The Pennine Way Shakedowns 3, the Devils Kneading Trough.

Its 12.30pm, half past noon. Troy and I sit above the Devils Kneading Trough, just taking in the View. It has to be said its spectacular. You can see for miles from here. To the South you can see the chimneys of Dungeness Power Station and Romney Marsh with the wind turbines turning gently and endlessly. I love blades turning, whilst a windmill will always be my favourite, I ‘m ok with the turbines too. Closer we can see William Harvey Hospital on the outskirts of Ashford. As we continue clockwise there’s the villages of Brook and Wye, both of which we shall walk through later, before heading up the other side of the valley to Kings Wood where we will be spending the night.

We’ve started a little later than I would normally choose to begin a walk. Troys just come of nights and I had a sleep shift. By the time he’d got a bit of kip and I’d got home, finalised my pack and got moving time was always going to be pushing on.

It’s whilst sitting here, eating my lunch that I take a little to time to reflect on the sheer majesty of the landscape we are a part of.  This is the Weald of Kent. In eons back there was the Wealden Dome, a chalk dome so big it spread from London all the way down to Paris. As the UK moved away from Europe, yep, we’ve been doing it for millennia, the dome got split as the English Channel pushed through the land mass.  Natural erosion caused by wind and rain then played their part and the end result is what we now see all around us.  Chalk downland, one of the most important wildlife habitats in the UK, which makes this an area of outstanding natural beauty.  And beautiful it is, especially with the sun burning down upon us.

Never mind the mind boggling science, this gash in the countryside was formed during the last Ice age as water froze and melted and melted again, a bit like the process that our roads endure when we actually have a cold winter.  The Devils Kneading Trough is a gash too, it looks like a giant took a big cheese sized piece out of the valley side with a knife. The edges are certainly steep enough to be a wedge of cheese. 

We are very aware too, that shortly we will be traversing the side of this slope with packs full of everything we need to survive a night out in the wilds of Kent. Slipping is not an attractive option. Especially with my knees. The Pennine Way will have many steep slopes, which I suspect will be longer than this one, so the practice will be useful.  I’m OK on the horizontal with my knees, and also gentle slopes, however styles are a real challenge.

Its at this point I wonder just how heavy is my pack. It’s the water that is the bulk of the weight I will be carrying.  I’ve got approximately four litres, two in my camelback and two in a bottle.  The camelback is an amazing bit of kit that allows me to centralise the weight and grab a sip as I want it whilst on the move.  The other two, well a cup of tea can be an essential part of any trip. Everything else in my pack is the bare essentials and all as light as possible.

The Devil, whats he got to do with this place?  Legend suggests that if you walk around the kneading trough seven times, no mean feat I can tell you, then drink some water from the natural spring on site, then you will see the devil.  I reckon if you manage to walk around the Kneading trough seven times, with that slope you will be so exhausted you will probably be hallucinating and would then be able to see anything you wanted. LOL.

My thoughts are interrupted by the appearance of a kestrel, the windhover of old, rising just in front of us.  I’ve always got one eye and one ear focussed on the natural world around me so that I never miss a moment (I hope). It’s a female, probably taking a break from the nest and her chicks. They may well have fledged by now, but they’ll still want feeding. She’s larger than the male and mostly brown, albeit in different shades; the male is greyer. I watch in awe as she spills wind from her wings with such skill that she can keep her gaze totally focussed on one patch of ground and detect any movement that may indicate dinner for her and her chicks. After a few moments she leans to the left and is gone to hunt again in the next spot.

What an amazing ability. Nature never ceases to amaze me.

It’s as we navigate our way down the carefully engineered path that we have the opportunity to marvel at the myriad of planting that adorns this beautiful landscape. As well as the common blackthorns, hawthorns, brambles and vast amount of grasses, there’s birdsfoot trefoil, seas of daisies, dropwort, and often if you look you will see orchids, fragrant and pyramidal are here as I look. Dogwood is also displaying its unique white flowers.

I celebrate, I have good company, a sunny day, beautiful surrounds. The chalk is the frame to this most wonderful of pictures. I am here and I am alive.

Celebrate life. Always.

Simon Pollard Urban Countryman June 2024.

Similar Posts