Brian Rance on new 'warts and all' travel guide Walking My Patch, taking in Gravesend, Dartford and Bromley
PUBLISHED: 09:11 30 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:11 30 July 2013
Brian Rance's first book was six decades in the making - but in its sequel Walking My Patch, he's picked up the pace. The Reporter finds out about the "warts and all" guide book you can enjoy without leaving your chair.
Brian’s seven walks
Swanley to Hythe
Gravesend to Broadstairs
Dumpton Gap to Rochester
Gravesend to Romney Marsh
Dartford to Rye
Bromley to Deal
Deal to Winchelsea
Quarries and industrial estates aren’t traditional subjects for walking guides – but Brian Rance’s latest work isn’t a traditional guide book.
Walking My Patch describes seven journeys through Kent and Surrey, taking in Gravesend, Dartford and Bromley.
But the guide doesn’t shy away from areas its competitors have neglected.
“The countryside is full of unattractive places you don’t normally see,” said Brian, 63. “As you walk from A to B you inevitably pass through quarries and industrial areas – just coming out of Gravesend, for example, you come to a massive industrial estate as you go east.”
Perhaps the less-than-picturesque parts of the book owe something to Brian’s career in town planning. An employee of Dartford Council in years gone by, he now works in for Birmingham City University’s estates department.
“I’m a planner and environmentalist, both personally and professionally,” he said. “The book’s littered with that stuff.”
Although he now lives in the midlands, Brian still sees Kent as a spiritual home. His love affair with the county began decades ago when he was growing up in Woolwich.
“Every weekend we used to drive to Kent,” he said. “As a lad, I used to cycle and play cricket around the area.
“My parents had a caravan down in Romney Marsh so I identify Kent as ‘my place’.
“I started walking for enjoyment. I come back for a fortnight’s pilgrimage each year.
“As I started walking more, I thought: ‘Why not write this up?’”
In Brian’s first book, last year’s Finding My Place, he reflected on how Kent had transformed in the years since he first set foot there.
“It’s certainly changed a lot since then – there’s no doubt about that in terms of the things I remember,” he said. “There was no traffic on the roads.
“And now of course there’s the noise from the motorways.”
But once Brian started scribbling as well as striding, there was no stopping him. His first book was published in January last year, and Walking My Patch follows hot on its heels.
“I would have put more in the first book but it was getting quite big,” he said. “I was inspired by [20th century author and walker] Alfred Wainwright’s treatment of the Lake District.
“It’s not just a guide book. There are maps inside, but it’s about much more than just walking.
“It talks about the places I go through, the people I meet and the landscapes, flora and fauna.
“It falls between niches. I don’t think there are other books like this.
“It’s designed for people who are non-walkers. I’m sharing my journeys so people who aren’t fit enough to walk can enjoy them.”
It’s also an account of the creatures – human and otherwise – Brian met while writing the book.
“I tried to stay in pubs [while doing the walks] because there’s company,” he said. “I picked up local folklore where I could.
“So it’s about the people you meet at pubs in the evening, as well as the wildlife.
“In essence, there are still some beautiful, wonderful places if you get off the main roads.
“The book is a collaboration with the landscape. That’s what it’s all about.”
As well as illustrations, Walking My Patch includes route maps, history, countryside regulations and even poetry.
It is published this month by Book Guild.