Toads And Bones #tunbridgewells #highrocks

One lesson from my preteens was a realisation that Dad was a bit of a wimp. He’d been in the elite Parachute Regiment at the end of the war and was extremely proud that he’d passed all the physical and psychological tests to be admitted. Yet 25 years later Dad didn’t catch a cold or even flu: no the viruses that Dad caught were some British variant of ebola. Cuts regularly reached the nearest bone and any sort of itch predicated some sort of virulent psoriasis attack. So it was hardly a surprise that, when he jumped off a rock and landed awkwardly that his foot had shattered. The doctor, when Dad presented his destroyed metatarsals was rather dismissive. ‘Just bruising’ was his diagnosis. Dad wheeled an x-ray out of the reluctant GP. The machine was clearly stupid, per Dad as it revealed none of the breaks.

While the medical profession could scoff, we were required to admit no hypochondria and give unwavering succour to the poor lamb even though he seemed to be walking perfectly well within days. Mum happily allowed the fiction to continue as it fed the back catalogue of material for many future teases. And so, into family folklore ‘The Day Dad Broke His Toe On the Tunbridge Wells Toad’ was born.

Last Saturday the Financial Broker found himself staying outside Tunbridge Wells with the Broadcast Journalist yet free for the day. He suggested, since Tunbridge Wells is about an hour away from us by train, I join him for a walk.

Despite the unremitting rain leading up to our walk, father and son met up by the station, me clutching maps and books and him his phone. I had a plan, a ten to twelve kilometre walk taking in some family history.

It’s lovely, spending quality time with an adult child. You have time to cover all the minutae of their lives, deep diving into the mundane and the material. And you find out all sorts of stuff that they’re sure they’ve already told you and you’re sure you can’t have forgotten. Can you?

The walk I had in mind headed west out of thr Station across a grassy park area called I think the Pantiles which is also the name of a curvy piece of roof terracotta, none of which seemed present.

About three miles on we climbed a short rural road over a narrow railway bridge and admired the lumpen sandstone boulders ahead.

‘Here we go,’ I intoned.

‘What’s up?’ Came the response.

‘Your grandfather’s doom,’ I explained.

Back at the end of the 1960s we lived south of London in rural Surrey. We’d often take trips out usually predicated by the likelihood of finding some butterfly or moth. I’m not entirely sure what the environs of Tunbridge Wells had to tempt us but I do know one element of our day out was to visit the High Rocks.

These monumental blocks were something of a Victorian attraction and a station and hotel were built to accommodate the visitors. They are still there, still working and it is from the bar that we obtained tickets to enter the jurassic forest and explore. I took the proffered map, checked my memory worked- yes, in spite of all evidence to the contrary – and we hustled inside.

In days before theme parks, cinemas and video games, taking in some rocks before dinner formed part of a well earned break. It’s all a little Fred and Wilma but cute and curious for all that.

It took us a while to wander around, crossing some distinctly rickety bridges before we found my goal. The Giant Toad Stone.

In my memory Dad jumped off it which led to the mythical mutilation but looking at it now I’d doubt that. Maybe it was the smaller outcrop to one side from which he reprised his life inside a parachute.

I’m not sure I conveyed my secret joy at this return visit. It was all so irrelevant and yet returned me to those weekends spent with my brother and parents, just exploring because we could. Like I was doing with the boy. Who was fixated by his phone. Oh well..

We finished the circuit I’d identified. It was regularly interrupted by gloopy sucking mud but we had a lot of fun. That’s all you need to enjoy family time.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to Toads And Bones #tunbridgewells #highrocks

  1. Mick Canning says:

    Ah, you were on my turf there, Geoff. I regularly pass High Rocks, taking the route you took (I recognise all your pictures). And the grassy bit west of the station would have been Tunbridge Wells Common. The Pantiles are further down the road from the station.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Any walk we have with an adult child is special but that combined with family history and beautiful muddy nature is a plus plus plus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gordon759 says:

    I remember the Toad Stone, I suspect I found it in one of the guide books to Kent and suggested we went to look at. I don’t think there were any bugs involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. L.K. Latham says:

    Sounds like a lovely afternoon, and I would enjoy a meander through rocks before dinner. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Darlene says:

    Sounds like a perfect Father and Son walk, along with good memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Yes indeed happy days 🎈🎈

    Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    Bless 🙂 . Perhaps he’d used up a lot of his store of physical fortitude in the Paras!
    Never heard of this place, sounds good.
    We had a similar walk in Yorkshire to ‘The Rocks’. When I went back recently they looked much smaller (of course)!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great tour and lovely memories. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. JT Twissel says:

    I always love your memories of your dad. Such a guy. Those rock formations are mysterious!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. tootlepedal says:

    A haunt of my youth, followed if lucky, by tea and cakes in a posh cafe.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sadje says:

    This is a lovely place to hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. noelleg44 says:

    God bless your Dad, and here’s to you making new memories. I worried that you might try to jump off that rock!


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