Tag Archives: north downs way

Wandering into the New Year

31 Dec

This blog focuses on the two hobbies which give me great pleasure (most of the time), walking and family history. As described yesterday I had plenty of family history resolutions/goals in 2010, but I don’t think there were actually any walking resolutions.

I did end up walking the South Downs Way in 2010, which I had hoped to do for some time, but it wasn’t really a new year’s resolution. I also walked parts of the North Downs Way and the Capital Ring around London in 2010, but again I wouldn’t consider either of them to have been brought about by a new year’s resolution.

For 2011 however I have a pretty clear idea of the walking I want to do. I haven’t really considered whether it is actually going to be possible to fit it all in, and of course a lot will depend on what the weather is like.

The walks I would like to complete in 2011 can be divided into three categories:

Long Distance Walks

South Downs Way – I want to do the South Downs Way again, this time it will probably be from west to east, and all in one go. In 2010 I walked it on one or two days a week, but in 2011 I want to take a week off in the Summer and do it all in one go.

North Downs Way – In 2011 my friend Chris and I need to get the North Downs Way finished and out of the way. We have about five days worth of walking to go, but it is a bit of a headache getting out into Kent to actually do it.

High Weald Landscape Trail – This is another walk Chris and I hope to complete in 2011, and one I am really looking forward to because the first half is through true ancestral landscape with opportunities to many churches along the way.

Shorter Named Walks

There are several shorter routes dotted around the south east that I would like to walk:

Worth Way – A fairly short walk (about seven miles) along a disused railway between Three Bridges and East Grinstead (both in Sussex). It shouldn’t be particularly challenging but will serve as a nice little warm up for some of the longer/steeper walks.

Chalk Stones Trail – Another shorter walk, taking in part of the South Downs and the village of West Dean, Sussex. What is there not to like?

There are also several shorter walks in London that I wouldn’t mind doing, and I would like to revisit the site of the 2012 Olympics and see how the building works have progressed over the intervening months.

Genealogy Walks

There are lots of places that I want to visit, just to go and visit the areas where my ancestors came from and explore a few churches and cemeteries. In fact there is hardly a village in Sussex that isn’t on my list (admittedly it is as yet an unwritten list) of places to visit and photograph.

The list isn’t just limited to Sussex, there are plenty of places in Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and London that I want to visit. I definitely want to spend more time in the town of Alton and the village of Exton, both in Hampshire.

Unlike most of the other walks, these walks will be more about the destination rather than the actual walking itself. All I need to work out is how I am going to fit it all into 12 months.

North Downs Way: Seale to Farnham (and a bus to Alton)

12 Jun

Today we finished off last week’s walk, and it was equally disappointing, but the day wasn’t a complete waste because as it was only a short walk it gave us time to visit the nearby town of Alton, Hampshire.

This section was short, only four miles (hardly worth the effort) and pretty flat, very short on points of interest and largely devoid of any interesting views.

River outside Farnham

We did pass through some quite nice woodland (Runfold Wood), and some of the path was alongside the River Wey, which was quite nice, but after two weeks largely devoid of hills it is high time we got back to Kent and some proper hills.

Farnham is quite a nice town, or at least what I have seen of it, and it marks the start or end of the North Downs Way. The actual start/end is marked by a fingerpost at the side of a rather busy road junction bristling with traffic lights, hardly a fitting point to start or end the North Downs Way.

Start or End of North Downs Way

The only saving grace for today was the chance to catch the bus from Farnham, Surrey to Alton, Hampshire. Alton was the home of my 3x great-grandparents Henry and Sarah WRIGHT. Although time was limited, we found time to visit St Lawrence Church (below) and Market Square where the WRIGHT family lived.

St Lawrence's Church, Alton, Hampshire

The visit was really just a scouting trip, getting my bearings, having a quick poke around and buying a decent map of the town. Alton has some lovely buildings, some interesting history, a small local history museum, a steam railway and an unusual war memorial (below). I am clearly going to have to go back to Alton and explore further.

War Memorial - Alton, Hampshire

North Downs Way: Guildford to Seale

5 Jun

We should have been in Kent today walking the next section of the North Downs Way, but given that it was also likely to be the hottest day of the year so far we thought it would be wise to find a route where we could finish early if things got too hot.

