My Pyrenees HRP Diary - Introduction

This blog was begun in 2015, to record my walk along the Pyrenees HRP from Hendaye to Banyuls. If you want to read about that, I suggest you start here.

But that is all in the past now, and I have expanded the blog a little to cover more recent events.. such as:

Snowdonia Way
Hebden Bridge
Equipment Reviews
North Downs Way

and also, one day:

Pennine Way .. which I am due to walk for the third time in 2019, this time from N to S I think

I hope you will find something interesting. Please do provide a little feedback or comment, and if you are interested in something that I didn't say enough about, please let me know .. happy walking!


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Thoughts on completing the North Downs Way

I don't know if anyone is really on the ball nowadays when it comes to managing our national trails .. I do hope they are, because the trails are a real boon to walkers. If so I hope they will sit down and give the North Downs Way a good spring clean, which it very badly needs. The signage is not too bad, for most of the route. Some of the kissing gates are annoying because they have so little room that a walker wearing a rucksack cannot pass. I had either to take off the rucksack, or climb over the gate. Some of the vegetation was sufficiently overgrown as to make it difficult to get past .. it is that time of year, and on an ordinary footpath I would not have worried but on a National Trail I expected more.

But none of that matters much, compared to the overwhelming need for a review of the route itself. It is bad enough being closely exposed to what feels like every motorway and dual carriageway in the South East. But the route is badly wrong in a number of places. Like most walkers I suppose, I didn't keep a list .. but for example:

- where you have to walk close to the M25 north of Oxted
[ I do not know what walking along the Woldingham Road above the official route is like. Ideally the authorities should make a better route alongside or near it]

- where it crosses the M25, between Knockholt and Otford
[ a better route appears to be to go north at Lees Wood, immediately beyond Knockholt Pound, and cross the M25 near Polhill Bank nature reserve, rejoining the route at Otford]

- where it ploughs up from Holly Hill all the way to Rochester M2 and then back down again
[ don't go to Holly Hill, instead continue on the bridleway to Upper Halling then go down and across the new Peter's Bridge. Turn right immediately along the esplanade, go through Eccles (poor pub alert!) and rejoin the official route where it crosses the A229 south of Kit's Coty]

.. these are glaring faults, so much so that if you are planning to walk along the North Downs Way, I recommend that you depart from the official route around these points, and plot a better one for yourself. There are more, but these are the worst.

Despite all that, the NDW has some long views, and some fine parts.. the Surrey Hills, the Wye Downs, the Dover and Folkestone cliffs .. these are memorable. It is definitely worth doing the walk once. But the South Downs way, the Greensand Way, and - especially - the really lovely Wealdway, are all better.

As for me, I managed the walk well enough, camping three times and spending a night at my daughter's and a night at home. Finding places to discreetly put up a tent is not hard but if you decide to do that, please, please, leave no trace behind. I never felt totally fit, but that is part of why I did the walk in the first place.. Taking a couple more days would make it more fun. Food and drink are easy to find throughout, the route is well supplied with pubs. The best of which was the Tally Ho at Knockholt, with the Gatekeeper at Etchinghill not far behind. .. avoid Merstham and Charing, if you can.

And for the record, of course I did not quite complete the Way, since about five miles between Hollingbourne and Detling was left unwalked - this time, anyway. I have walked that stretch a number of times, on other occasions.

I will leave you with some photos ..

View from St Martha's Hill, with the inspiring Freyberg graves in the foreground

North of Westerham, not long after dawn

Looking towards Folkestone along the White Cliffs

a view from the Wye Downs

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