The walk from Great Buckland runs across a wide valley called the Bowling Alley up through vineyards and chalk grasslands with a view of the ancient woodlands that make up part of Rochester Forest, past a mob of rooks and jackdaws that sit in the top of Tom Loft’s Wood and descend to forage in the chalk soil between the vines. A spitfire flies low over the forest in the cloudless sky on a tour from Biggin Hill, pulls a wide turn over Cobham and returns past Meopham. The distinctive stutter of the loud Merlin engine fills the valley with echoes of 80 years ago.
Through the gate in the hedge and over the crest of a hill to a well-placed garden seat and the hamlet of Luddesdown is spread below. A settlement for more than 2,000 years, described in the Domesday book and once owned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Odo of Baieux. The evening light paints the brick, tile and flint warm reds and greys. The three principal buildings: the manor house, now named Court Lodge, reputedly the oldest, continuously inhabited house in England; the stout square, flint church, a Victorian rebuild of a Norman replacement of the Saxon original; and Court Lodge, a steeply-roofed, modern house with windows that stare across the valley, sit together on a small wooded hill set amongst the pastures and new vineyards. An evening filled with the sights and sounds of other ages; of invasion and resistance; of continuity and change.