A Walker’s Journal by Anthony Linick
I think you will find the Wealdway a very worthwhile and challenging undertaking, one that crosses the Kent and Sussex Weald in a lovely countryside – thus allowing the walker to begin at the Thames and end up, after 82 miles or so, on the English Channel. It is not particularly strenuous but its accomplishment does require a nose for route-finding and a willingness to experiment with local forms of transportation.
To list the stages that we walked, in our own completion of the Weald Way (in the years from 1989 to 1992) is to provide today’s walker with a dizzying prospect. To begin with, we did not start in Gravesend on the Thames and back in 1992 the route ended at the Eastbourne Youth Hostel; today you are invited to walk all the way out to the end of Eastbourne’s pier. Moreover, many of the points we chose – either to end or to begin a day’s walk – are actually well off-route: this gesture is often necessary when you are searching for some form of public transportation.
Also, we did not walk the first three miles because we had already done so as part of our London Countryway jaunt in 1988 – you can find an account of this section in Day 17’s entry for the LCW elsewhere on this website.
Sole Street, where we did start, is served by rail but we had to leave the route to reach a train at Borough Green at the end of our first day. We walked from Borough Green back to Platt to rejoin the WW on Day 2, but at the end of the day we again had to leave the route in order to reach a train halt at Beltring. Here we started Day 3 – which did bring us to Tonbridge and its excellent train service. At the end of Day 4 we had to head slightly off route to reach a halt at Ashurst but when we resumed our Day 5 walk here we got so lost (as you will discover in the accounts for this day) that we ended up walking into Crowborough – well off route. We did return to this spot by train for Day 6, but used a taxi to get us back on route at Friar’s Gate. Buxted, which we reached at the end of this day is only slightly off-route, but we had to arrange for a taxi to pick us up in East Hoathly at the end of Day 7 – so that we could reach the train line at Uckfield. This process was reversed at the beginning of Day 8 but we were able to walk directly to the train halt at Berwick at the end of the day – about a mile off route. We used a taxi to get us back on route at the Chilver Bridge at the beginning of Day 9 and a bus to take us to Eastbourne’s station from the Youth Hostel at the conclusion of our walk – you won’t need this because you are going to walk all the way to the pier!
It can be seen from this recital that the Weald Way is definitely walkable as a series of day trips from London, but it does take a lot of planning and research into transportation possibilities. If you are unfamiliar with this process you could perhaps start with the chapter on transportation in my A Walker’s Alphabet: Adventures on the Long-distance Footpaths of Great Britain – available from the publisher at Authorhouse.com or Authorhouse.co.uk or from any of the other online booksellers. In this volume you will also find more extensive portraits of a number of the people I walked with on the Wealdway – including my long-time walking companions, Tosh and Harold Lee, and my wife Dorothy. Here also much time is given to the antics of my dog Toby.
The Ordnance Survey’s Explorer series (at two and a half inches to the mile) does show the route of the Wealdway; you would need sheets 123, 135, 136, 147, 148, 162, and 163. The Kent Ramblers offer a written guide to the route (look for it on their website) and the route is also described in a Cicerone Press guide that covers both the Wealdway and the Vanguard Way. If you do undertake this walk you can let me know how your experiences compared with ours by leaving word on the Contact Page.
You can check out our progress on the first three miles by looking at the entry for the London Countryway:
Day 17: East Tilbury to Sole Street – 3 miles
Otherwise our stages were as follows:
Day 1: Sole Street to Borough Green – 12 miles
Day 2: Borough Green to Beltring – 10 miles
Day 3: Beltring to Tonbridge – 9 miles
Day 4: Tonbridge to Ashurst – 11.5 miles
Day 5: Ashurst to Crowborough – 10 miles
Day 6: Friar’s Gate to Buxted – 10 miles
Day 7: Buxted to East Hoathly – 12 miles
Day 8: East Hoathly to Berwick Station – 12 miles