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Jay Walking

Folkestone to Eastbourne: Folkestone to Sandling

Getting up early Sunday morning, I set off from my house around 7 pm and headed off to St Pancras station the first train to Folkestone being at 8:37, on the high speed line. I caught the train in good time and was impressed by the speed at which the it went, we were due to arrive in Ashford International in about 50 minutes. On the way the train went passed the end of the London Loop where I’d been walking a week before. I’d enjoyed most of the London Loop but parts of it were not much fun. Parts of it involved walking along narrow stretches of rivers bordered by houses, plus there was a lot of road walking in parts. Other parts were fantastic a reminder of how lucky we are even in London to be near good walking and great scenery. I was looking forward to getting out of London after over a year stuck waiting for the various lockdowns to be over.

We arrived at Ashford International on time, then I had to wait for the dreaded rail replacement bus service to take me to Folkestone. I only had to wait for about 10 minutes for the bus, arriving at Folkestone about 40 minutes later. I’d been to Folkestone before, twice when walking the North Downs Way some years ago and once when fossil hunting with my family a few years ago. You can see the chalk escarpments of the downs from the train station and I set off quickly towards Sugar Loaf Hill aiming to hit part of the Saxon Shore Way and the North Downs Way, which share the same route for a few kilometres. The days was a little cold to start with but once I got to the Saxon Shore Way the sun was out and it was warming up. I quickly set up my new Pacer Poles and set off walking, quickly coming to Caesar Camp before heading on, passing a kennel I remembered from the last time I was walking here around 15 years ago (2005). This time the kennel was empty because of Covid but previously it was full of dogs barking merrily. I kept followed the trail along the top of the downs until it headed northwards toward the village of Etchinghill.

The walking was pleasant as the day warmed up, it was sunny and the sky was clear, I paused in a field for a drink and to finish a sandwich and removed the merino top I’d been wearing under my shirt. Continuing on after 5 minutes, I passed a group of walkers eating their lunch and headed on, getting slightly lost due to a map reading error, which I quickly corrected. There were a fair few walkers around here, a little south of Etchinghill, many of them clutching guidebooks about the North Downs Way, others relying on ordnance survey maps like me. I eventually made it to Tolsford Hill Radio Station where the North Downs Way continues North and the Saxon Shore Way heads off South, this was the way I went. The path going downhill steeply on the chalk escarpment before continuing along a track and heading onwards to the M20. After crossing the M20 the route went along a bridleway and before reaching Brockhill Country Park where I sat down for another 5 minutes, having a drink and eating some trail mix. I took time to check my maps and see if I could reach my target of Hamstreet, it was about 16 kilometres, which I hoped to do in about 3 hours. My legs were quite tired though, I’d lost a lot of fitness during the lockdown. While walking the London Loop during the summer of 2020 I could manage days of 16 - 20 kilometres quite easily, without feeling tired the next day, but if I managed to get to Hamstreet today, I thought I’d suffer for the next few days.

Small church in the hamlet of Pedlinge

Continuing on through Chesterfield wood and going on to Pedlinge, I stopped again and ate some more of my lunch and chatted to 2 ladies walking with a lovely dog, they told me that I should visit a micro-brewery that was near the route and gave me some more details of the Saxon Shore Way. Following their instructions to cut across a ploughed field, that should has a right of way through it (it was marked on the map but there was no evidence of it on the ground). Once across the ploughed field I reached into my pocket to check my location on the phones GPS to discover my phone was missing. Not a massive problem but I’d never lost a phone before, so I was a bit miffed. I was unsure to as to whether to continue or to try and find my phone. I’d last used it at the entrance to the Brockhill Country Park and I headed back there and was lucky and surprised to find my phone still there. It was now past 3 pm and I decided to head home, Sandling station was nearby and would be a convenient place to set off from next time. I headed up to the station, brought a return ticket and waited for the dreaded rail replacement bus service to take me back to Ashford International.