A Walker’s Journal by Anthony Linick
The North Downs Way is one of those routes that can be covered in a series of day trips – starting from London. Some sources list the total mileage as 153, others as 156 miles. Why, then, did I record walking over 180 miles in completing the route between 1983 and 1985? A few extra miles must have been added as we made our way from public transportation to and from the trail itself, but the disparity must lie in the fact that there are two ways of completing the route – and we did both. Shortly before reaching Wye the route splits (or it did when we did it) and the walker can reach Dover, the terminus, either via Canterbury or via Folkestone. An account of how we accomplished both of these options follows – with the latter variation coming as the last two days of our fifteen-stage journey.
The transportation used most frequently was the train – and this is still a very useful method of accomplishing the venture. We used a variety of guidebooks – but most of these have been superseded. The NDW enjoys National Trail status and this means that there is an official Aurum Press guide by Neil Curtis and Jim Walker. One of the most useful features of such publications is that they contain relevant excerpts from the Ordnance Survey maps – meaning that it isn’t really necessary to buy these separately.
Although some of the stages we used were rather lengthy I would not say that the North Downs Way is particularly strenuous. There are some hilly sections but ascents never go on for long and often the route avoids the highest elevation – occupying an elevated perch that offers wonderful vistas of the Surrey and Kent countryside below. Accommodation is not widely available on route – though there are Internet suggestions should you choose not to complete your journey utilizing day walks from London, as we did. Other hints on how to search for accommodation can be found in my book, A Walker’s Alphabet: Adventures on the long-distance footpaths of Great Britain – published in 2010 and available from the publisher at www.authorhouse.co.uk or from www.authorhouse.com or from www.amazon.co.uk or from www.amazon.com.
Pubs and other places of refreshment, however, are still in good supply. I hope you enjoy the NDW as much as we did. You can let me know how you got on by leaving a message on the Contact Page.
Our stages were as follows:
Day 1: Farnham to Guildford – 12 miles
Day 2: Guildford to Westhumble – 14 miles
Day 3: Westhumble to Merstham – 10 miles
Day 4: Merstham to Oxted – 9 miles
Day 5: Oxted to Dunton Green – 13 miles
Day 6: Dunton Green to Borough Green – 10 miles
Day 7: Borough Green to Cuxton – 12 miles
Day 8: Cuxton to Bearsted – 13 miles
Day 9: Bearsted to Harrietsham – 11 miles
Day 10: Harrietsham to Wye – 14 miles
Day 11: Wye to Chartham – 11 miles
Day 12: Chartham to Snowdown – 13.5 miles
Day 13: Snowdown to Dover – 11.5 miles
Day 14: Wye to Sandling – 12 miles
Day 15: Sandling to Dover – 15 miles