With walking now firmly established as my main hobby, I wanted a project that could keep me ready for the hills inbetween trips, and I settled on the North Downs Way. It’s an obvious choice really as I live just over the Thames in Thurrock, and so is relatively easy to get to. Also having been brought up in the Gravesend area, I know part of the path between Wrotham and Cuxton, and it would be really good to join it all up. Having been to the east of Kent in the car, it’ll also be nice to understand the area better by walking through it. A walk every 2-4 weeks is the plan, and this will see the NDW comfortably completed before the end of the year.
Having waited until the worst of the winter weather has gone, it’s a good day for it. Although cold, it’s clear and should be a fine day’s walking with good visibility into the distance and views unhampered by foliage. My brother was due to join me when we planned this walk for Saturday (tomorrow), but he cancelled and I took advantage of a day off work to do it on my own, and I’m hoping it’ll be less busy on a weekday.
I walk down to the sign marking the start point next to the A31 just before 10am and I start fairly slowly. The path leaves the road and follows the River Wey. Things start well with a missed turning on the right, but I realise I’ve gone wrong quite soon and easily recover. A stone seat proclaiming the North Downs Way helps confirm my navigational recovery.
On I go through a tree-lined field and soon I’m on a road taking me uphill to the first of several golf courses I will see today, which helps to reinforce the fact that I’m in Surrey. I’m looking forward to the golf courses being replaced by oast houses. I pass the golf course and then I’m onto more the sort of terrain I expect from the NDW – open rolling fields and wide paths through woodland. And accompanied by a distant rumble of traffic which is never far away anywhere along this path. Dotted around there are patches of snow that are yet to melt and the mud is crispy underfoot. At one point in the woods, the path goes through a perfect tunnel formed by trees, and as the main wider path doesn’t go that way, neither do I. But then a little further on I realise that the tunnel was the way to go and I retrace my steps to take the tunnel through which I have to stoop in places.
Just outside Seale I emerge onto a field with views towards the scarp slope and the Hog’s Back and feel that I’m now starting to make progress, with the change in the landscape. A track, later a road, into Puttenham and it’s time for a pub lunch. Resuming, I cross the heath and under the A3 and join the Pilgrim’s Way, my companion for big chunks of the North Downs Way. It’s then a short walk to the outskirts of Guildford, where I turn off the path for my train back to London and then home.