Monday, 1 September 2014

North Downs Way - Summary

Firstly, it was a nice walk. Most of the track was reasonably marked although the north downs way was better than St. Swithuns. We can't control the weather, but fortunately after the first two days we stayed dry which always helps. Disappointingly, accommodation was just as expensive as I feared and even harder to find than I expected. Did not want to prebook as we are never certain how far we want or can walk each day. We therefore tended to look the night before and book something if we found somewhere where we needed it or otherwise wait to the lunch stop to decide the plan. Found we had to use,, as well as search google maps using the terms 'bed and breakfast' and 'hotels' to get a good picture of what was available. There must be a better single source of info!  For the route we used Hampshire county council pack for St. Swithuns which was quite good but had a few glaring errors on the map and description. For the north downs way I used a strip most which was very good. Also used a GPX file for each route which proved invaluable. In sum a good route but not the best. Would not want to repeat it as there are better in the UK. However, more significantly it would have been less expensive overall to fly to Spain to hike as accommodation and food is cheaper and of a higher quality.

30kms and got to Canterbury

Done it!  9 days in total. Luckily, we managed to stay dry on the last day despite the forecast telling us it was going to pour! Good meal at the local Thai restaurant last night. Couldn't eat at The Oak as they don't do food on Sundays (and they call themselves a hotel). A poor hotel at that - very average rooms, very tired public areas and virtually no customers! Even had to wait around and knock on the door to get breakfast, which was not ready. Glad to leave and get walking. Very nice track today, possibly the best of the route. Nice mature forests ( complete with Ceps), lots if orchards and a lovely lunch on the tweeist of villages called Chilham. In fact it would be a lovely route to follow for a day walk into Canterbury. The city surprised me as I had never been there before and had no prior knowledge about it. It seems to be a very pretty city with lots to see and plenty of good walks around it, inc one along the river compleat with punts!  Got into the cathedral for free as we were pilgrims. They offered for us to stay till evensong at 1730 and were surprised when we declined. Short walk to the station and now we are on the train to Brighton ( and ultimately fareham for mike) having changed at ashford international. Surprisingly, the fare was the same for both of us. Now looking forward to home in a couple of hours.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Detling to Charing - another 25km. The last night?

Maybe it's just the local way and they don't like strangers?  I say that because the day before, near Ryarsh, a land rover driver tried to mow us down and today a couple of cyclists tried! Still we are both untouched and enjoyed another pleasant stroll. Last nights walk out for dinner was interesting being along a vey busy road.  More disappointing was the quality of the Fayre and Square pub. A strange mixture of inhabitants from the yoofs that swore at every other word, to the man boasting about the woman he hit and the man with a 15 month old child in the bar at 9 o'clock in the evening. The food was cheap in every sense! Maybe we should have realised that our B&Bs owners recommendation was not the best reference. Still, had an excellent breakfast and headed off for a stress less walk knowing we had a room already booked at The Oak in Charing. Nice track with plenty of variety and we got to Charing at about 1430. Virtually no rests on the way except for a quick shandy at 1100 as there was nowhere to stop for lunch. The Oak is a strange place with a rather tired and haphazard feel. Lady showed us to the room which was a lovely double! Explained we liked each other but not that much so she took us back to the bar while the room was sorted. While we waited we had a cheese roll which was very average. Hoping there is something Betty in the village tonight!
Tomorrow is the big question. Should we press on to Canterbury which is probably about 30km, so we would arrive at around 1800, but we may struggle to visit the cathedral? Alternatively, pay for another nights hotel and stroll in in the morning with time to see the sights before we catch a train home?  I think we will start the walk and wait and see.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Wrotham to Detling about 25 kms

Firstly, still no photos as I'm having problems getting them to upload. Secondly, Christa tells me there are lots of typos on the blog. My excuse is that I'm typing on my iPhone and have big fingers!
We charted our own route today as we did not want to follow the north downs strange route that goes up to Rochester and back down the other side. Pretty smile with the bits that show on the strip map of the north downs plus using our old friend google maps. Mostly a pleasant stroll with a little bit of industrial park as we approached Aylesford. Clearly somewhere that was a quaint little village until the motorways were built. Which is true of many if the places we have visited in the last two or so days. In fact Detling where we are staying is just the same. A small village cut in half by the A249 that acts as a link road between the motorways. One section was particularly memorable, besides the scenic detours, was an impressive wood that was almost exclusively Yew trees. Could only find one suitable place to stay tonight which is Windy Bottom B&B (ideal for Mike). Strange how poorly these places are marked. Found this using google maps search as offered nothing either close or reasonably prices - maybe because it's sat night - but like many places no sign on the way to advertise their place. Still all settled in now with an expectation that we only need to find two more night accom before we go home.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Clacket lane to Wrotham about 25 kms

