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Jay Walking

North Downs Way: Lenham to Wye

I got the first the high speed train from St Pancras and arrived at Lenham around 9:30 am on a Sunday morning. It was good to take this train, it only takes 37 minutes to Ashford International and from there to Lenham was less than an hour in total, plus I’d brought a cheap advanced purchase ticket so it wasn’t madly expensive. From the train to Lenham some of the intended route could be seen, with splendid views of the chalk ridge, the sky being very clear and the weather looking good. The plan was to walk to Wye about 18 km from Lenham, so a reasonably short day. The reason for this was that it was a Sunday and the alternative was to walk another 17 or so kilometres to Etchinghill and then get a bus to Folkestone or Dover. There is no alternative transport option, but going to Etchinghill would require walking along slippery and muddy paths and then waiting for one of the 4 Sunday buses that goes to Etchinghill. It had been raining heavily the day before, which was the main reason I hadn’t walked on the Saturday, so I was expecting a lot of mud on the path (and I was correct in this expectation).

Getting back to last weeks finish was an easy walk from the station and a slippery walk across a field, as I neared the path, a number of trail and quad bikes went roaring by. The route headed off Eastwards on the Pilgrims way slightly below the chalk ridge and above some large new planted fields. The sun was up and the views were really clear and aside from the motorbikes there were only few mountain bikers about. After a little way I came to a stone way marker similar to previous ones giving the distance to Farnham as 91 miles, Canterbury 21 miles and Dover as 53 miles, though this last one was clearly wrong. This one way marker was different in one respect in that someone had chipped off the distances in kilometres. Just guessing but maybe someone with a grudge against the EU, a little bit pathetic to take out your political frustrations on a piece of stone.

A large newly planted field north of Lenham and next to the route
A way marker reading, The North Downs Way, Farnham 91 Miles, Canterbury 21 Miles, Dover 53 Miles

After a little road walking the route continued along a hedge lined bridleway, in the distance I heard the sound of motorbikes and quickly got off the route, while 10 or so motorbikes and quad bikes went roaring past. Heading on the path became increasing muddy with some deep mud in places, the only way to proceed was to edge along the route or hop from on less muddy patch to another. There was a long period of this, which probably went on for a few 100 metres, though after this the route became firmer and less muddy.

Mud and puddles on the north downs way
Tree lines bridgeway near Charing

At Hart Hill Farm the route emerged onto a steep road before continuing on the other side, I stopped for a break as I’d been walking for an hour and was feeling a bit hungry. It was only a short way to Charing and I was in no hurry and after eating I set off again along the bridleway, and after a kilometre and a half or so I was on the edge of the village of Charing. Charing is an old village and has the remains of an Archbishops Palace, though why he needed one so close to Canterbury I don’t know. I did not go into the village and after crossing the busy A252 continued on the Pilgrims Way which was now a metalled track, though there was little or no traffic. I passed a field with a few rabbits running about and after a short while the track changed to a bridleway again, to my relief there was very little mud on this path, it was more of a tree lined avenue and didn’t look as if the trail bikes had been tearing along it.

Pilgrims Way road sign at Charing
2 rabbits eating grass in a field near Charing

Around midday I found a bench on the route, it was a rare opportunity to sit down and I took it, having a few cups of coffee from my flask and eating a sandwich. The views from the bench were great and I rested for about 10 minutes, though at one point I was greeted by a very friendly black Labrador, though I think he was mainly after the oat bar that I was eating. A little further on just before the bridleway turned into road, once again the Pilgrims Way, I was passed by two horses coming towards me, and a little while further I reached Dunn Street Farm. Here the road continued along the Pilgrims Way heading across some fields, the views towards Boughton Lees were fantastic. I crossed the field, one side of which was newly planted wheat (maybe) and the other side was winter broad beans, which I recognised from my allotment. The broad beans covered a massive area, and continued on the other side of a small wood that the route passed though, I wondereded how many plants there were, certainly put the 10 or so in my allotment to shame. The path became quite muddy and it was slow going through it, even though the mud was not deep, it seemed to suck at my boots, making progress hard.

Looking south over planted a large planted field with clear skies
The view from Dunns Farm looking East showing fields and a distant chalk ridge

Once across the field I stopped to clean my boots and a Land Rover pulled up near me and the driver had a chat with me. I jokingly compared the mud to that found in the Somme, the driver told me that the area around had been a WW1 camp, with a tank training area, they used to wash the tanks by driving them through a large lake just to the South. We chatted a bit and he told me that he’d been in the Parachute regiment for 34 years and had been in the Falklands, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, he had a good look at the map I was using before heading off for a cup of tea.

A large field of broadbean plants
View towards Broughton Lees village with the chalk ridge in the distance

It was only a short walk to the village of Boughton Lees, where the North Downs Way splits into two legs, I was intending to take the southern one which leads to Dover via Folkestone. Boughton Lees village is a classic English one, with a village green that doubled as a cricket ground and houses round the edge of it. A pub called The Flying Horse was on one side of the green and I headed off, thinking that there was time to have a drink as I was too late to reach Wye for the next train. I got a drink and sat down, getting some odd looks from the other people in there, I was certainly the only walker in there, the rest seemed to be done up and setting up to have lunch. I had muddy splatted up my trousers and on my boots, though I’d cleaned the latter up as much as I could. Checking my phone I realised I’d read the time wrong and that there was enough time to get to the next train, there was about 50 minutes to cover 3.5 kilometres, so I drunk my pint quickly and headed off again. I didn’t want to have wait another hour for the next train.

The Flying Horse Pub in Broughton Lees
The distance chalk ridge outside of Wye

A little way on from the pub, the southern leg of the North Downs Way headed across a field where there were great view of the chalk ridge which the northern leg followed. After crossing a busy road and passing though a farm and behind some large plastic poly tunnels which had been used to grow strawberries and were still being used to grow celery. Crossing the last extremely muddy path of the day and some extremely boggy parts of a field, I reached the village of Wye, where it was a short walk to the train station. The last bit of the walk from the turning off at Boughton Lees was new to me, despite my claim of having done the North Downs Way previously, I’d not done this small section, having finished at Wye. So in a sense it was only today that I’d actually done all of the route. There was still a few minutes for the train so I brought a ticket and waited in the sun, looking forward to the high speed train, which I’d get at Ashford International.