This was the last walk of the year for the Loopy Thursday walkers, leaving the following two Thursdays to the Anglo-Saxons. We re-assembled in Bexley Village (once a coaching town) and made straight for the Old Bexley and North Cray fields. We had to mount stairs to reach this level prairie: water meadow it ain’t, being 10m above the river to the south. It is a reclaimed landfill dump, now weathered in. Passing a snicket behind houses, then a red brick pumping station, we regained the river and followed it to the Five Arch Bridge which is all that remains of a great house and park. We walked across the Foots Cray Meadows scrub land, visited an interesting churchyard, and made our way into the back gardens of Sidcup Place, where we had a pub lunch. This quirky 18th/19th C mansion has seen better days. Its rehab has provided a basic lasagne-and-chips-and-beer restaurant: but on a grey day such refreshments were welcome. Back on the busy road we passed a pioneering hospital (walker refits their specialty) through a maze of subways under the A20/ A222 junction and reached a narrow tree-shaded downhill path into Wonderland. This is Scadbury Park, once the home of Thomas Walsingham (Elizabeth I came here to knight him) and now a hilly wooded park with the ruined mansion on one side. The two miles traverse of its E and S side seemed a Kentish open country walk. At the W exit we crossed a busy road and straight on into another tract of woodland, Petts Wood, this time more level and bisected by bridleways. We had thought to visit the druidical memorial to William Willett, local campaigner for BST, but only Don had the persistence to search for it. A broad track through beech, birch and hornbeam took us down to a series of rail lines which we eventually crossed by footbridge to enter the other Petts Wood. This is a model suburb of the 1920s. The stately semi-detached villas are in a confusing variety of styles. Somehow they hang together to make a privileged if slightly prim town. We trudged the last mile past this noted domestic architecture to find the station, and trains home.
We propose to meet again at Petts Wood Station on Thursday 14 January at 10.45 for Stage Three. Our provisional plan for 2016 is to walk a stage every other week. But we will be pragmatic and when the weather is unkind we will either shorten or even cancel a walk, so the scheme will be somewhat negotiable. Steve or Veronica will post more details in the new year.