Wow. We’ve nearly finished the North Downs Way! This is the second to last section of the walk; it goes from Wye to Etchinghill. It has been a gorgeous walk so far, but now the spring has truly sprung it is just getting better and better. We saw our first bluebells at the beginning of April. Now, over a month later, the blue flowers are starting to wilt. But they have been joined by a whole range of bright wild flowers and gorgeous bright green leaves. Plus nettles – we might need longer leggings for the next walk as the nettles are everywhere! We became quite used to wandering along next to growling motorways, so it has been a pleasure to reach sections that wind along quiet footpaths with no roads in site!
The North Downs Way – Wye to Etchinghill Map
Stage 10: Wye to Etchinghill Map – the basics
Distance: 23km (including walk to Sandling)
How to get there: Wye (start) to Sandling (end)
Elevation gain: 560m
Anyway, Wye seems like a really pleasant village. Lots of the doors into peoples houses are teeny (and up a few steps) I have a feeling tall people must bump there heads a lot if they move here! They had some quite expensive shops (including my favourite pricey paint company, Little Greene!) The route goes along the village and through the church yard. There were lots of children playing between the headstones and bluebells, so it all seemed quite idyllic.
Once you leave the churchyard there is a path around the back of the old Wye College. The college is boarded-up and has a few broken windows. There is one new building left on the edge of the old campus for Wye School. After that you follow a path along a hedge that leads you slowly up the hill to the Wye Crown. You can (sort of see it) in the photo below.
The Wye Crown is a huge chalk crown that was carved into the hill by Wye College students in 1902. I’m not sure if it was actually carved. Once we got close, we could see that it is made from lots of smaller chalk rocks that have been arranged in metal cages. I wonder if someone has to go around de-weeding the crown to stop more grass growing over it!? The North Downs way doesn’t give an amazing view of the crown, as it you emerge above it, looking down to Wye. We could only really see the top. At least next time we come past on a train we’ll be able to look out for it!
The walk then stays up high for a pretty walk along the top of the Downs. The view down to the Kentish countryside must be gorgeous on a sunny day. For us, it was a little grey but still pretty. Apparently we should have had our first glimpses of the sea – but visibility was too rubbish. We kept walking along past the combe known as the Devil’s Kneading Trough. This looked like it might be an amazing (but steep) route back to civilisation! For once we saw quite a few other walkers. Most of them were on this walk above the world.
After the Devil’s Kneading Trough we went past a farm with a couple of alpacas. They had a good look at us before going back to munching grass. They might have been Llamas – I am not completely sure which is which. A while after that I think we must have gone past a kennel. The poor pups staying there must have been a bit stressed out. They were howling and barking sooo much! A couple of them had barks/howls that really carried on the wind, so we could hear them for the next couple of kilometres. I don’t think I’d leave our cat in a place that makes dogs that stressed-sounding(!)
We found a gorgeous little patch of bluebells in a wood (possibly Reed’s wood?) We first saw bluebells over a month ago, and we didn’t manage to walk for the last couple of weeks. So I did not expect to see any bluebells left. But they were still there, looking gorgeous intermingled with bright pink flowers and white flowers from wild garlic.
We wandered past quite a few fields teeming with lambs and their mums. There isn’t much in the world cuter than frollocking lambs! Look at their little faces!?
After the lambs there was a long easy stretch next to fields full of different crops. As usual the most amazing-looking crops are the bright yellow rapefields. They looks so lovely this time of year before the first harvest. We’d picked a pretty grey day, but they brightened up the view!
My favourite part of this walk was still to come! We walked past a little patch of wood that had so much wild garlic that it smelt like a roast dinner! These white flowers smell amaaazing. I just googled wild garlic and apparently when the white flowers are in bloom, the garlic leaves are past their best. So this lovely smell was actually not good to eat!? Never mind! I’m not sure if I would be able to identify the right leaves without the flowers, so I think I am doomed not to eat wild garlic! But LOOK how pretty it is!
I spent slightly too long taking photos of the garlic flowers and bluebells. So I managed to lose my husband. Oops! He is used to me stopping to take photos. Normally he keeps walking and I run to catch up. This time I kept running for quite a long time along the path. I was slightly worried that I could see for a long way and he wasn’t anywhere in view! I stopped for a moment in confusion, and while I tried to find my phone, I heard him puffing along behind me. He had hidden in some bushes to jump out and surprise me…but I had just zoomed past without seeing him! By the time he’d caught up, we were by some amazing views next to some happy looking cows.
Once we emerged from the woods we heard the most crackly power pylon ever! I am not sure why this pylon was making so much noise, but it was truly buzzing! It was especially foreboding as these sounds were accompanied by a scary grey sky!
The next village was Stowting. It seemed like a really lovely place to live, but they might not appreciate walkers! We saw quite a few “private” and “sorry, keep out” signs. There was a pub that looked pretty nice (it would look at home in the South of France!) There was an overwhelming whiff of fried food. It smelled like the pub-dwellers in Stowting were more interested in chips than roast dinners. It’s a bit of a shame as there is so much wild garlic nearby they must be able to cook epic lunches if they want to!
Once you leave the village, you walk along the road for a little way before climbing up a hill (amid more sheep!) This time you have a pretty panorama of Stowting’s trout pond and the surrounding area. You can see a road (B2068) that follows the natural top point of the Downs, so we were glad that we’d climbed down the hills and up again to avoid too much walking by a busy road! You do walk next to the B2068 in the neighbouring field for a little way.
The Path crosses a car park at Farthing Common which might be the most car-friendly bluebell spot I have ever seen! There is a beautiful, densely packed area of bluebells, right next to the road. While we were there we saw a group of students who seemed to be doing DofE. They were walking with massive backpacks and complaining that they had left someone in their group behind. All my memories of DofE involve heavy rain, so I think these students must have had a pretty good day – even if one of them was lost. I hope they waited for him in the end!!
After the next few fields we could see the amazingly ugly tower near the end of the walk at Etchinghill. It looks close, but to get there you have to descend the whole way off the downs through a disused chalk pit. Then climb all the way back up again on a pretty steep slope.
Once you’ve get back up to the top, you’ll see some lovely views of the church in the town of Postling. While we were there the sky became quite grey and threatening, but this soon gave way to our first blue patch of sky all day! Once we made it over to the tower, the day had become lovely!
The Tolsford Hill BT Tower is pretty amazingly ugly. I realise it has an impressive history and good things happened here. But being built of reinforced concrete isn’t something people normally boast about. Meh. The more we saw, the less impressed we were. It’s be amazing if someone could build around the concrete to make it into some kind of a folly. Like a pagoda or a Disney-style castle. It’d be more fun to walk towards in then!!
I’ve seen a few blogs that say it isn’t possible to do this section as a day walk. This is probably because Etchinghill is not particularly close to a railway. However we didn’t find this too worrisome. Our first plan was to call a cab from a pub in Etchinghill. In the end, we arrived at the end of the walk quite early, so we just kept walking to the train station along a route called the Saxons shore route (follow the Viking hat signs!) The path goes from Etchinghill to Sandling station. This last hour was gorgeous, so do walk it if you can. It was also down hill all the way to the station…so we’re going to have strong legs at the start of the next walk!