After I abandoned the westbound walk at Detling in August, a few other bits of walking got in the way of picking it up again – a trip to Snowdonia in September, the West Highland Way in October, and not least the Kent Pilgrims’ Festival in September. The latter involving walking all the way east again via Canterbury.
So it wasn’t until November that I returned to the North Downs Way. By then, all pretence at finishing within in 2022 was gone – I had enough in the diary throughout the rest of November and December that it would be a difficult thing to achieve. And so, the objective subtly morphed into one of completing the trail within a year of starting – which would still be 10 times better than when I originally walked it.
I retraced my steps from Bearsted station, across the Field of Bovine Hell, and into Detling, where I took advantage of the village shop being open this time. Then I had to tackle the climb up onto the Downs – luckily an easy byway.
The next few miles were very pleasant walking through woodland at the top of the escarpment – it looked different this way. The woodland sections are perhaps my favourite thing about walking the North Downs Way.
Towards the end of this stretch, before turning to descend and cross the A229, I saw the first milestone for a while.
A tranquil spot, I took a rest here.
On the way down, I had to stop and take a picture of the White Horse Stone, which has now become a bit of a tradition.
Then over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
I stopped at the garage at the bottom, by the side of the A229 to grab some lunch and a drink. Just behind the garage was one of the National Cycle Network posts.
Then under the A229 and climb up to Kit’s Coty House (always worth a visit).
A climb up onto Bluebell Hill beside the A229, and I found a picnic table at the viewpoint for lunch.
The afternoon began with a long road and then lane walk before emerging onto farmland. I could see my target in the form of the bridge over the Medway the whole time.
I dropped down and under the M2 to emerge on the bridge itself and cross to home territory.
Home territory, maybe, but I’d not walked this bit of the trail for some time and so the walk up onto the Ranscombe estate was like doing it for the first time. When I’d come this way before, it was towards the end of the day, when I was tired, so probably didn’t notice it much. But even so, it still looked very different from this direction.
I was flagging a bit now, though, and knew there was a bit of up and down to come. Over the railway and I was in Lower Bush, and soon Upper Bush. I crossed the vineyard to hit the top of the escarpment again just as the sun was going.
After a bit of a rest, it was an easy walk down to Halling to get a train back to Gravesend, and the ferry home.
106km to go to Farnham.