I don’t think it’s that I didn’t have the foresight to track our 156-mile trek, it’s just that I didn’t have the faith that I would actually follow through and join James on all of it. Is that any better?? But I feel like I’m losing the ability to say ‘I’m a city girl’ even though I still feel that way because now we’ve done five sections of this guy! And I do enjoy it once we’re out there, but I am just never going to be the motivator. So I thought it was as good a time as any (famous last words, hope not) to start tracking the journey we’re taking on Pilgrim’s Way. James has been using a guide to take us through the path, so I’m going to use that guide as a frame for how I keep track. First things first (I’m the realest–though some of us think it’s ‘I’m a realist’ ;)) – The North Downs Way is a ‘long-distance path’ that runs from Farnham to Dover. I thought it was the same thing as Pilgrims’ Way, but evidently not. Still, I like the sign:
Farnham to Guildford
Distance: 11.1 miles
Deets: Waterloo station to Farnham station; Guildford station to Waterloo station Walk 1 was great. Really fun, obviously novel for me. We walked 10+ miles today?! Whaaaaaaaat?! Cool! http://instagram.com/p/dr-60RHeN7/
Guildford to Gomshall to Westhumble
Distance: ~15 miles
Deets: Waterloo station to Guildford station; Westhumble station to Waterloo station We actually camped this time, so we walked just 2.9 miles to St Martha’s Hill and stayed there overnight in bivvy bags and sleeping bags on sleeping mats (no tents!! “then we can’t see the stars” …mmk) and then started again in the morning, passing Gomshall on our 12ish mile way to Westhumble, where we stopped at a pub, The Stepping Stones, for lunch.
Westhumble to Merstham
Distance: 11.6 miles
Deets: Waterloo station to Westhumble; Merstham station to Victoria station This walk started with the aforementioned namesake stepping stones!
This walk was difficult for me. Mostly because Sarah and I had been traipsing around Milan the 3 days prior. And sooooo much of it was uphill. But it was beautiful. I’ll give it that.
Merstham to Oxted
Distance: 12.1 miles
Deets: Oxted Station to Victoria Station This walk was beautiful and I wasn’t too tired, so I enjoyed it all. Until the traumatic end. Disguised by a fun fair, I was lured in to a dangerous situation — bumper cars. My car was just not my friend and didn’t really work. So I got bumped, and bumped, and bumped.
Oxted to Otford
Distance: 14.6 miles
Deets: Victoria station to Oxted (£6.80 each with a Network Rail Card); Otford station to London Bridge Station (£7.45 each with a Network Rail Card) = £14.25 round trip James bought a Network Rail Card recently since it gives you about 1/3 off tickets sometimes, so I think that helped the fare this week. This walk was long and we started late, which made it feel longer. And, unfortunately, there wasn’t as much to see as usual. The two coolest things we saw were when we crossed the
We did see a lot of cows too. A row of 6 bulls staring at us with their horns aimed. One that kind of semi-chased us, so we were hoofin’ it (ha) nad one of which kind of stood in the gate and we had to plot our escape http://instagram.com/p/pRudgGneFq/ We finished off with dinner at, appropriately given all the bulls and cows we’d seen who were bull-ying us, The Bull in Otford. It wasn’t a fab meal, but it gave us enough energy to board the train, so I suppose that’s all we really needed.
Otford to Wrotham to Cuxton
Distance: 19.8 miles (4.9 miles + 14.9 miles)
Deets: London Bridge station to Otford (£7.45 each with a Network Rail Card); Cuxton station to London Bridge Station, with a change at Tonbridge (£8.65 each with a Network Rail Card) = £16.10 round trip Although we only ended up doing 5 extra miles (did I just say that? Only 5 extra miles??), the original plan was to hike for a few miles on Saturday and find a place to camp before doing the bulk of the hike on Sunday. But that ended up being just under 20 miles! Ack. But I guess I’m getting used to it, because my body didn’t complain as much when I had to walk to work on Monday!
We camped for the night in our bivvy bags, no tents of course. And the stars were, in fact, out to play and beautiful. The moon took its sweet time coming out and I’d fallen asleep by then and closed myself into the bivvy bag like a caterpillar and was not ready to emerge (though not butterfly-like) before the sunclock lit up to wake me so said ‘uh-huh okay’ when James said it was out and looked really nice. Also, James posted a picture of our ‘microadventure’ — and the microadventure guy Alastair Humphreys thought our food was too posh for camping! http://instagram.com/p/phNNfrP53Y/?modal=true The next day, we continued, with a stop in Wrotham for a water bottle and a spin on the merry-go-round at the local playground.
