North Downs Way

North Downs Way North Downs Waymarker

The North Downs Way is a long-distance walking path from Farnham, on the western extremities of Surrey, to Dover, on the south-east coast of Kent. The official route of the Way totals around 245 kilometres in length, but factoring in side-trips into some of the towns and villages near the route and walking between train stations and the start and end of each stage increases the distance to almost 300 kilometres.

Near the village of Boughton Lees in Kent, the path divides - one branch going to Dover via Wye and Folkestone, and the other branch going to Dover via Canterbury. I decided to take the branch via Canterbury first, then to walk back along the other branch to end the walk at Boughton Lees.

While most of the North Downs Way is fairly well waymarked, there are places where the fingerposts and waymarker discs are damaged, missing or, in a couple of cases, a little misleading. This seemed to be more of a problem in Kent than it was in Surrey, although the Kent authorities have recently gone some way towards improving this situation by replacing most of the fingerposts where the North Downs Way meets any of Kent's roads. There are also a few places where farmers have carelessly, or perhaps even deliberately, ploughed away the well-worn trails that the route follows across their fields.

Therefore, it's wise to carry the relevant Ordnance Survey Explorer or Landranger maps or one of the guidebooks. I took both the OS Explorer maps and the Trailblazer guidebook, though the Official National Trail Guide from Aurum Press is also good, and reproduces the relevant parts of the OS Explorer maps.

I completed the walk over a period of three and a half weeks, spending fourteen of those days on the trail. I could probably have completed the walk in two or three fewer stages, but I preferred to take a little more time so that I could comfortably explore various towns, villages and sites of interest on or near the trail. After all, you don't want to walk nearly 300km and be too busy to see what's around you.

 StageStart and FinishDateDistance
Farnham to St, Martha's Hill 1 Farnham to St Martha's Hill 23 Jul 2010 20km
St Martha's Hill to Dorking 2 St Martha's Hill to Dorking 24 Jul 2010 16km
Dorking to Merstham 3 Dorking to Merstham 28 Jul 2010 16km
Merstham to Oxted 4 Merstham to Oxted 29 Jul 2010 12.8km
Oxted to Otford 5 Oxted to Otford 30 Jul 2010 19.2km
Otford to Wrotham 6 Otford to Wrotham 31 Jul 2010 8.8km
Wrotham to Rochester 7 Wrotham to Rochester 01 Aug 2010 18.6km
Rochester to Hollingbourne 8 Rochester to Hollingbourne 02 Aug 2010 22.8km
Hollingbourne to Charing 9 Hollingbourne to Charing 05 Aug 2010 14km
Charing to Canterbury 10 Charing to Canterbury 08 Aug 2010 29km
Canterbury to Shepherdswell 11 Canterbury to Shepherdswell 09 Aug 2010 16.4km
Shepherdswell to Dover 12 Shepherdswell to Dover 10 Aug 2010 14km
Dover to Etchinghill 13 Dover to Etchinghill 11 Aug 2010 20.5km
Etchinghill to Boughton Lees 14 Etchinghill to Boughton Lees 16 Aug 2010 19.5km