When I worked in Maidstone, I used to escape from the office at lunchtime and take a mini holiday. This was surprisingly easy, as the river Medway runs through the centre of town but the riverside feels totally separate from the busy roads and crowded streets. Take the underpass or the bridge depending on where you approach the river and the world retreats, above you at road height is a stream of cars and lorries, but the riverbank from the Archbishops Palace to the Gallagher Football Stadium is a wide path lined with grass, trees and flowers. (At least in summer and autumn, when the river floods in winter and spring, the path disappears.)
When I step on to the leafy tree-lined path beside the river it feels as if I have been transported to another world. It’s quiet and so rural that I once saw jay fly out of a tree, startled as I walked by. Another day I saw a cormorant drying it’s wings on the bank, almost close enough to touch.
In the space of an hour, I can cross the Millennium Bridge and explore Whatman Park which stretches out alongside the river. I can follow the path from concrete in the town centre to a dusty track that leads through the trees and away from town..
If I feel lazy, I can walk to the Old Boat Cafe, which is a barge set up as a cafe in the centre of town. Descending in to the boat takes me another step further from the workday world. Sitting by the window, feeling the gentle rocking of the boat, and gazing into the water just below the window it’s hard to believe in deadlines and deskwork. As a I watch a swan sailing across the water or a cormorant diving and resurfacing unexpectedly far from its original place, I briefly imagine life on a houseboat.
Time stops briefly. This is only a micro escape; my hour comes to an end and I return to the office, but I feel refreshed as if I have been away for days.