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