North Downs

10th September 2008 to 17th July 2009  (Days 56 to 64)

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Day 56: 10 September 2008

Guildford to Dorking

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Restart at Guildford



St. Mary's church, Guildford




On the Way!



Passing by Chantry Wood




The spectacular Martha's Church







Sunshine at last!



Pill Box on Hackhurst Downs




Woodland above Westcott



Looking down towards Dorking




The church of St. Barnabas, Ranmore Common



The upper entrance to Denbies vineyard




Vines at Denbies



Vines and Dorking



A Denbies tour




Looking across to Box Hill



Day 57: 11 September 2008

Dorking to Merstham

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Stepping stones over the River Mole below Box Hill




Steps up Box Hill





Along Box Hill





Trig Station on Box Hill





Woodland walk on the North Downs





London Coal Tax post on Colley Hill, near Mogador







































Day 58: 12 December 2008

Merstham to Knockholt Pound

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The restart at Merstham Railway Station



Footbridge across the M23




Ockley Hill



Unusual garden furniture on White Hill





Whitehill Tower



A sprinkling of snow on Gravelly Hill





Viewpoint above Oxted



Near the Meridian





Impressive sculpture on the B2024; the Surrey Hills AONB sign by Walter Bailey



Difficult terrain on the approach to Knockholt






Day 59: 13 December 2008

Knockholt Pound to Wrotham

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Leaving Knockholt Pound in the rain



Skirting Star Hill Wood on the sodden downs



A miserable morning for horse riding, near Turvin's Farm



The surprising lavender field of Otford





Heavier rain hitting Otford



Even wetter ground on top of the hill above Kemsing





The milestone; first mention of Dover!



The Pilgrims' Way approaching Wrotham





Downland scene close to Wrotham





Day 60: 22 March 2009

Wrotham to Burham

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The start and finish at Burham



Borough Green and Wrotham Station: start of the actual walking






Church of St. George, Wrotham



The Downs east of Wrotham



Just before the climb up to Vigo Village




Woodland and Wood Anemones



Disused bridge near Trosley Country Park



On the Pilgrim's Way below Whitehorse Wood



The junction where the NDW climbs up to Holly Hill



A steep section below Holly Hill



Holly Hill





Goats at Holly Hill



Greatpark Wood



The northern end of Greatpark Wood



A luxurious new stile



Leaving Wingate Wood steeply



Looking across the valley to North Wood





The descent to Upper Bush



Upper Bush and a NDW milestone



Approaching Medway Bridge from the north



View towards Rochester from the Medway Bridge footpath



The bridge casting a shadow on the estuary marsh below



Medway Bridge Marina





Some fine barges at the Marina



The Eurostar line looking south towards France



Bronze Age burial mound in Shoulder of Mutton Wood



A lovely lane north of Burham



The Robin Hood, Blue Bell Hill, Chatham. End of the stage (but not quite end of the day's walk).





Day 61: 16 April 2009

Burham to Lenham

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Blue Bell Hill; the restart


As we were visiting Gatwick Airport on the way to Toulouse (for a boat trip along the Canal du Midi), I included in the plan a spare day so that I could take in another stage of the E2. The idea was to have a fairly gentle day of 12-14 miles, but some extensive planning revealed that a 17-mile day would leave me much better placed for a final push to Dover, pencilled in for July.

So after a very pleasant stay at the Hartsfield Manor hotel (just north of the airport), we took the hire car to Blue Bell Hill and Chrissy dropped me off at 10 a.m. while she visited Maidstone.


The Robin Hood, Blue Bell Hill. Note the new sign!


Unfortunately, the spring weather wasn't cooperating, and although the drive to Blue Bell Hill had been dry heavy rain was falling as I set off. I noticed that the characteristic pub sign had been updated, but spent the next few minutes sorting out wet weather gear.


The Blue Bell Hill viewpoint and memorial.

An easy stretch along the minor road led back the way we'd just driven, to a memorial to the Air Ambulance helicopter crew who died in a nearby crash in 1998.

Then a steep and slippery downhill section led to the busy A229 dual carriageway. Luckily, the Way only joins this for a few yards, then leads down through lovely woodland to flatter ground. A gap in the hedge caught my eye, as it gave access to the amazing Neolithic site of "Kit's Coty House", the remnants of a long barrow dating from 4300-3000 BC.

Kit's Coty


Crossing the A229 in civilised fashion by a good footbridge, the Way also crosses the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link again here, before climbing back up to the top of the Downs.


Channel Tunnel Rail Link near the A229


This was a bit of a haul, but the rain had eased off so it wasn't unpleasant.

NDW milestone near the top of the hill above Maidstone

The path seemed to follow the edge of fields on top of the escarpment, but a NDW sign pointed into the woods and down. After a bit of doubt, an ancient track carved into the hillside in thick woodland looked to be the way and I followed it until I'd lost about 150 feet in altitude. The track seemed to be more and more unlikely, and with no NDW markers to give me faith in the route I finally scrambled precariously up a very steep mud bank and hacked through the brambles until I reached the field edge again. I decided that following this was better than the officially-signed route, only to spot a NDW marker confirming that I was back on the correct path. So I'm not sure what the earlier sign was supposed to indicate!


Looking back from the downs above Maidstone



Footbridge at Detling, built in response to a tragic accident in 2000


Approaching Detling, the Way takes a flinty lane to the A249 (another busy dual carrigeway). A huge footbridge takes the path across the road, but as the access ramp looked about half a mile long I elected to take the short route across the road and was in the village a couple of minutes later.

I'd omitted to bring any supplies, not even a bottle of water, so I took a diversion and stocked up at the nice little Post Office.

