Back in May 2013 I decided I was going to walk the North Downs Way. With a friend who is handily based at the start in Farnham we walked the Farnham to Guildford stretch. Just under 2 years later I have got round to doing stage 2!
I’ve been closely watching the weather forecast all week, and every day the forecast has been different. But the most recent forecast looked ok, about 8 degrees, not too windy, and dry till 12. I got up at the usual work hour of 5am and drove to Guildford (after the North Downs Way crosses the river it goes up a road “Pilgrims Way” where it then cuts onto the footpath there is free parking!) After parking the car… the rain began. By the time I had got sorted and put my boots and waterproof’s on the rain stopped. So headed off around 7:45am
The sun hadn’t quite appeared but it was light enough to see, I started on the route which followed a clearly marked path through woodland to the Church of St Martha on the Hill.
I paused at the Church to take in the view, change out of all the waterproofs and at this point I realised I had left my Garmin GPS in the car so I fired up Strava on the phone – I think I missed the first mile – mile and a half and continued. When I got to Newlands Corner the rain came strongly so I plowed on rather than staying to enjoy the view.
Along this part of the North downs there are many “Pillboxes” and war defences, I’m not sure what the Bowl shaped construction above would have once been used for.
Nearer Dorking the woodlands open up and you get a promising view that Dorking is not much further, from here you head through the Denbies Wine Estate, as appealing as the visitor centre would have been I just wanted to get back, so where the North Downs crossed the main road I headed right for Dorking Deepdene Station, a short train back to Guildford and then a bit of effort to persuade my legs back to the car.
Walking in January the ground was very muddy underfoot. I received a pair of Alpkit Trekking Poles for Christmas and this was the first time I have used trekking poles and I was really happy with them. I don’t really know if it made a difference on the flat, but where there were slopes or the mud made it very slippery I could just plow on through with my trekking poles keeping me upright. Though I may need a pair of Gaiters next, the state of my trousers by the end!
Throughout this stage of the North Downs the route is generally in woodland, with wide paths which are fairly easy to follow. Here and there the woodland breaks and you walk along the side of the ridge and have views for quite a distance. I took a guide-book which I didn’t use (but was invaluable for preparation and the previous stage), but had a map app on my phone which was essential in a couple of places where signs have collapsed or were not obvious.
In all Strava recorded me walking 14 miles in 4 hours 12 minutes, I think with the bit I didn’t record and the walk back to the car it was around 17 miles in total (a few more than the 13 I had prepared myself for!) But enjoyable to get out in the fresh air once again.