North Downs Way, 2009

North Downs Way (UK National Trail), 153 miles, 8 walking days, July 2009/October 2009

Farnham – Dorking – Brasted – Cuxton – Wye/Wye – Folkestone – Shepherdswell (Canterbury) – Chartham Hatch – Wye

When I started out on the North Downs Way in July 2009, my intention was to walk the entire 153-mile trail, including the whole of the eastern Wye – Folkestone – Canterbury –Wye loop, in six days. I was walking solo and in 2009 I was capable of walking 25 miles a day. In the event, I damaged a tendon in my left leg on Day 4 as I was approaching Wye and I had to abandon the walk and return home disheartened. But, I turned a disaster into a triumph in that I persuaded my wife Carol to join me on a multi-day long-distance walk for the first time and we completed the eastern loop three months later. Since then, Carol has always walked with me.

There was much to see and several things happened on the North Downs Way, including: finding a £5 note while leaving Dorking; encountering the old church unexpectedly at the top of Martha’s Hill near Guildford; stepping stones over the River Mole; an ornate Georgian pavilion on Reigate Hill; walking over the Medway Bridge at Rochester; attractive hop-drying oast house kilns in North Kent; the tragic story behind the construction of Jade’s Bridge over the A249 at Detling; Kit’s Coty House Neolithic burial chamber near Aylesford; overlooking the very busy Channel Tunnel at Folkestone; getting lost at Dover and unnecessarily descending down the cliffs on a very slippery chalk path; lots of rain on several days and Carol leaving her waterproof trousers in the B&B bathroom and not realising until (a) it started raining and (b) it was too late to turn back – she got very wet!; deciding not to call in to see the Archbishop of Canterbury in case he and I disagreed on religious fundamentals; changing out of wet clothing in the Waiting Room at Wye railway station while waiting for the train home!

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