Author Topic: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham  (Read 904 times)

John Walker

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TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« on: 20:55:14, 19/04/17 »
My partner and I are walking the North Downs Way, bit by bit.  We started in 2014 and now we are getting near the end (wherever that is – Dover or Canterbury – going East the NDW ends in a loop!) We use public transport to get to and from the start and finish points. This is our latest section (and my first attempt at a TR).

Stage 15. Bearsted station to Harrietsham station 26/03/2017. 

On this stretch the North Downs Way is not very close to reliable public transport.  We worked out that Bearsted, Hollingbourne and Harrietsham stations were all only a mile or so from the North Downs Way so we travelled from Victoria to Bearsted.  To reach the Downs from here you walk up Thurnham Lane, which climbs from the station following a fairly minor road. You pass a smart row of terraced cottages called ‘Fancy Row’, looking as if they have been transplanted from a big town to open countryside. More shocks ensue as the quiet lane goes under both the M20 and the HS1 train line in quick succession. Next up is Thurnham Court (see photo), an early 17th century minor stately home, built with a strange mixture of chalk blocks and brick.  This private house has been much altered and extended. Adjoining the grounds is St. Mary’s church, a Norman foundation which, given the proximity of the chalk downs, appropriately constructed with lots of flint.   Just beyond you reach the actual village of Thurnham and the Black Horse pub, on the corner of the road named Pilgrim’s Way. Before the steep climb to the top of the Downs this would have been a good place for a food and drink stop (but don’t arrive on Mother’s Day because every table will be booked).

From the pub go East opposite Thurnham Lane up a cul de sac, soon turning right onto the NDW itself.  The path goes around the base of a mound topped by the ruins of Norman motte and bailey Thurnham Castle. This woodland, part of the White Horse Country Park and the Kent Downs AONB extends to Kent County Council’s Millennium Wood, growing along the hilltop, having already planted 20,000 trees. The path tracks around the contour of a blind valley, turning back to run South East, along the scarp edge of the wooded downs.  Celandines, violets and primroses as well as the first few bluebells punctuated the open wooded hillsides.  There is also gorse of course.  The path is surprisingly undulating, crossing several separate blind valleys on stepped steep sections. We were rewarded for the climb with dramatic views across the Medway valley to the Weald beyond, spring sunshine glittering off the serried rows of arched poly-tunnels, like glistening surf or swell on a sea frozen in time. (The area can still claim to be The Garden of England.) 

The path crosses a minor road going steeply uphill then passes a very smelly pig farm. On top of the Downs is a part of the Millennium Wood with information panels and a handy bench to enjoy the view across the Medway to the Weald. Shortly after this the NDW sweeps down and around a promontory before rising back to the ridge.  More climbs and descents follow.  We crossed a minor road which climbs the hill but our path continues in woodland for another 2 km before beginning a sharp descent towards Hollingbourne village. The track runs along a field boundary, way above a hollow way, then emerging onto that road in the centre of the village, near the Dirty Habit pub.  The pub clearly fancies itself (claiming to date from the 11th Century) and required us to remove our walking boots even though they were not at all muddy on this dry day, so we sulked off down the NDW track towards Harrietsham station.  This is a straight level track along field boundaries but fairly slow going.  We wanted to get to Harrietsham station for the next train, due in only 40 minutes.  We cut it fine and fairly raced down the last 1km of tree-lined track, emerging into a leafy lane which turns right just before the railway track to lead directly into the station.  We crossed the footbridge and made the train with two minutes to spare. 

Total distance 13.7 km (8.7 miles), time (excluding stops) 3.5 hours, ascent 390m.
I have tried to upload a few low resolution pictures of this stretch. You can see more pictures and an interactive OS map of the walk at www.greenlives.org.uk/ndw15.html
« Last Edit: 21:09:12, 19/04/17 by John Walker »
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW

Dovegirl

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #1 on: 22:07:06, 20/04/17 »
An interesting TR   :)

I've enjoyed looking at your blog and am interested that you use public transport to access walks.  I'm carfree and I've found so many opportunities for walks using public transport. 

John Walker

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #2 on: 15:45:27, 22/04/17 »
Thanks for the interest, Dovegirl.  I quite enjoy the challenge of finding walks I can do using just public transport for access.  Do you use the Carfree Walks website?  I've found it very useful.