The section from Guildford to Farnham is either the start or end of the North Downs Way, and it is part of the route that we had so far not done, having started somewhere near the middle and heading east. So we decided we should walk part of this section, with the understanding that we probably wouldn’t complete the full 11 miles today. In the end we made as far as Seale, Surrey, which was about 7 miles.

To be honest this was a rather disappointing part of the North Downs Way, it didn’t feel like we were actually on the North Downs, there were no real hills to speak of, so there were virtually no interesting views to speak of, the best I could find was the one below, which shows how flat the landscape was.

Not much of a view

There were a few interesting sights along the way, one of the most bizarre was the huge wooden cross on a bridge near the village of Compton, Surrey. The bridge with the cross (actually crosses because there is one on the other side as well) carries the B3000 road. Apparently the crosses indicate that road passing beneath is part of the Pilgrim’s Way.

Cross on bridge

Another interesting thing about this walk is that for a large part of it the path was very sandy, in fact it was almost like walking on a beach (shame I didn’t pack a bucket and spade). I am not a geologist, but it appears to be natural, and we saw at least one sand pit nearby. It is not the only part of the route to have sandy paths, the paths leading up St Martha’s Hill to the east of Guildford were also thick with sand.

Sandy path

The village of Seale was quite pretty, but for us it marked the end of our walk, because there is a bus stop nearby on the A31 which would take us to Guildford (by way of Farnham, so we did get there in the end). The war memorial at Seale has one of the finest backdrops I have seen.

Seale war memorial

Finding my way into Kent

18 May

I am currently in the process of walking two long distance paths, the South Downs Way and the North Downs Way. The South Downs Way is pretty nearby (I can see the South Downs from the edge of the village where I live) but the North Downs Way is not so close.

Last Saturday it took me three hours to get to the start of the next section of the North Downs Way, and I had to question whether it was worth the time and money getting there.

Of course it is always going to be good to get out into the countryside and challenge myself with a climb on the hills, plus there is the challenge of exploring somewhere different and the joy of new discoveries made (like hill figures) and sights seen. Also there is going to be a sense of achievement from completing a long distance path, even if it is in short sections.

However most of this I could get much closer to home, there are lots of places much closer than Kent that I haven’t really explored fully. But is it worth me going walking in Kent?

When I ask “is it worth it?”, what I have at the back of my mind whether it is benefiting my family history in any way, which I can use to justify my walk. I would have to answer with a definite “yes”.

I have quite a bit of research to do in Kent, several branches of my family tree are stretching into Kent, and it is a county of which I have virtually no experience and if anything an aversion to researching in.

What I am finding with these walks is that I am getting a good feel for the county. Although I am only seeing a small part of the county, I am starting to build up a picture of the landscape, the locations of the larger towns, the transport links between them and the natural features (rivers and hills) that have shaped the county and the people who have called it home.

This walk is helping me get my bearings, from what I have seen so far the Kent landscape is very similar to that of Sussex. I expect I will find that Kent has more of a nautical history than Sussex, but really they are not that different.

So I think this walk is proving quite useful, although there is very little direct connection with my family history, it is helping me find my own way into Kent, convincing me that it is not something that I need to be afraid of. I just need to go armed with good map to guide me.

North Downs Way: Wrotham to Halling

15 May

Today my friend Chris and I completed another section of the North Downs Way. Today’s route took us from Wrotham along to Halling, both in the county of Kent.

View from the North Downs near Wrotham Water, Kent

The actual distance along the North Downs Way was about seven miles, but on top of that there was about a mile and a half at each end, to and from the railway station to reach the North Downs.

This is one of the furthest sections of the route from my home, so it took me almost three hours to the starting point (Borough Green & Wrotham station). Things should start improving next time when we turn the corner and start heading south again.

The weather was pretty good today. At the start there was a clear sky and bright sunshine, but it didn’t last and the sky clouded over in the the afternoon, looking like it could rain any minute, but it was still warm enough for walking in a short-sleeve shirt and shorts.

Overall the walk was not particularly outstanding. There were some quite impressive views to the south and east, but again it was hazy in the distance. There were a couple of quite challenging climbs, but on the whole the route was pretty flat.

Sheep at the foot of the Downs

Apart from a few sheep grazing at the foot of the Downs east of Wrotham (see above) there was not a lot of interest along the route, either that or we missed it all. One thing we wouldn’t have missed were the flies that seemed to be lining the route. It might be that they had just hatched, but they really were a real pain at times and many of my photos are ruined by black dots scattered across them.

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