Adisham, and Adisham Downs

The train was almost empty on the way to Adisham. But despite, or perhaps because of this, the announcements never stopped. ‘This is a Southeastern service to London Victoria. We will be calling at Kearnsey, Shepherdswell…Snowdown, Aylesham, Adisham’….and on and on. ‘The next station will be Shepherdswell. We have now arrived at Shepherdswell’. ‘For your comfort and security, CCTV recording is operating on this train’. ‘Please keep your belongings with you at all times and if you see anything suspicious contact a member of staff or the British Transport Police’. I don’t think there were more than three or four minutes on that journey when there was not an announcement or three.

And just to keep the passengers on their toes, the conductor also repeated some of these announcements as well, ordered to do so by the Southeastern Railway. And apparently the company puts ‘secret shoppers’ on the trains to make sure they do. Perhaps they should give the passengers a go? Perhaps have loud hailers in each carriage where passengers can add their own announcements. Or take the Situationist International approach and add announcements from ports and airports, mix them all up, make them endless, add them in an ever louder and louder way.

How lovely it must have been in the days of steam engines and no electronic public address systems, when the porter or the station master would announce the name of the station as the train slowed down at the platform. or the conductor would tell you when you arrived at the station you wanted. There is a strange culture being created by digital systems. Not all of it is an improvement. I sat in the carriage looking out of the window, but there was no chance to have a daydream or two. There was never any peace and quiet in which to do so. Travel could, and should be an adventure, but where everything becomes dominated by profit making it becomes a chore. It was a relief to get off that train to be honest and to be out in the countryside. It was now possible to think. And I could hear the birds sing.

I left the train at Adisham and took the path alongside the railway to the village itself. There are some good red brick arches and a high embankment. This would be some feat of engineering now, and would have been quite a marvel in 1861 when the line opened between Dover and Canterbury. And the church of Holy Innocents is also a well built feat of civil engineering and architecture. I was immediately struck by what must have been happening in this area in the 13th century when it was built for it is a large and imposing church. Unfortunately it was locked and I should have had the foresight to enquiry earlier in the week about a key. No matter, I will come again and explore the inside. There is a low wall around the graveyard and that provided the means of a seat by which it could be sketched from the south.

I learn later that one of the rectors of the church, John ‘The Martyr’ Bland was burned at the stake in Canterbury on 12 July 1555, among the last of the Protestant martyrs to be executed on the orders of Mary I. This is one of those moments. When one has done a lot of walking and exploring in the countryside and comes across a reference like this. It is one of those small stitches that enable a much bigger tapestry to be created. It makes history come alive and all the reading of the past week or so of Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State (the chapter on England covers Henry VIII) and Later Medieval Kent – 1220 – 1540 edited by Sheila Sweetinburgh has been useful. As has Reason, Faith and Revolution by Terry Eagleton, which discuss ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ in some detail. I have much to ponder.

Leaving the village I follow bridleways and footpaths to Bekesbourne across Adisham Downs. It is a fine walk indeed, part of which gives views right across to Ramsgate and, I think, Wingham. I will bring binoculars next time to see a little more clearly the church tower in the distance. I had been reading about the Kingston Brooch which was found in this area and was studying the ground very closely in case I should have the luck to find such a thing myself. Just before I get to Bekesbourne, I find a detailed map attached to a post, which shows that part of my walk just completed was past an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. An interesting coincidence that I should have been thinking of that brooch, while near that cemetery.

Next time I will go to Bishopsbourne again, or to Bekesbourne, and remember to collect the key to the church from the local farm shop.