Tudor gateway in Detling

In any case, the Way itself takes a route through the village (contrary to the OS Map which shows a route further north), before striking north and up an energy-sapping ascent onto pleasant open Downs.


More open downs near the Kent County Showground

The next section was probably the most scenic along the NDW so far, with rolling hills and great views. Although there are still some woodland sections they are not too deep and there are plenty of more open parts.


Looking south-west to Broad Street




Typical North Downs country above Hollingbourne


Another descent brought me to Hollingbourne at about 2.45.








Looking back along the lane from Hollingbourne to Harrietsham


As the weather had warmed up rather, and the threat of rain had receded, the low-lying and reasonably flat straight to Lenham looked an attractive prospect, even though I was feeling a bit tired from all the travelling.


A fellow pilgrim near Harrietsham

This sculpture provided some amusement, and a little reward for extending the walk past this point and into Lenham.


The approach to Lenham passes some fine houses


A row of cottages marked the turning-off point. I'd arranged to meet with Chrissy at the cemetery in Lenham (it looked the most likely spot to have space to park), so I kept along the road as it turned south to the village.


Lenham - end of the stage


We headed back to Gatwick, stopping off for a bit of tourism on the way.




Day 62: 15 July 2009

Lenham to Wye

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War memorial near Lenham


Signs along this section instruct the walker to keep to the ruts.



Cobham Farm



Path junction near Charing



Near the quarry at Burnt House Farm



"Arthur's Seat"



Dunn Street


Countryside on the approach to Eastwell Park



Home Farm



St. Mary's Church, Eastwell Park




An E2 waymarker at last! In Eastwell Park.




Porker at Perry Court Farm





Near Wye


Wye Station


River Great Stour at Wye



Entrance to Wye College




Wibberley Way





Entering the woods at the foot of the steep climb. Note the bench.





View south from the downs




At the Wye Crown





The "Wife of Bath"






Day 63: 16 July 2009

Wye to Folkestone

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Looking south-west towards Ashford, from Broad Down


Near Brabourne



The Tiger Inn, Stowting.




Moose Crossing near Stowting



Looking back to Stowting, from halfway up Cobb's Hill



Postling from the downs



Oat field on the downs above Postling


Tolsford Hill and radio station



Disused Railway bridge near Etchinghill



At the top of the long climb out of the Elham Valley




The Channel Tunnel Terminal




The view east along the Downs towards Dover





Tunnel Terminal from further east


The beach at Sandgate


View from our room at the Ship Inn



Day 64: 17 July 2009

Folkestone to Dover

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Start of the final day, at the Valiant Sailor.

The Ship Inn had done us a favour by not being able to provide a full breakfast. Today was going to be busy, with a very long drive across to the Dorset/Devon border then a party at River Cottage HQ in the evening. So realistically, it would be nice to finish the walk before 10 a.m. That would give us time to drive west without too much stress.

So we were away early, and I was actually on the E2 again by 7 a.m. With only 7 miles or so to walk, that should mean a quick getaway from Dover.

Battle of Britain Memorial

A chilly morning greeted me as I made my way along the top of the cliffs. The long grass was soaking wet, but the path was good as far as the Battle of Britain Memorial. This is more than just a statue or plaque; it's a variety of memorials placed on an atmospheric clifftop site facing the Channel. It was only opened in 1993, the inspiration of a Hurricane pilot, Geoffrey Page.


Spitfire and Hurricane

I took my time here as it would have been a shame not to look around the memorial. But then I had to find the start of the descent through a ravine cutting the cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne. Climbing steeply back up, it looked like this was going to be a herd couple of hours.


The Warren, looking towards Dover

There's clearly a way along the foot of the cliffs, but it seemed very remote from the North Downs Way which keeps to the heights all the way.


Shakespeare Cliff, tunnel entrance and Samphire Hoe

The first sight of Dover made me realise that this great trek was soon to be at an end. At each rise, the view of container ships and ferries became more and more clear. The Way follows a switchback course along a surprisingly narrow ridge; on the map it appear to be just a cliff edge, but there is steep ground to the left as well as the right as you approach Dover.


North Downs Way bench and...Dover!

I was romping along at a pace, only halting for a bit of geocaching along the way. And soon, a couple of descents led to the top of steps leading down to the edge of a beach. Here the path turned inland, through an underpass and into a dull housing estate.


Knights Templar Church, Dover

Passing the surprisingly-situated ruins of the Knights Templar Church, I was starting to look for the end of the walk. But there was a sting in the tail! A steep path rose up from the road to the loftily-perched Drop Redoubt, providing the last interest on the walk.

Drop Redoubt, Western Heights, Dover.

The superb views across to Dover Castle were well worth the extra climb, but soon I reached some slippery steps leading down into gloomy woodland.


Dover, and castle



The final descent from the Western Heights

From here, the way ahead was confusing. No signs, and a busy roundabout. So I followed the GPS route until I finally arrived at the seafront and rendezvous with Chrissy.


17th July 2009, 09:10


Finally...at Dover...


...all the way from Portpatrick!


(18th April 2003)


It didn't sink in that that walk was over. It was so far from Portpatrick, and such a long time since I started out, that there was no feeling of achievement or elation.


But over it is. So now I can go for a walk without having to incorporate some of the E2 into the journey, and I can go to other parts of the country without feeling that I've wasted an opportunity to knock off a few more miles from the E2.


However...I've noticed that there is another E route in Britain. The E9 runs from Dover to Plymouth, and rather than give up walking at Dover, I fancy the idea of continuing along the coast. Firstly back west to Folkestone, then along the E9 via the Isle of Wight to Plymouth. Then, how about the South West Coast Path?











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