Tag Archives: north downs

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.

The Shoreham Cross

4 May

Saturday’s walk along another stretch of the North Downs has re-awakened another of my passions, a love of hill figures. Hill figures come in a variety of shapes (mostly horses), sizes, ages, material (mainly chalk) and are found mostly in Southern England (mainly in Wiltshire).

The starting point of our walk was Otford, which is just south of Shoreham, Kent. Shoreham is home to a hill figure, a chalk cross on the hillside. My first glimpse of the cross was from the train the week before, but it was only last week that I got chance to take the photo below, from Otford Mount.

Shoreham Cross

This hill figure is 100 feet high and 58 feet wide and was constructed in 1920. It serves as a war memorial to the men of Shoreham who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars.

Shoreham Cross close-up

I wish we had more time to actually go and get a closer look at the cross, and the memorial stone. I am sure the chance will occur another time, and it looks like it is being well cared for and should be there for many years to come.

I know we will be passing several other Kent hill figures, and there are a couple of figures near the South Downs Way as well, so you can expect to see more hill figures on this blog in the future.

Walking on the North Downs again

26 Sep

My good friend Chris and I completed another section of the North Downs Way today. Bit by bit, as time and weather allow, we are going to walk the whole length of it. Today’s section was from Oxted to Merstham, both in Surrey, and I have named it the motorway section (freeway for any Americans reading this) as we had to cross three stretches of motorway and the noise of traffic was an almost constant companion throughout the walk.

I think this was the first time I had been to Oxted, I have no ancestors from there so why else would I need to go? From what I saw it was a nice little town, from the railway station we had about a mile and a half to walk before we actually got to the North Downs Way, crossing the M25 in the process.

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The weather was almost perfect for walking, the grass was a bit damp to start from the early morning dew, but apart from that it was bright and sunny most of the time. There was some cloud later on, but it was by no means cold, in fact the first few miles were out in the open and it was getting a bit too warm. Most of the rest of the walk was shaded, which restricted the views but made conditions much nicer for walking.

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Although the weather was good, the visibility was not perfect, and although at one point (near Willey Park Farm) we could just make out the tall office buildings of London, it was not possible to see them clearly. It really surprised me, to be in the open countryside and still be able to see parts of London, I wish I had taken my binoculars with me.

The derelict Whitehill Tower

The derelict Whitehill Tower

As I said the views were limited, but the were a couple of features closer to the path that you couldn’t miss. One was the wonderfully Whitehill Tower (pictured above) described in my route guide as a “derelict folly”, although I have been unable to find precious little else about it.

Another trig point for my collection

Another trig point for my collection

No walk along the North Downs would be complete without spotting a trig point, and today was no exception. This beauty was just before we started our descent towards Merstham.

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The descent to Merstham and the train home involved crossing two motorways the M23 and back over the M25 again. Fortunately an underpass was provided for the first and a bridge for the second. All in all this was quite an easy section, about 10 miles in all (including getting out of Oxted), although most of the route was undulating their were only really one or two challenging climbs, and they were mercifully short.

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