Stage 1

Farnham to Guildford

Stage 2

Guildford  to Boxhill

Stage 3

Boxhill to Merstham

Stage 4

Merstham to Oxted

Stage 5

Oxted to Otford

Stage 6

Otford to Rochester

Stage 7

Rochester to Harrietsham

Stage 8

Harrietsham to Wye

Stage 9

Wye to Canterbury

Stage 10

Canterbury to Dover

Stage 11

Wye to Dover

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Stage 9 Wye to Canterbury

While we were out enjoying the sun yesterday, waiting for the promised showers, the rest of the country appeared to be experiencing a different climate. It was snowing at my parents in Cleethorpes, cold and wet almost everywhere else. Easy to see why here in the south east we already have a hosepipe ban in force to conserve water. Weatherman promised us a fine morning with showers in the afternoon so we set off nice and early to make the most of the good weather. Arrived at Wye, pub still closed - but it was only 9.30 in the morning! Slightly scary to think that there are now pubs near our flat that open at 7.30 am to serve breakfasts! After re tracing our steps through Perry Court Farm we headed off towards Boughton Aluph, the first of two very nice villages we would pass through today via a stile that tested all of Lizzie's climbing skills under the gaze of 3 very tall Americans who obviously had little problem with the stile but more of a problem finding the path in the next field and a very large green woodpecker. The woodpecker was more in keeping with size Liz expected them to be, and made up for the disappointment on seeing a smaller variety previously - the stile on the other hand despite its great size failed to impress (particularly the lack of help from the 4 bystanders (including my husband who has still to grasp the idea of a helping hand - which would be a big miss on our coast to coast walk in June, especially the Patterdale to Shap stage where I had a busted ankle - "you can surely get over that stile!")- so much for gallantry!!! - Liz).

The second village we passed, Chilham, was really attractive with a square of old buildings, large manor house, church, tea rooms and a really nice looking village pub - which by the time we had reached Chilham was open but we skipped the opportunity to have a nice pint and as Lizzie is sticking to her Gluten free diet we passed by the tea and cakes and pushed on a little anxious about the predicted showers later in the day. Sadly there was a lot of minor road walking after Chilham but this was soon over and once again Lizzie was showing her turn of speed leaving me behind on some of the inclines. Once the road was out of the way though the path passed through wonderful orchards, such a shame that we were not here when the trees were in blossom, it would be a wonderful sight. Everything that you imagine about Kent was here, The Oast House, Orchards and Hop fields. The area is littered with amazing place names including Mountain Street - now somebody was really having a laugh when they thought that one up! However the "Long Hill" was very aptly named! The way itself was very similar to the previous stage but with a few hills thrown in so not overly exerting and it was a little like a microcosm of the complete Way itself, lots of friendly locals, a little bit of history and good views. It even had all of the slightly unpleasant parts - the group of 3 Trial bikers who we seem to pass on every stage, although today we didn't have to get out of the way of the quad bike riders, forest, road walking and the obligatory discarded mattress or fly tipping but we have accepted these as inevitable when the path passes so close to urbanisation and is a shared byway rather than dedicated footpath . These are quickly forgotten when you discover hidden charms such as Chilham and the wonderfully named No Mans Orchard which was an oasis just outside Canterbury of old apple trees set aside as a public space complete with carved snakes in the grass, somewhere you could just sit in the sun and relax.

Unfortunately for us the clouds were looking heavier and we headed off down the final mile of hard tarmac into Canterbury. I am not certain exactly why, it could be because we have had two consecutive days walking but today I experienced the shock of coming into contact - not literally - with road traffic, something that normally happens after 3 or 4 days out on a trail is the weird feeling that you have to cross a road but don't know what to do - all of a sudden cars become a little frightening as do large groups of people and Canterbury being full of tourists was a slight shock to the system, I think in these situations there are two different mind sets, you get so used to your own company or that of a few passing strangers taking part in the same or similar activity to you that it takes a while to adjust when you come across something that is the complete yet more in line with your normal day to day life. We have now covered over 100 miles of the North Downs Way and only one stage remains before we arrive at Dover.

On the whole it has been extremely enjoyable and a surprise to find pleasant walks so close to London. We may not have chosen the best time to do the walk, there has been a lot of mud and we probably haven't seen the countryside at its best, there are certainly places we would now like to go back and revisit from time to time. When we started the first stage the days were short and gradually we felt the land get warmer and start to come back to life - it has been an amazing voyage into spring. Only when driving back from Wye with the downs stretching out in the distance did we fully appreciate the distance we have covered and those places we had passed on many occasions at speed took on a different feeling. Lizzie looking up and thinking back to the seat she sat on the day before by the carved cross, from the motorway it is difficult to imagine that there is a footpath up on the crest of the hill. Sadly disaster struck when we got home and I managed to delete most of today's pictures, only those on Lizzie's camera (which ran out of battery after only a couple of photos) and a couple on mine survived.

The showers finally arrived late in the day just as we arrived in South London, however had we been doing the walk properly day by day we would have woken up in Kent with snow on the ground! Lizzie may have taken her jacket off but I think that the roof will be staying on the car for a few more weeks!


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