THE NORTH DOWNS WAY
Stage 12: Shepherdswell to Dover
Tuesday, August 10th 2010
When I left my hotel in Canterbury it appeared that today would be a fine, sunny day, very similar to the day before. However, in the time it took to walk up to Canterbury East Station and get the train back to Shepherdswell, the weather had changed dramatically, and when I got off the train it was raining quite heavily. Fortunately, I had packed my wet weather gear, so I decided to go ahead with the walk.
After stopping to collect some supplies at the Co-Op store near the railway station, I made my way back up Church Hill to the point where I had left the trail the previous evening (picture 1). After passing through the wooden gate, the footpath goes by of St. Andrew's Church (picture 2) before passing through a metal kissing gate and into wheat fields with views over the low, misty hills ahead (picture 3). Fortunately, the fields hadn't yet gotten too muddy after an hour's rain and the going was still fairly good, though I imagine walking here after a bit more rain would be rather more difficult.
The route follows a fairly straight line across the wheat fields (and through gaps in the hedges that divide them) for the best part of a kilometre, passing the village of Coldred, which is visible some distance uphill to the right (picture 4).
Crossing a stile out of the last wheat field, the route enters the grounds of Coldred Court, once the site of an old Saxon motte and bailey castle. The old Manor House is directly ahead on entering the grounds (picture 5), but the route of the North Downs Way heads diagonally left to a stile that is well hidden by foliage (picture 6) in the corner of the grounds beyond a ditch that was once part of the Saxon earthworks.
The path now reaches a road, where it turns right and soon arrives at an intersection. As I approached the intersection, the steady downpour began to ease off, but didn't stop entirely.
Across the intersection, the route immediately leaves the road to the left just before a red mailbox and passes through a brief section of woodland (picture 7) before arriving at a metal gate into a large field with the large square Belvedere Tower nestled among the trees on the other side of the shallow valley (picture 8). The Grade I listed tower was built in 1728, but is unfortunately not open to the public.
Once again, there was no obvious path across the field due to recent ploughing. Following a straight line just to the left of the leftmost of the two clumps of trees in the middle of the field leads to a metal gate on the far edge of the field where the trees begin to thin out.
The gate leads into a large meadow, crossing it diagonally to yet another metal gate, with the large Waldershare House coming into view on the right (picture 9). The route aims towards the left of the house, joining a paved driveway, which it follows around the end of the house and past Hope Farm.
The route follows the driveway for a few hundred metres through Waldershare Park (picture 10), eventually leaving the driveway to cross a small meadow into Piddle Wood then across another meadow and into an overgrown churchyard, where I was unfortunately unable to take any good pictures of the church.
Leaving the churchyard, the route meets a road and follows it to the right until the next intersection, where the route turns along the road to the left, opposite a cottage where a driveway between two large pillars leads to the Channel Gliding Club (picture 11).
Immediately after the road crosses over the A256, the North Downs Way leaves it to the left and follows a farm road downhill (picture 12). The route crosses a stile into the last field before the farmhouse and crosses the field diagonally to a stile in the opposite corner. Over the stile, the route continues uphill through a wheat field to join a road the runs alongside the row of trees in the top right corner of the picture.
The road heads into the village of Ashley, where the main street has several interesting houses, including the thatched house in picture 13. At the end of the main street the route turns right into Waldershare Road then right again into Northdowns Close. The road soon becomes a hedge-lined track, and when the hedges end the track continues ahead and climbs between two large fields (picture 14) with good views back to Ashley (picture 15). Over the top of the hill the path descends along the field edge next to a hedge, through a gap in the hedge at the bottom of the field and into another large field with good views ahead and to both sides (picture 16).
At the bottom of this field, the path joins a road to the right. After about 200 metres the road bears right, but the North Downs Way continues straight ahead through some trees and then on a track between fields (picture 17) before traversing the edge of Cane Wood, where another of the concrete milestones shows 206km covered since Farnham.
The route now follows a grassy track over a wheat field, briefly joining another road from the right before heading off on another narrow track to the left. The track soon joins another quiet road, passing Pineham Farm before leaving the road to the right along another track that climbs gently for most of the next kilometre, with the sounds of cars growing ever louder as it approaches the A2.
When the path reaches the A2, it turns left and parallels the road for about 400 metres between two fences before crossing a bridge over the road and then coming back a similar distance along the other side before turning left and continuing in the previous southerly direction across more wheat fields. The section of track alongside the A2 was quite uneven with deep grooves cut by previous walkers and was quite difficult to walk along after the morning's rain. As I crossed the wheat fields, I could see some industrial buildings in the distance to the right of the path. Here the light rain finally stopped falling.
Beyond the field, the trail goes through a section of woods before emerging onto a rough road near a farmhouse (picture 18), where a fingerpost indicates one mile to Dover. This is the old Roman road into Dover.
The road heads steadily downhill and shortly after crossing a railway line, it arrives at a junction where the North Downs Way follows a ramp up from the road and then goes along a sunken footpath between Connaught Park and a cemetery, where there are views over Dover.
The route then crosses Connaught Road and follows Park Avenue, Maison Dieu Road and Pencester Road into the centre of Dover. At the Bus Station on Pencester Road, the route turns right into a park. On the other side of the park the route reaches Dover's Market Square (picture 19) - the end of today's walk. Ironically, the sun began to break weakly through the clouds for the first time on this stage of the walk as I arrived at the end of the walk.
This stage of the trail was only 14km, and it was still fairly early in the afternoon when I arrived in Dover. Heading for the Priory Hotel (picture 20), next to Dover Priory Station, I was able to get a late lunch and a pint before catching the train back to Canterbury in time to be a tourist for a few hours.