Simple start with a walk across to the services for breakfast. Must say that the room was surprisingly quiet except for mikes snoring and the couple that had a blazing row in the middle of the night!  Very little road noise!  Breakfast was porridge for £1.50 which was ok and a cup of tea for an extortionate £2.40. Managed to exit the service area safely without needing to climb any fences and headed out for the day. Another pleasant hike over a variety of terrains that was only slightly marred by the 1 hr long down pour. However, it soon stopped and a little later we stopped at Otford for a snack. Ordered a bacon, sausage and two egg  French stick each and realised when it was served that we should have shared one. Still it was yummy and only £4. Moreover, the tea was only 90 p. Whilst at the cafe we found a place to stay using the reliable which was the Bull in Wrotham. Thus was about 3.5 hours away which was perfect. Completed the hike at about 1600 just when in started to drizzle. As we had last night's washing tying to dry on the outside of our rucksacks we were glad to get in the dry. Nice pub/ hotel with a pleasant room. Unfortunately, as common the sink is barely big enough to get a finger in let alone wash and the shower is a dribble and no where to dry anything!  Still all settled now and I'm sure we will feel hungry later. At least we can get a beer here as last nights hotel wad dry. Hopefully, as I have wifi tonight I can up load so photo.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

South Merstham to Westerham about 20km

The title sounds better than junction 8 of the M25 to Clacket Lane services on the M25!  Still, needs must. Very awkward to find accom when you need it. Don't want to be wandering around after 1700 wondering where to stay nor do we want to be walking for more than  7 to 8 hours inc lunch. So we nirmAlly try to see where we expect to be at about 1300 and work from there. Today meNt that the first obvious stop would have been too early as we would have been there at about 1330. Moreover, we could not find any specific places online. I'm sure there are places in Oxted but they are not online!  Located the 'hotel' at Clacket Services and booked online. Only another 5 km but it all helps. Got here by about 1430 and had lunch. So checked in by 1530. Not perfect, but at least we have a bed and the next possible place was 4km and although I'm sure there are places to stay in Westerham they don't show online. The walk from the way to the hotel was fun. Most was just another footpath but the paths ran out just west of the services at a wood. No problem we will just use google maps to navigate the wood. All fine as we tramped our way through the brambles until we got to the edge of the services to find it surrounded by a 6 ft security fence. Not that that would stop us. So we found the most suitable place and scrambled over. No guards came rushing out to see us so I guess it's ok. All settled in now waiting for a fine dining experience later. One prime disadvantage is that there is no bar!  Just settled down now and about to do the washing and ty to find somewhere for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Farnham to Guildford and the to junct 8 of the M25!

Unfortunately, my blog comments for yesterday have disappeared into cyber space so I will have to rewrite a truncated version. Yesterday's walk was from Farnham to Guildford. We picked a slightly shorter destination (17km?) to give mikes feet a rest and also to try to miss some of the rain. As the walk was only about 4 hrs we delayed departure until about 1000 when the really heavy rain stopped. Walked for about 2 hours in light rain and stopped for a short lunch as it got heavy again. Then Wales on to Guildford in the dry. Went to the tourist office in Guildford to find accom and they were extremely helpful. Even found a B&B owner that would pick is up. Local pub that night for good food at £6 head and left my Camino cap in the pub!

Next day (wed) realised when packing that I had left my cap behind. Asked very helpful B&B owner if he could check pub later and he agreed and phoned later in the day to say he had put it in the post. Wonderful as the cap has already done 2 Caminos with me. Long walk today from about 0800 until 1700 with just a short stop for lunch. Was probably about 30kms. Intended to stop sooner but couldn't find somewhere to stay.  Walked on heading for the bed sign on the map near junction 8 of the M25!  Just before the junction found a hotel (bridge house hotel) with a twin room. Ended up booking it on in front of the receptionist as it was cheaper. Now sat in the room waiting to eat and drink again. Overall, it's going well. Accom is hard to find and it's difficult getting the washing dry!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Farnham to Guildford 16km

