walking the North Downs Way

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.

The Devil's Kneading Trough

The Devil’s Kneading Trough

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.

from Wye Crown on North Downs Way

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.

ahead for Dover along the cliff top

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.

 Dover castle

Dover castle

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?

 

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24 thoughts on “walking the North Downs Way

  1. mandala56 says:

    My daughter did the walk from Dover to Deal last fall… or was it Deal to Dover? Anyhow, I was impressed that she managed it, and her photos were also beautiful. She walked on the edge! What a great place to see.

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  2. Jane says:

    How completely gorgeous. I would love to do these walks one day. Preferably without children 🙂 Did you get a drink in a mason jar to go with your brekky in a frying pan?

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    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      If I’d walked this with my children then I don’t think we’d have finished with all of them as at least one of them would have taken a step too close to the edge. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the drink had been in a mason jar, but instead we had a cup on an off-centred saucer, which is almost as trendy.

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  3. rusty duck says:

    Well that does sound rather splendid. I know the first part of the walk very well, the Dover end not at all. I would suggest the Devon coast path which is very scenic too, but Bill would spend a lot of time peering down.

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  4. Candy Blackham says:

    Lucky you! We walked the North Downs Way many years ago, in freezing cold weather. What about The Greensand Way and The Saxon Shore Way? We walked both, again many years ago, but both were interesting. I think we walked the Darenth Valley, and the Medway Valley and Eden Valleys, the Wealdway and the Vanguard Way. There is always the Green Belt Way in London, and as I was checking the above I notice The High Weald Landscape Trail which looks interesting and which I haven’t walked! The Pilgrims Way was done in part. Loads of information on the Long Distance Footpath sites!

    On 14 April 2014 20:18, Life in Mud Spattered Boots wrote:

    > Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots posted: “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”

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    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      When we walked the Greenwich Meridian Trail we crossed lots of paths, so some of the above are familiar names. There’s so many walks to choose from on the Long Distance Walkers Assoc site that it’s good to get recommendations from people who’ve walked them. Thanks Candy.

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  5. Leah says:

    Thank you so much for taking me with you on your walks. Your descriptions are wonderful, I felt I was there.Relaxing! It’s trying to be Spring here in western Pennsylvania, but, as it’s snowing right now, I’m hunkering down to wait for another day like yesterday when the temps were around 24(C) and I was in barefeet !

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  6. sally says:

    The wessex ridgeway is a nice walk although I have not done all of it. You start in Avebury and finish in lyme regis. I started in Hindon so only did half but was lovely pretty countryside in spring, lots of bluebells, hills, history,views and wide open spaces. Also nice places to stay at the end of the day.

    I agree about wanting a plate, the fad here is to serve everything on a wooden board. Not as bad as getting a drink in a jar with a handle and a straw though. Who decided that this was a good look for anyone over 5? Probably the same people who brought us cup cakes, rant rant blah.

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    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      We walked the Wessex Ridgeway last year and loved it. You’re right – it was very pretty and we stayed in lovely places too.
      I don’t understand the wooden board thing, especially as we’re not supposed to chop on wooden boards. I wonder what’s coming next – maybe the fish will be served swimming around a jam jar and we’ll get a little fishing net to scoop it out.

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      • sally says:

        why no chopping on a wooden board? Is it a health thing? If so how come you still see butchers using their big blocks? I have always wondered about how they keep them clean, maybe salt? I use wooden boards to chop things, including meat, then after I wash them I pour boiling water on them in the hope that that will kill germs in the knife grooves but I dont actually know? I do the same with my plastic boards as they get knife marks in them and they seem harder to clean than wood. Sorry I know I have gone off topic but I am interested to know about this if anyone knows?

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        • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

          You’re not supposed to use wood for high risk foods but quite honestly I think that’s a load of b*llocks. I hate plastic boards and once they have a few knife marks find they smell and are much harder to clean than wood. Must confess I don’t use boards at all but chop everything on my prep table and hey, guess what, we’re still alive!

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  7. andreamynard says:

    Sounds a wonderful walk. Love your description of walking through blue-bells, smelling wild garlic and then coming into a village with the smell of woodsmoke – how lovely to have a fire in your room.

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