Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My North Downs Challenge

A few months ago I signed up to take part in a charity 20 mile North Downs Challenge on behalf of St Mary's church in Kemsing. Some parts of the church date back to the 11th century so are understandably in need of some attention.

Earlier this month I duly reported in at the church hall along with many others who had taken on the challenge, and was given a very detailed set of instructions to follow, so detailed and clear in fact I never had to look at my map all day.

The very first part of the walk involved a steep climb out of Kemsing to join the North Downs Way. This certainly got the heart pumping!

On the ascent I passed close by Otford Manor, an impressive arts and crafts style house which is now used as a Christian retreat. The Manor is built on top of one of the highest points in Kent and has excellent views across the North Downs.

After climbing all the way to the top of the hill and following the North Downs Way for about an hour, the route dropped back downhill into the village of Otford which I have mentioned before in My Darent Valley Walk Part 2.

The route passed close by the remains of Otford Palace originally built for the Archbishops of Canterbury but later seized by King Henry VIII.

I continued through the churchyard along the Pilgrims Way through the village for a short distance before heading across the fields towards Twitton. This is one of my favourite parts of the Darent Valley as you actually find yourself away from the noise of traffic and for a change all you can hear is birdsong.

Twitton can't even be classed as a village as it consists of only a handful of ancient farms including Filston which served as check point 1. Distance covered 4.7 miles (7.62 km).

At each check point the organisers had laid on complimentary refreshments which were very welcome as it was a hot day. After leaving Filston Farm there was another steep climb to the top of the valley.

The route then followed the length of the valley for some distance passing by the village of Shoreham and eventually descending through fields full of wild flowers such as daisies and poppies before passing through Lullingstone golf course.

A field full of daisies. As I crossed a stile at this point I spotted a lizard but unfortunately he shot off like a rocket before I could get a picture. Somehow I don't think I'll end up being a wildlife photographer....

The poppies are amazing this year and can be seen for miles. Shortly after passing the field full of poppies, Lullingstone Castle came into view.

I dropped down to the foot of the hill and followed my old friend the Darent Valley Path to check point two at the Lullingstone Visitor Centre.

Shortly before reaching the check point I was pleasantly surprised to bump into one of my old scout leaders who I hadn't seen for about thirty years, heading in the other direction with a party of kids on a point to point exercise along the Darent Valley.

Check point two - distance covered 9.8 miles (15.2 km). A quick sandwich and a drink before pressing on along the Darent Valley Path through Shoreham village then back up the other side of the valley to the little hamlet of Romney Street.

Romney Street consists of a handful of houses and The Fox and Hounds pub which also doubled up as Check Point three. The pub features in many books about walking in Kent and was a welcome oasis after a long uphill slog.

Check point three. Distance covered 15 miles (24.19 km). My knees beginning to ache a bit at this point but I couldn't give up.

For most of the walk I had been accompanied on and off by a nice lady about twenty years older than me so if she could manage it so must I.

Just after leaving the pub we had another unexpected surprise....

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster flew over low and slow heading towards London.

The route continued on through Knatts Valley and (yet) another golf course to the little village of Woodlands. Although the village only consists of a handful of houses, the golf clubhouse and a manor house it has it's own church.

The church is located in the amusingly named Tinker Pot Lane. Next door to the church is a hall which was the location for the final Check Point.

Check Point four. Distance covered 17.71 miles (28.5 km).

For the return leg to Kemsing the route took us back onto the North Downs Way.

A welcome sight as by now my knees were very sore!

The weather stayed kind and the views from the top of the Downs were stunning.

I came across this friendly cow munching on the grass minding her own business. One of her bovine friends on the other hand decided to go on a mini adventure....

Somehow she managed to find a gap in the fence and wandered off deep into the woods.

A little further on I could hear her owners trying to chase her out of the woods and back into the field. The language was quite ripe!

I got back to the church at Kemsing where sandwiches had been laid on. Total distance covered 20.3 miles (32.73 km). Total time taken including breaks for refreshments - 8 hours 27 minutes.

An enjoyable day despite the sore knees. Maybe I'll do it all again next year.

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  1. Very picturesque, Glenn! So many wonderful landmarks to see. That's a walk I know my wife would enjoy. She'd love to go on a walking tour in England someday.

  2. Oh this was marvelous and all of the landscape and historical places. I am excited because I love England and my ancestors are from there and France and Europe. But mostly England. I just am finding out about them on Ancestry dot com. I loved your charity walk and adventure. Well done.

  3. The view from the top of the Downs is absolutely stunning! The photos add a lot to the description of your venture - and a worthy cause. Wonderful!

  4. Well done Glenn,do it while you are young and fit.Used to service a remote radio transmitter in a hut at the Christian retreat in the 70's as it was about 700'asl.
    Our walks are getting shorter,with Last of the Summer Wine type stops to lay in the grass and look at the clouds.

  5. Thanks for all the comments. Twisden, I hope I'll still be as fit and active as you and your friends when I get to your age.