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A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

Postby Dave » 02 May 2021 17:12

Having entered the Pilgrims Way Challenge 2021, which takes place in June, my wife and I were keen to try a 55km route over similar terrain before the day. 55km is 34.1miles, which is a couple of miles more than either of us had done before. We didn't plan to stop along the way (except to take photos!) and hoped to complete the circuit in 10 hours. In practice, routes are always a bit further than the one plotted and we ended up doing exactly 35 miles - doing a few hundred yards around the car park at the end to reach a whole number of miles! :)

We parked in an almost deserted park and ride south of Canterbury and set off at about 8am. I'd kept the route straightforward - we followed the North Downs Way towards Bridge, then a cycle route (17) south to Elham (near Rhodes Minnis on the map), before joining the southern section of the North Downs Way which we followed to Wye. From Wye, we followed another cycle route and the Stour Valley Walk back to Canterbury. We went through the city on the North Downs Way and back to the car.

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Heading south-east on the North Downs Way towards Bridge:

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The village of Patrixbourne, where we crossed the normally dry Nailbourne (an intermittent river); my wife took a photo (left) from the bridge:

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Nearing Bridge, we crossed a rather fancy bridge over the Nailbourne. This is usually a strange sight because when the river doesn't flow, it looks as if someone built it as a folly in the middle of a field.

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We went through Bridge and joined the scenic Cycle Route 17 towards Elham. On the way, near smile-inducing Pett Bottom, we came across the house where Ian Fleming wrote 'You Only Live Twice'. Wow, we hadn't expected that!

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A little further on, we arrived at another place with an interesting name. And no, my wife isn't called Lyn. ;)

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We passed through a good deal of woodland and none was better than in the area around Rhodes Minnis. Although I'd walked much of the route before, a fair bit was new to me and these woods - full of bluebells, wood anemones, celandines, ramsons and so on - were a wonderful surprise.

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As we emerged from the woods, we could see the village of Elham below. The road down was quite steep, so we jogged for the first time that day...

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Although we've often driven through Elham and walked through it a few times too, our route took us along a back road full of lovely ancient houses that we'd not seen before. Leaving the village, we passed a very cute pony...

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We'd fully intended to do the walk non-stop, but my wife was having some problems with her feet that she tried to fix by re-lacing her shoes. This (fairly) brief stop in the woods near Stowting Common was the first of four (who's counting? But more about that later!) ;)

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Fortunately, we didn't need to cross this field. Phew! I don't think I've ever seen so many cattle in one field; it looked like there were hundreds! A group of four (brown) bulls were galloping around butting each other and several black and white cows came trotting towards us. Thank goodness for fences!

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Eventually, we began the steady climb up to Wye Downs and the next few miles were definitely our favourite. I managed to photo bomb my wife's photo and show off my brand new Mountain Equipment top. :)

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Two photos of the same trig point. We weren't strictly on access land, but trig points must be bagged...

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The second unexpected event of the day came just as my wife was about to take a photo of something else in a field. Three deer ran across the field and she managed to get a zoomed-in photo of them instead. It'll probably seem a common thing to some to see deer, but this was only the second time I'd ever seen them in the wild in Kent. :)

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A little further on, we saw what my wife was going to photograph when we saw the deer. The natural field-art was further away now, but it still looked good!

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One of the most scenic parts of the North Downs Way is where it crosses the high ridge above Wye. This is the Devil's Kneading Trough, that's very popular with visitors:

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The views from here across much of Kent are fantastic...

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We'd broken into a trot occasionally after the descent into Elham, but we did the long, steep drop into Wye in a single run. We'd done more than 20 miles to this point, but jogging smoothly downhill, first through woods and then across a couple of fields, actually gave our legs a bit of a break. Having a backpack bouncing around is a bit of a pain though and I had to keep checking that my bottles hadn't fallen out!

Looking back towards the chalk downs, we could see the Wye Crown in the distance - my wife's phone has a great zoom and she took a surprisingly good photo of it. My phone is okay for close-ups and I took a photo of the church in Wye, where the vicar's name is... Ravi Holy. (Check the board!) ;)

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We left Wye along a pretty boring straight lane (Cycle Route 18 and the Stour Valley Walk), but after a few miles it became a much nicer gravelly track. My wife celebrated as we passed the 26.2 mile mark! :)

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We joined the path that runs beside the Great Stour as it flows between Chartham and Canterbury. I posed by a weir to show off my Buff hat, Rohan Spark Vest and trusty Mountain Warehouse trousers. :)

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This is my wife jogging as we arrive in Canterbury by the West Gate...

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...and she'd been doing that for the last 8 miles!

I mentioned earlier that she'd been suffering a bit with her shoes (she thought her toenails were going to fall off!) and she tried several times to ease the discomfort by re-lacing them. She decided that it was less painful to jog than to walk briskly, so she jogged at my brisk walking pace for almost all of the final 8 miles - during which we averaged around 4.2mph. I was in total awe!

We followed the North Downs Way through Canterbury and out the other side and back to the car. We reached 55 km (34.1 miles) in 9 hours 54 minutes, which comfortably bettered the 10 hour target I'd hoped to beat and since we'd almost reached 35 miles as we arrived at the car park, we walked around in circles for a bit (as you do) to get to 35 miles exactly!
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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Re: A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

Postby Camela » 02 May 2021 18:04

I'm exhausted!!
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"My Ship is Coming In"
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Re: A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

Postby rdw123 » 03 May 2021 09:31

Well done to you and Fred. I went on the more sedate Great Central Railway.! Lovely photos showing Kent at its finest.
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A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

Postby Gillzajoker » 03 May 2021 11:31

What an amazing feat! Well done to both of you :clap: And some glorious pics. along the way is a bonus! :D
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A 35 mile day walk in the Kent Downs AONB

Postby Dave » 03 May 2021 18:38

Thank you all for the lovely replies! :D
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Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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