Thursday, May 21

North Downs Way - Oxted to Maidstone

Our North Downs Way walking has seen quite a few contrasts, and the two sections described below could not have been more different - although to be fair, mostly because they were several months apart! 

We'd planned in advance that we would do our third foray, from Oxted to Otford, on 4 January - one year exactly since the day we first met. So even though the weather did not promise good things, we decided that we should plough on regardless.

And that was pretty much what happened. 

All we saw all day was fog, ghostly trees, occasionally other walkers, and right on the border between Kent and Sussex, a massive shit load of fly tipping that almost blocked the lane. A few hundred yards further on there was a big sign warning of the penalties for fly tipping.

We'd been slightly concerned about pub options - it not being a great day for a picnic - but this was the most successful part of the day. We stumbled on the Tally Ho Pub, which despite all appearances of being a bit grim, served up huge portions of steak & kidney pudding, and Sunday roast to us chilled and hungry souls.

Then it was back to the gloom and the trees, the only benefit being that the mist damped down the sound of the traffic on the motorway a bit. We trudged our way towards Otford. Probably not the most auspicious way to celebrate our first year!

The most recent North Downs Way walk took place last weekend, and it could not have been more of a contrast! We planned to walk from Otford to Hollingbourne, although we only made it as far as Maidstone on the second day, due to a cock-up on the planning front (too much attention focused on the 15.5 miles of the first day and not enough on the 17.5 miles of the second day, which we'd somehow thought was half the length!).

It was glorious walking weather the whole weekend, and even the fact that it was the start of the hay fever season for Jon, not to mention being assaulted by his hay fever nemesis Oilseed Rape every other field, it could not bring down our spirits.

This field was particularly trying. Luckily the drugs were working by then.

On the first day we had our lunch at Wrotham, a pleasant little village near Sevenoaks which is either plagued by serious crime or full of paranoid anguish - I have never seen so many CCTV cameras in such a small area of public space. Even the children's playground had cameras at each end. Big brother is definitely watching the people of Wrotham parish.

Our bed & breakfast accommodation - the North Downs Barn in Cuxton - could not have been better, which helped counterbalance the fact that Cuxton's only pub is pretty rank. We had a couple of pints of mediocre Shepherd Neame beer to wash down our mediocre food, then bought chocolate and ice cream from the Coop on the way home to take away the taste of the beer.

North Downs Barn
Sunday the weather was just as glorious - we'd planned to come back via Hollingbourne or Bearsted rail stations, but when we realised it was 17.5 miles rather than the 8 or 10 we'd anticipated, that idea got knocked on the head very quickly! It was just as well we did; when we arrived at Maidstone we found that the trains were all delayed due to someone on the line near Bearsted, so at least we missed getting stranded.

Next section I'm looking forward to getting away from the bloody motorways, which also dominated the route today. It will be quite a novelty to have some real peace and quiet for walking.

1 comment:

doublewhirler said...

Fantastic - what a difference a day makes! I didn't know that rapeseed was an allergen. I'll never look at those lovely yellow fields the same way.