North Downs Way 2: Guildford to Westhumble

I rose early, for a Sunday, to make sure that I got to the start point in good time, as getting there involved a train into London, a walk across London and a train out the other side.  But just my luck that engineering works mean the first train from home I can get is 07:13 and so I don’t get to Guildford until after 9.  And then i have the walk-in from Guildford to the Way itself to do.  So my walk of 13 miles, in terms of NDW distance, is actually going to be a lot more than that, and the vague thoughts I had of getting further than Westhumble today no longer seem likely to pan out.

I was looking forward to this section, largely because of memories from the team training session that we had for the 3 Peaks challenge, as the pains and frustrations from that day and the challenge itself have now faded away to leave me with only the good memories.  On that day back in July 2005, we crossed the stepping stones over the River Mole and climbed Box Hill.

Once I finally got going, I made good progress, retracing my steps along the Wey South Path and easily picked up the NDW again.  Just before I hit the countryside, a guy in a van passed me and told me that I’d be joined by 100 boys walking the route today.  Great.  I decided to make as good progress as I could while I had the walk to myself, and made good time along the bridleway leading up to St Martha’s Hill.

On St Martha's Hill
On St Martha’s Hill

I descended the other side and then the path took me up again onto the Downs proper.  Already I could feel that this section was more strenuous than the first, and a taste of things to come.  As was the scenery – alternating between well-marked woodland paths and open hillside with extensive views over the valley below.

But whilst the paths are easy to follow, they aren’t necessarily easy to walk on, and I slipped my way up a muddy slope, regretting not having brought a trekking pole with me this time.  At the top I encountered one of the groups of boys out for a walk, and stopped to correct their navigation and put them back onto the Way which they were just drifting off of.

Eventually, I emerged onto a road, crossed-over and was soon walking alongside Denbies Vineyard – now I was into familiar territory and could enjoy the views over to Box Hill.  But with a two hour journey home, and it being a “school night”, my walk was coming to an end, and I just about managed to divert from the path to reach Westhumble station with a couple of minutes to spare.

Looking to Box Hill from Denbies Vineyard
Looking to Box Hill from Denbies Vineyard

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