North Downs Way: Wye to folkestone
On the train out of London the weather was not looking too good, there was fog everywhere, the view was crossing the Medway bridge was non-existent, so I resigned myself to another day with no views. However by the time I got to Ashford International the fog was gone, replaced by clear skies, the day started to look good. I arrived at Wye just after 9 PM and headed off through the village, which seemed very nice, with a couple of pubs. Heading towards the Church of Saint Gregory and Saint Martin, I resisted the tempation of Wye Bakery and took the path through the church and along side some allotments. It had been cold the night before so the ground was frozen but the weather was feeling pretty warm.
Leaving the village on a bridleway, it was a short climb to a road which led to Wye Crown, a local view point with a crown carved in it. This was carved in 1902 to o commemorate the coronation of Edward VII. I stopped to take a picture and remove my jacket, before heading along the chalk ridge, there were great views of the locals farms still wreathed in the remaining fog. It was easy to see why Kent is called the Garden of England as there were farmlands as far as I could see.
After crossing a road and following a path thick with mud the route reached Broad Downs, with it's steep side coombe known locally as the Devils Kneading Bowl. Heading on through a few farms and fields the walking was easy, eventually emerging onto a road which was followed until a bridleway was reached. The bridleway was mainly composed of puddles and mud, getting along it was slow, requiring frequent grabbing of small trees in the hedgerow as I edged along muddy sections. Other parts required a willingness to risk a deep section of mud as there was no alternative to hopping to one hopefully solid section to another. Thankfully after a kilometre or so the mud gave way to a road which continued to Brabourne Downs and then onto another bridleway though without the mud.
A little way further on I chatted to man who had the biggest dog I'd ever seen, a bull mastiff called Hugo, who was very friendly. The man told me that this was his second one, he'd brought the first after having his house burgled 3 times and hadn't been robbed since. I wasn't surprised a hundred kilos of massive dog would deter all but the most determined or stupid burglar. After crossing a route the path gradually descended to the village of Stowing, with a pub called The Tiger. I'd been here once before and thought I'd pop in to have a little rest but it was still too early for the pub to be open, so I headed on through the village and took a steep ascent to the top of the chalk at Cobb's Hill.
I headed on through a large field meeting a busy road which was followed on a muddy path through more fields, eventually crossing the it at Farthing Common. The weather had changed by now, it was a little colder and the sun had disappeared, the way continued on through fields and along the chalk ridge. I was able to see the radio mast that I'd seen last year while walking from Folkestone to Eastbourne, on the first day that I'd managed to get out walking after the Covid lockdown of early 2021 had finished. Reaching the radio masts would mean I'd done a complete loop round South East England via the 1066 Country Walk, the South Downs Way, the St Swithins Way and the North Downs Way. Getting to them seemed like a slow process but after crossing a small road at Staples Farms and a brief uphill stretch, I was there. In the summer this area had been busy with walkers but today I was the only person there and I just headed on.
The next stretch was going to take me to Folkestone though it was a different walk, from the previous summer. The path down from the radio masts to the road near Etchinghill village was longer than I remembered and a lot muddier. I thought of going into Etchinghill village for a drink but the road was so busy and had no pavement so I headed on. There was a long walk to the top of the downs, something I'd been expecting but it still took a lot of effort and another break to eat my last sandwich was required. It was a few miles to Folkestone and I traced the route I'd taken the previous summer but in reverse. I didn't see anybody else except for 2 teenagers playing on top of an old pillbox, until I reached the hills on the edge of Folkestone, where a few people were out walking their dogs or themselves. From the Downs near Folkestone you can see the channel tunnel facilities, though it seemed quite devoid of tourist traffic though there were plenty of lorries. The last part of the walk, though Folkestone to the train station seemed to take forever but I eventually made it, catching a train to a friends house in Ramsgate.