With the weather set fair and farm work up to date, we took off for a couple of days walking last week. Bill packed his gloves for cool morning starts and we both packed a waterproof coat and a fleece. What we should have packed were hats and sunscreen as we had two wonderfully warm sunny days and came home with glowingly pink faces and necks.
Having spent the previous day in London, pounding the pavements on a shopping expedition (one of my least favoured ways to spend a day) it was a joy to jump off the train at Charing in Kent and stride out on The North Downs Way where sheep outnumber people and for much of the day the only noise is birdsong. The North Downs are a chalk upland area (the name Downs comes from the Old English word dun, meaning hill) and we passed through many ‘combes’ or dry valleys that were formed in the Ice Age. These deep valleys are spectacular viewed from above but rather daunting as you stand at the bottom and look up. Truth be told, I’m an Essex girl where hills are just slight inclines, so I’m not thrilled when faced with a steep hill but luckily the view at the top is usually worth the climb.
As well as the combes, we walked through bluebell carpeted woods and paths lined with lime green coloured alexanders and breathed in the heavenly scent of gorse flowers and the heady aroma of wild garlic. At the end of the first day, smoke from wood fires wafted across the fields as we dropped down from the ridge into a village nestled into the valley. Rather charmingly, the path led straight to the pub where we were staying and the wood fire was burning in the fireplace in our bedroom. Luxuriating in a bath with the fire flickering in the background was certainly a relaxing way to finish the walk.
Next day, fortified by a cooked breakfast served in a frying pan (probably very trendy but I’d rather have a plate) we set off for Dover. The last few miles were along the cliff top through blossom lined tunnels cut into the bushes and vertiginous views down the cliffs. Bill kept peering down, but I stayed resolutely to the far side of the path. It made a mockery of the protective railings we’ve had to erect around The Barley Barn.
Eventually Dover hove into view with its castle sitting proud in the sunlight and ships setting out across the English channel with the iconic white cliffs stretching out behind. The North Downs Way takes a scenic route around Dover, including more bloody steps and hills, finally reaching the sea and a granite start/finish line set into the ground. As ever, a bit of an anti-climax when we reach the end of a trail, though this time there’s a loop to extend the walk to Canterbury, so it’s not quite the end for us.
Bill is already thinking about our next long distance walk. Any suggestions?
Walking Notes for anyone who may be planning to walk the North Downs Way