THE NORTH DOWNS WAY - An Introduction
Having completed the South Downs Way in
early January 2006 we still wanted to continue having a lengthy walk once a week or
for at least as long as the daylight hours would allow, this meant finding
some footpaths reasonably close to South London.
Although we would both prefer to be out
in the hills and mountains the practicalities of doing that during
the winter months are not so simple, by the time we would have driven up to the
Peak District or even further there would be very little time to
be out walking.
Given the difficulties in finding a
variety of well maintained reasonably high level routes that could be linked
to cover a reasonable day's mileage The North Downs Way seemed, on
paper, to fit the bill.
The National Trail guide book says 'Remember that, though this may be a walk in the 'soft South', you will face some lung-testing climbs, such as the ascent of Box Hill.' Well who knows! Apple orchards, country pubs and quaint tea rooms here we come!
Overall we have found the walk a little like a corner
shop, a few of the basic things you need are stocked, some are missing, it is however just around the corner and
as such provides very convenient if not challenging walks,
probably just right for the short winter days.
Looking back on the journals we made ( following pages ) we often mention the surprise
that parts of the way are less than 30 minutes away by train from our flat in South London,
in fact most were closer to home than our workplaces. We decided to cover as much of the route as we could
using public transport, walking from one railway station to another, in
that respect the Trail more than passed expectations as it passes
through places with a rail link direct into London. The difference
between the two South Eastern National Trails along the South and North
Downs are that while the South Downs may be more of a physical challenge through rural countryside with fantastic views it passes through very few villages
with places to stay overnight or adequate transport links making it difficult to plan long day walks.
The North Downs Way on the other hand is conveniently situated near
transport links making it very easy to get a train out, walk to the next
town and take a
We couldn't really envisage doing either National
Trail as a long distance path consecutively day after day.
That is not to say we haven't enjoyed our day walks along the North Downs, in
fact much of the scenery and friendliness of locals and others we met
has been really nice, but for us this trail is something to dip into, go back to places we liked and maybe seek out our own routes avoiding some of the road walking and woodland.
We met many people along the way some of whom have given us the inspiration and motivation to go on and do longer walks, in particular
a father and son walking to Rome and a young guy walking from Lands End to John o' Groats
as well as many of casual day walkers out enjoying the countryside.
Finally, if you are considering doing
the walk and uncertain about which of the alternative routes to take at
the end we would recommend the southern link via Folkestone but take your time rather than squeezing the final 23 miles
into one day. Unfortunately this does mean a trudge through Dover to get
a good view of the castle and missing out on the historic sights of
Canterbury but you can always add an extra day and see those by train.