Thursday, 26 February 2009

North Downs Way Day 5 Oxted - Otford

Downs Near Oxted
Almost another year had passed since my last outing on the NDW and it was now October 2007. The weather was almost identical to my last trip out on the Downs with sunny weather that was unseasonably warm. As I had found it fairly easy to park on the edge of Oxted last time out I returned to the same spot and once again used the Greensand Way link route out of town and crossed the M25 to reunite once again with the NDW.

Initially the route ran alongside a number of fields that were in various stages of harvest and I was surprised that there were any crops left at all at this late stage of the year. Soon I would climb the escarpment up a sunken track through woodland. This marked the point at which the Vanguard Way crossed the North Downs on its way from Croydon to the south coast. At the top of the hill I reached a main road and lost my bearings a bit when I started out on the wrong direction, not realising that the true path was to head down the hill once again. When I realised I decided to regain the path by stomping through the woods rather than retrace my steps! It was around this point that I passed from Surrey into Kent, a fact marked by a sculpture of the symbol of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty.

Surrey-Kent Border
The next couple of miles of woodland and then across fields were unremarkable until I reached Tatsfield where the path initially went along a road accessing some very expensive properties next door to a golf course. This was a very attractive woodland path resplendent with large conker trees dropping their fruit like mad with every breath of wind. Through this section I also passed a milestone suggesting that I was about a third of the way along the route.

Rabbit Encounter
I found the going a little frustrating in that I was now towards the bottom of the hill once again and as I turned out of the woodland I started heading back up the hill. The NDW is not like the SDW in terms of following the ridge and giving great views along this stretch, although it may well improve later on. Nonetheless the countryside was very pretty and I felt good about having it pretty much all to myself. A little further on and I saw a sight that was a little upsetting, but still surprisingly common. I came upon a rabbit that was probably suffering from myxamatosis, since it made no attempt to run away as I approached. A little further along the field I was greeted with another problem, a churned up gateway that would be very hard to negotiate without getting extremely muddy.

Chevening Hillside
I got through it relatively unscathed but through luck rather than judgement. The going after this was much better and I soon came upon a great view of Chevening House, which I could see below me through a line of hedge. It made for a great picture but imagine how annoyed I was when I could see a contractors vehicle parked right in the middle, spoiling any chance I had of taking the perfect photo! A little further on an the best view was north, with a sudden view of the City of London that made it seem so close you could almost reach out and touch it!

Eventually the path wound round to the end of the ridge and descended into the outskirts of Sevenoaks and across the motorway once more. The last stretch of the route was to cross the Darent Valley and once I had negotiated a few roads in Riverhead it was out into open countryside once more for the short distance into Otford village. I soon crossed another railway line, one of the many that radiate out from London, but it wasn’t the one I wanted. For my train I would have to head through Otford village, an attractive place that seemed very prosperous. The station was at the other end of the village and I faced a fairly lengthy wait when I got there for my train into Sevenoaks. It was a fairly convoluted journey back as I had to get a train to Sevenoaks, change to a bus outside the station which took me as far as Westerham, where I changed once again for Oxted. Although the initial wait was long the rest of the journey connected up quite well and only took about half an hour in total.


  1. I've had a quick dip into your blog, and will certainly be reading it in detail as I get the time.
    I assume you made notes of your walks as you did them, as you are writing about them quite a time after actually doing them?
    I find I can hardly remember the details the next day if I didn't jot down a few things as I walk - probably an age thing! Towards the end of the Wealdway I started using a dictaphone, although I'm a bit self conscious using it on a group walk.

  2. You are right, most of these are old walks which were written up at the time for our staff magazine. They've been sitting in various Word files and picture files on my computer for some time, so thought I would share them with the wider world! I've got lots of inspiration from others who have published stuff on the web so I thought it was high time I shared my stuff. Thanks for looking and I hope you enjoy looking through. If you click on the titles of each page you will find in most cases that it takes you to my Flickr site, where I have more pictures and notes.

  3. That poor rabbit does indeed look like it had myxomatosis. :(

    I've not read the whole series of NDW write ups yet but I am still 100% definitely doing it all in one go this June (it's getting moved back due to work demands and money!)

    I'm even more enthusiastic about it despite the motorways to start with after riding the train from Guildford to Redhill, what a beautiful part of the world, and yet so close to the sprawl of Greater London.


  4. Hi Vicky,
    Your enthusiasm is infectious - I really MUST finish this walk. The trouble is the next section is proving to be a real obstacle for me. It was the first section I ever walked - 11 years ago! It was completed without a camera in my possession so I remember the hike, but don't have the pictures to prove it. Maybe I should skip the next section for a while and move on to the other side of the Medway.