of paint; white plastic picnic chairs comprising the main seating; an old school bell suspended high above one wall and a modern clock placed in respect of a local worthy; it seemed to lack the dignity necessary for the legal processes taking place. Mr McMaster at the outset made it quite plain that he would not be standing upon his dignity and he wished all who appeared before him to be at ease as they gave evidence.

The hall was filled with supporters drawn from KCC Recreation Paths and Highways Departments and from a number of walkers' organisations. Members of Sevenoaks RA, Ashford RA, Tunbridge Wells RA were strongly represented as was the Kent Area EC, the Meopham FP Group and the East Kent FP Preservation Society. Objectors consisted mainly of the local community among whom were the landowners affected by the proposed Order.

One local farmer's wife brought her knitting and sat, busily plying her needles, much as "les tricoteuses" had witnessed the passage of "aristos" during the French reign of terror.

There were a number of occasions when laughter brought light relief to the atmosphere. Outlining the procedure the Inspector said that mid-morning breaks would be taken "as convenient"!  Pat Wilson, who had been stressing the benefit that walkers would bring to local shopkeepers and inn keepers, was asked how much she spent whilst out walking and replied "I always carry my own sandwiches!" Mr Mellor, one of the farmers objecting to the path, when describing how youngsters caused trouble said "…you can't clip 'em round the ear else you'd be locked up!".

But, of course, serious argument took up most of the time.  While James Richardson, KCC solicitor, and then Mike Moroney, RoW Manager, made out a strong case for the new path, most of us were disappointed by the weak showing of [the witness] who had been responsible for doing the Environmental Assessment.

Excellent statements were made by Michael Stokes, Chairman of Kent Area, by Paul Clark of Sevenoaks, by Peter Whitestone of Ashford Ramblers and by Ray Allen, local County Councillor.

On the other hand the local objectors put their case strongly. It quickly became evident that the lack of adequate car parking near to access points was going to be a great disadvantage.

The possible danger to livestock on this narrow strip of land edged on one side by the canal and on the other by a wide drainage ditch was bound to weigh heavily in favour of the objectors.

Following the verbal presentations site inspections were carried out to look at various problems. We await the outcome with fear and trepidation as well as hope.

From Kent Area News, Autumn 1997

Royal Military Canal

The Spring issue of Kent Area News described the Public Inquiry into the County Council's bid to create a footpath along the Royal Military Canal between Warehorne and Aldington.

The article ended "We await the outcome with fear and trepidation, as well as hope". Most happily, hope prevailed and after ten weeks of suspense we learned that our campaign to open the path to the public, begun by the Ashford Group in 1986, had succeeded. The six and a half mile stretch became legally open to the public on the 13th May; and Mike Temple and I traversed it, triumphantly, three days later.

Twenty seven of us, from all over Kent, met at Court-at-Street to walk the new stretch, westwards, on 17th August. It was one of the hottest days of the year, but we had a splendid outing. We found that most of the necessary fieldwork had been carried out. A long stretch of fencing, put in to protect the public from a bull at Ruckinge, presented the only real problem; the path at this point was uncomfortably narrow, sloping and full of dangerous holes (our subsequent complaints were promptly dealt with by KCC's Rights of Way section; the stretch is now in far better condition). A lunch stop at Ruckinge gave some a chance to relax under shady trees by the canal; others enjoyed a visit to the Blue Anchor, the village local. We reached Hamstreet car park after three and a half hours; we had followed OUR new path for six of the total eight and a half miles and we had enjoyed a memorable day's walking.

The fact that the public can now walk all twenty seven miles of the canal from Hythe to Pett Level will be celebrated and publicised by the KCC next spring; a guide book will be launched at the same time. We ourselves will be arranging an Area Walk to introduce newcomers to this beautiful stretch of quiet countryside some time around Easter - Groups will be sent information.

Meanwhile, you can read an article about the Canal in the Winter number of Rambling Today, which the Editor, Annabelle Birchall wrote after a recent visit. Do take a look at the new section for yourself - everything is well waymarked - and, in any case, it would be very difficult to lose your way!

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