Weekend Walking Along the Way – A North Downs Micro Adventure

DAY ONE – Out of the pit by 7, strong coffee then the station for 8. Catch the high speed from Ebbsfleet and we’re in Folkstone by 9.30. On the train a kit check leads to peg fear – only 6 that ain’t right hmmnnnnnn there’s bound to be a camping shop in town…

25 litre packs a piece we split the tent, A sleeping bag, tech mattress, couple pairs pants/socks, down jacket, a waterproof and nuff snacks. Travelling light for speed and comfort. In Folkstone we seek out Wilko for half a dozen cheap pegs and the fear subsides. All intentions of a quick start are dashed by the need for grub and additional strong coffees – The Steep Street Coffee House served up a steaming cups of the brown stuff and vast slabs of Viccy Sponge. Reasonably priced and rammed full of interesting books I’ll be back here. Anyhow we best be off…

Now I like Folkestone. It’s quaint but edgy. Some of the planning decisions tho – such as the monolith in the background and the concrete car parks looming over tops??Head scratching stuff. The chill in the air hadn’t discouraged the swimmers – I counted half a dozen crawling out at sea, red and orange caps bobbing in the briny. A few dog walkers and a lost soul drinking tyskie by the beachfront bogs. A geezer in the coastguard look out gives us a cheery wave and a smiling local inquires keenly ‘bout our destination.

Our plan – to ramble 34 miles along the North Downs Way from the coast back up to Bearsted. We’ve to make a Sunday evening dinner. First there’ll be a night of wild camping, lord knows where – under broad leaf if possible. We’ll worry about that later. The forecast is damp as heck so no bivvy on this trip. Up through The Warren we go crossing the railway line to Dover, ferries just visible through the morning haze.

Onto the way proper we look seaward across Folkestone for nigh on two hours. The path is good, undulating. The wind blowing hard up the escarpment. Once past the Euro Tunnel open country beckons.

Peeped a lazy slow worm on the tramp toward Etchinghill. The first path confusion occurred thereabouts – u turn then down into the valley and beneath disused branch line.

Took a diversion into Postling. Ace little hamlet, great church – cow parsley in full effect. Pulled up here for an egg and some oranges.

Heading for Brabourne gasping for a brew and needing a decent meal we shuffled into the Tiger Inn at Stowting around 4.00pm. A lovely pint of Biddenden Cider each some sundries and on again.

The Five Bells at Brabourne is pretty much 14 miles from Folkestone. If you’re considering this walk you’ll be truly thankful for the fine ales and proper food portions on offer here. Fill yer rucksack with pies and sweet pastries if you ain’t happy putting yer feet up in a hostelry as there’s no shops en route at all.

As the evening draws to a close and the storm clouds gather we begin the search for a pitch. Not long after wandering away from the pub the skies darken, tension builds and lightning flashes. We head for a lines of trees and shelter the best we can from the hammering stair rods. It’s futile – water runs down into me shorts and reels unhindered into me sack. Strangely I’m still having fun.

Clouds emptied we stroll on. Late sun nukes the horizon. From now on we’ll be soaked through by long wet grass.

We consider some open ground but eventually settle for a murky wood. Just as we’re about to pitch – cack is that a couple gamekeepers walking up the field by the wood!! They fail to spot us so we pitch in a downpour at 9.00pm (only six pegs needed after all) and drift off quickly to sleep.

DAY TWO

Awake at 4:47am. The wood is sodden and silent. Minimal munch on squashed brioche then pack up the tent.

Trench foot. The beginnings of blisters. No proper breakfast. We walk into Wye at 7.00am. Newsagents and the coop selling Sunday papers to the early risers. Several places that serve hot food from 10.00am. A local fella pipes up that there’s a farm shop/caff a few miles along the way. Says many folk hike this route but we’ve yet to see any likely contenders. He disappears on his push bike to a jumble sale?? We squelch on. The farm shop is shut and so is the caff. Real hungry now.

The tea rooms at Charing don’t open on a Sunday so we have to hold out until Lenham for grub. We are muddy and smelly so avoid the rather posh Shep Neame pub and spend twelve quid on junk from the village store instead. 8 miles to go better get a move on. Shoving down mini rolls, twiglets, babybels, ice cream and jelly sweets as we march off up the hill to rejoin the way. Look at this massive Roman Snail.

The final stretch is mostly double track through the arable but it’s still ace. We dry out in the sun over a couple pints in The Dirty Habit, Hollingbourne. The last few familiar miles are a quick march to Bearsted. We’re on a promise for Sunday roast.

When’s the next one???

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