It is tragic that Pat did not live to see her 98th birthday: she died last April. She is greatly missed. But it’s good to know that there are many reminders of Pat in the Kent countryside on the paths she loved.
I have already mentioned the finger-post for Pat, pointing along the wild Bowling Alley on the Weald Way at Luddesdown, where she participated in the successful battle against military occupation in 1984.
Now the Meopham and District Footpaths Group, of which Pat was founder and president, has erected a plaque at the delightfully-named ‘Scratch Arse Corner’. This was the inspiration of the group’s tireless chairman, Ken Dare, and is at the junction of byway NS287 and footpath NS232 near Chandler’s Hill, Priestwood in Kent (grid reference TQ 653/645). The plaque bears a poem in honour of Pat by group member Alan Smith.
The spot is significant. When Pat first lived at Priestwood she knew little about public paths. In 1961 a landowner blocked the footpath at Scratch Arse Corner with corrugated iron, chain-link fencing, barbed wire and more. Pat was furious. She first had to claim the path for the definitive map, which she had never done before, and she learnt on the job. She won and the path was eventually cleared. This battle led to the formation of the Meopham group, to survey the local paths and campaign for them to be reopened and recorded.
Close by, at the junction of Whitehill Road, Meopham, and footpath NS 261 (grid reference TQ 647/652), Ken and the Meopham Group, in collaboration with Pat’s daughters Hilary Hunt and Jo Rose-Wilkins, have arranged for a kissing-gate to replace the stile. This path runs along Happy Valley, between Meopham and Priestwood where Pat used to live; she must have used this path regularly.
The rail alongside the kissing-gate bears Pat’s name, and inscribed on the wooden box-structure are the words ‘Freedom to walk, freedom to think’.
I was particularly pleased to see these words as they are (more or less) the translation of the inscription on ‘my’ gate on Cobstone Hill, Turville: Libertas spatiandi: libertas cogitandi (see my blog). Hilary tells me that they found an article about this which Pat had cut out and kept in her personal papers. I am flattered.
Those of us who knew Pat will never forget her. Those who come after will be prompted to learn about this feisty campaigner who fought for paths and open spaces throughout Kent and Medway for more than 50 years.