Finally, after 20 miles, we ended up at The White Hart – the only pub we could find in Cuxton. Not a Michelin-star earner, but not bad and at least to me, much better than the previous time’s lunch at The Bull.
Cuxton to Boxley to Hollingbourne
Distance: 20.4 miles
Deets: London Bridge tube to Stratford tube to Statford International rail station (£2.70); Stratford International to Cuxton station (£13.35 each with a Network Rail Card — if you use a machine instead of the counter, you cannot select ‘any permitted’ if you want to use your Network Rail Card); Hollingbourne to Ashford to King’s Cross rail (£22.60 for a return ticket – we knew we would be going back the next week and since the ticket is valid for a month and a single is £21.30, it would have been pretty silly not to take advantage of this); King’s Cross tube station to London Bridge Tube Station (£2.20) = £29.35 round trip Wouldja believe it gets more expensive the further away from London you get?!
Cuxton to Boxley
I have to say, this section was pretty boring. We were mostly walking on roads and could see and hear the highway instead of traipsing through wooded areas and seeing giant trees. But actually, I ended up being thankful for it, because the latter half of the next section was SO hilly and so tiring. So, somehow, the first 10 miles were a breeze. And halfway from Boxley to Hollingbourne, I peppily said ‘Let’s do the next one too! Let’s do three sections today and make it to Charing!!!!’ To which the logical James replied okay, but we still have a way to go to finish this one and it’s already 5pm, it might not be light out long enough for that…a couple of hours later, I barely breathed ‘No. No Charing.’
Boxley to Hollingbourne
We. went. up. and. down. so. many. times. on this section. I don’t remember whining all that much, but that could be because I had less oxygen going to the brain. But I think that even James was struggling this time, so that must say something. Nevertheless, it was beautiful. Lots more greenery and woods on this section, and, CHALK. We saw a ton of uprooted trees and I was a bit confused as to why/how there could be rocks on the bottom. My knowledgeable nature guide informed me that these were not rocks, but chalk. I said no! really?! and then picked up a piece and took it to tree. IT WAS CHALK. I don’t know why it was so cool, but it was. This revelation caused a ~15 minute delay as we
vandalized doodled on trees. About a mile before the end, we could hear music that seemed to be coming from our destination village. A wedding? Someone’s house? A village beer festival with a live band, actually.
Hollingbourne to Charing to Wye to Canterbury
Distance: 29.1 miles (12.1 miles + 17.0 miles)
Deets: London Bridge railway station to Seven Oaks to Otford to Hollingbourne (£11.30, see last week); Canterbury to London Bridge railway station (£19.20 for a return ticket, since we’re going back next week) = £20.90 round trip 1 hr 40 min train from Canterbury to London Bridge
Hollingbourne to somewhere between Charing and Wye
So I wasn’t all that psyched about a tarp. I had bought into the idea of no tent because stars, but rain, I wasn’t sure how we would survive it. Faith. That’s what I need. I had kind of forgotten that we weren’t using a tent partly because you’re not technically allowed to camp…but the tarp and the way it was set up and everything about it were just adorable and fun. I honestly loved it. It was like we were 10 and building a fort. It was our tiny little house for the night and I just couldn’t stop saying how much I loved it. Plus the sound of the rain glancing leaves as it made its way down to the forest earth. It was so peaceful. http://instagram.com/p/qrxDJNneNv/?modal=true
Somewhere between Charing and Wye to Canterbury
As you can imagine the end of this hike seemed like it could never be nigh enough. In addition to sheer exhaustion (the number of times I felt I was running out of steps was definitely more), my genius plan to wear two pairs of socks backfired and I got blisters.
Canterbury to Dover!!!!!!!
Distance: 22.2 miles
Deets: London Bridge railway station to Canterbury (£9.60, see last week); Dover to London Bridge (£14.70 each) = £24.30 round trip
I was starting to doubt the accuracy of the NDW being ‘a 156-mile path’ but I just added up all the Stravas and got 155.9! So I guess we took a mini shortcut somewhere but still. Pretty close.
I think that the ideal amount of water is about 750 mL/person/10 miles. And I say that because last weekend, we had too much water. Which was not good because it meant we had to carry that heavy stuff around. But this weekend, we didn’t have enough and of course it was one of the hottest days ever and barely any woods, just giant exposed fields, so we were getting really desperate. Animal troughs looked tempting. James had to ration out the water we had left and I threw a tantrum because it got that hard.
But we finally made it to the end.
Aaaaaaaand then we started a new walk 🙂
After a nice rest on top of the White Cliffs of Dover