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North Downs

Posted on 2018/09/14 23:46:59 (September 2018).

[Saturday 8th September 2018]
I was keen to keep up the momentum of my new found love of country walks, not just from the point of view of getting a bit of exercise and some fresh air, but I've also been finding these forays to be quite mentally uplifting. Of all my walks over the summer, and earlier this year, the South Downs has really stood out as being the most memorable and the most elevating (in both a literal and more spiritual sense). However, being the wrong side of London, and with the added difficulty of railway engineering works in that neck of the woods this weekend, meant getting there would have been a bit time consuming today, and I felt guilty about taking too much time out to do my own thing.

Having recently been prompted by Garry Hogg's And Far Away to take a look at some geological maps of the UK, it struck me how on some level the North Downs ought to offer some roughly similar kind of terrain, and given the high speed rail link between St Pancras and Ashford ought to be a bit more accessible.

So today I planned a walk from Sandling to Wye, both stations a short hop from Ashford. The start of the walk was on the Saxon Shore Way, then a mile or two in joining the North Downs Way for the remainder (route here in case you're interested) - apparently about 20km or 12ish miles.

It was overall a pleasant enough walk, but somehow the North Downs - or at least this stretch of it - lacked the sense of adventure and surprising feeling of remoteness of the South Downs. It may of course have partly been down to the weather - most of my walk along the South Downs had been in searing heat, beneath a brilliant blue sky, whereas today was for the large part overcast... but the landscape here in Kent doesn't give quite the same illusion of having been untouched by man - the signs of modern civilisation were never as well hidden today as they had been on that walk in July, and although I was often treated to sprawling views today somehow they never had quite the same sense of drama.

I stopped for lunch at the Tiger Inn in Stowting. Although I have no particular complaints about the food and drink (other than something a bit more traditional would have been nice), the interior does seem to have been blighted with whatever you call that shade of murky green so ubiquitous in pubs of a gastro inclination. I hope society as a whole will look back on this era with the same disdain people eventually came to see the beiges of the 1970s and wonder what were they thinking?

After lunch the walk got a bit boring in places. I had thought looking at the map that by doing the walk this way round I was saving some of the best bits until last, what with the Wye Nature Reserve in the last hour or so. Somehow though that final section turned into a bit of a trudge - maybe the weather - or maybe I was just getting tired and the novelty was wearing off.

I got to Wye just after 3pm. I had originally considered an end-of-walk pint in the Tickled Trout in Wye, but by the time I got there it was only a few minutes until the next train back to Ashford, and I decided instead I should just head back to London so I could resume parenting duties. Erika had been at a friend's birthday party in the afternoon, and I thought if I headed back at this point I'd be back home not long after she got back.

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