Decided to do a shorter treck today to give mikes feet a bit of a rest and because the weather was so wet again. In fact we delayed our start until about 1000 as it was raining so hard and we only needed about 4 hours walking. Ate in cafe rouge last night ad we got a 40% off voucher in line. Good food as always and a nice glass of wine. Got off fine in the morning and the start of the north downs way was well marked with finger posts. In fact most of this section was well signed with just a few potential mistakes. However, the GPX file kept us on track. Stopped at a pub about half way for a sandwich and a cup of  tea!  Good time to stop as the rain got heavier again. Still it had stopped by the time we got going again and stayed dry for most of the rest of the day. Once we got to Guildford we headed for the tourist office as we could find nowhere suitable online to stay. The office were extremely helpful and found us a cheap B&B with an owner that was happy to pick us up. Good job too as it was about 2km out of town. However, ther is a route from it to the way that means we won't have to walk any extra for tomorrow. We are assured there is an ok pub '5' mins down the road for tonight - we shall see. So now washed and ready for tommorows fun. I wonder where we will finish next?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Four Marks to Farnham

It rained all day!  That pretty much sums up today's hike. Some times light rain and sometimes heavy rain and now the updates forecast says rain tomorrow! Yum Yum. That said it was a pleasant hike although the council map and descriptions became very suspect. However, our trusty phone map, gps and GPX files saved the day. Stopped about half way through the 27 kms for a pub lunch which fortunately coincided with the heaviest rain, and had a lovely pulled pork roll. At least walking in uk there is always spun near. Most of the track was good except for where the farmers had dug up the tracks. Stopped in Farnham for the night in a pleasant B&B which took a little while to secure. Tried a pub first but they only had shared rooms. The tried the Murcure but they were a bit pricey and would not negotiate even though it was past 1700 and I showed them we had an alternative that was cheaper and inc breakfast. Still now showered and dry and ready for more food. No Indian buffer tonight as I think I ate too much yesterday evening!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Winchester to Four Marks

We we got to Winchester as planned and went to the west gate for the start of St Swithuns Way. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing marking the start. No map, no info board and no way markers! What a difference from the Caminos. So ask at the museum and got some info. Fortunately, I did have the st Swithuns pack from Hampshire county council. This included 3 illustrates maps with  written directions. So off we went and all was ok as long as we followed the written directions, checked the map and the GPX file I had in the iPhone. Overall, the written directions were mostly right, the map was a little inaccurate and the GPX file was excellent. Just as disappointing was the lack of way markets. Overall, the first impression was poor and I doubt that the person who wrote the route or made the map ever walked the route! However, the walk itself was excellent with good tracks and pretty countryside. WLked Long the Itchen, passed watercress fields and the Watercress steam railway. Planned to stop at the Bush Inn at Ovingron but they were not much interested in hikers and would not serve sandwiches as it was a Sunday!  Pity as they are directly on the path. So carried on and then stopped at the Ship in at Bishops Sutton where the welcome was very different. Clearly delighted too see some walkers and and excellent tuna roll (must have had half a ton in it) and only £4.50 compared to the £6.50 listed at the previous place. Then walked on to Four Marks and Woodsode B&B. lovely place and  just £20 a head. Unfortunately, there was no pub and only a Chinese take away, a fish and chip shop or a curry house. Guess which one we chose - yep, the curry house. Ate from an excellent buffet and had the traditional drink which is of course a pint of larger! Heading off forFarnham this morning after what will be a warming full English   Hope it is good as it is already raing and is forecast to rain all day, inc a Yellow warning! Time to get out my poncho fro the Camino.
We we got to Winchester as planned and went to the west gate for the start of St Swithuns Way. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing marking the start. No map, no info board and no way markers! What a difference from the Caminos. So ask at the museum and got some info. Fortunately, I did have the st Swithuns pack from Hampshire county council. This included 3 illustrates maps with  written directions. So off we went and all was ok as long as we followed the written directions, checked the map and the GPX file I had in the iPhone. Overall, the written directions were mostly right, the map was a

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Its that time again!  Well not quite, but Mike Smith and I intend to walk from Seville to SdC next year starting around Apr time.  Therefore we thought we should get our camino legs out so we plan to walk the Pilgrim’s way from Winchester to Canterbury - about 130 miles. We intend to start on Sun 24 Aug 14 and if we can get wifi access as easy as we did in rural Spain then I intend to keep a short blog again.  The route should initially follow St Swithun’s Way and the the North Downs Way.  Buon Camino!