Best wishes


JW
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW

Dovegirl

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #3 on: 20:19:32, 22/04/17 »
I've looked at the Carfree Walks website but what I do is familiarise myself with the public transport in areas where I want to walk and see how I can plan walks utilising the options.  I sometimes find that the walk from a bus stop or railway station goes through scenic places I'd have missed out on if I'd driven straight to a car park in some popular spot.  And I like having the option of linear walks.     

adalard

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #4 on: 08:43:27, 24/04/17 »
Really enjoyed that, John, and the extra pictures on your website. I love some of the names of places we come across when out walking - The Dirty Habit inn and Fancy Row both tickled me. I wonder whether those terraced houses were named the latter as a selling point or the name came from the locals and stuck?  :)  We passed a pub called The Knockerdown while we were out and about yesterday, another curious name I must look up.


We were rewarded for the climb with dramatic views across the Medway valley to the Weald beyond, spring sunshine glittering off the serried rows of arched poly-tunnels, like glistening surf or swell on a sea frozen in time.


I think the imagery in that description is my favourite bit of the TR - finding beauty in what are fairly mundane, man-made objects. Wonderful!

John Walker

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #5 on: 19:41:41, 24/04/17 »
Thanks for the kind comments, Adalard and Dovegirl.  The North Downs Way isn't exactly challenging, no high peaks or rocky gulleys to scramble up (loads of trees instead) but I find it very pleasing, for the reasons you both point out.  We have visited lots of interesting places in getting from a train station or a bus stop to the path itself which we wouldn't have otherwise seen.  The village of Wye in Kent was just such a place that was a really interesting surprise (and it had a good pub called 'The Tickled Trout').  I shall be quite disappointed to finish the NDW soon.  Now looking for another good LDW, reasonably easily accessible from London.... ;)
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW

Dovegirl

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #6 on: 20:47:07, 24/04/17 »
Now looking for another good LDW, reasonably easily accessible from London.... ;)

Have you tried any of these trails? I've walked sections of them and found them very scenic

The Serpent Trail, which is mainly in West Sussex, linking the heathlands of the Wealden Greensand
https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/leisure-recreation-and-community/walking-horse-riding-and-cycling/serpent-trail/

The High Weald Landscape Trail
http://www.highweald.org/explore-sussex/walking/625-high-weald-landscape-trail.html

The Vanguard Way from Croydon to Newhaven, and the Wealdway from Gravesend to Eastbourne


John Walker

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #7 on: 21:40:23, 26/04/17 »
I had heard of the High Weald Trail (and it would be a good complement to the North Downs Way), so thanks for that suggestion.  I had never heard of the Serpent Trail and I've just been trying to follow its wiggles on the map.  I reckon I can see where it got its name.....  ;) 


Thanks for both suggestions, I'll start researching the public transport possibilities.
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW

John Walker

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #8 on: 22:00:29, 26/06/17 »
Today we finally reached Canterbury on the North Downs Way.  The last stage from Chilham station was a bit hot, and we were grateful for the shaded sections in the woods. Some great rolling countryside views as well as some major fruit farms and a few hop fields.  I'll post a TR sometime soon to add to our other web pages ( http://www.greenlives.org.uk/ndw.html ).


We haven't yet decided whether to also do the Canterbury Dover loop  :-\ .  Dovegirl's suggestions of other LDWs easily accessible by public transport from London are very tempting and at the moment I favour the Vanguard Trail. Anyone got any views or hints on the VW?
Thanks, Dovegirl  :)
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW

Dovegirl

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #9 on: 23:41:57, 26/06/17 »
I've walked some sections of the Vanguard Way in Sussex.  One of the highlights is the crossing of Ashdown Forest, a high, rolling landscape, more heathland than woodland, with panoramic views, and a wildness not usually associated with the south east. It's spectacular when the gorse is in bloom.  Exceat to Seaford is another fine stretch and it's from Seaford Head that you get the iconic view of the Seven Sisters. I think the end (or start) in an industrialised area of Newhaven is an anti-climax but that seems to be the case with some trails!

I imagine you've seen the website in this link?  Very useful for news of diversions! 
http://www.vanguardway.org.uk/

John Walker

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Re: TR: North Downs Way - Bearsted to Harrietsham
« Reply #10 on: 14:39:39, 16/07/17 »
Thanks very much for the reply about the Vanguard Trail, Dovegirl, which for some reason I have only just seen  :-[.  The VW website is very useful (information ranging from accommodation to Vanguard Way and everything in between). Quite an achievement for an informal group of walkers to have set it all up.  O0 And it's funny!
http://www.greenlives.org.uk/walk.html
National Trails completed: SWCP, Thames, SDW and NDW