I have LOVED walking along the North Downs way so far! This walk from Oxted to Otford does have a few sections close to roads, (not as much as the previous section!) but it makes up for that with some other lovely parts through the Surrey and Kent countryside. We started early in the morning in March, when the world was pretty misty. Slowly the mist burned away, to show the beautiful scenery of the Surrey Hills.
We began in Oxted again as it is easy to get a train there from London. You have to leave the town, walk over some incredibly muddy fields and cross the M25 before you get to the North Downs way. It was misty morning, so we didn’t have to see much of the M25. Nevertheless it was still roaring away in the background.
The real walk starts along the vanguard way, parallel to the M25 on the edge of some fields. Once you reach the end of the fields, turn left and follow a steep-ish path through woods up a chalky path. This seemed to be a popular dog walking spot, so we met a few puppers and their humans.
It was really nice to get into the woods because it dampened the sound of the main road. Once we made it to the top of the hill, the path turns right. And then you walk along a small path next to a different busy road, the B269. There is definitely a roady theme to this walk!
The path winds away from the road, through wooded areas and then along yet another road, the B2024. There are some amazing views down to the surrounding farmland. The road is one one side, behind a hedge, but you can see for miles in the other direction. There is also a strange sculpture that celebrates the prettiness of the Surrey Hills. Marc’s Swedish friend Mattias thought it is hilarious that in the UK places like this have “AONB” on the map. I suppose it is pretty presumptuous to name a places “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” especially when they are next to the M25!! It *is* a pretty area though. It’ll be even nicer once the trees gain some leaves or blossoms!
The path then leads past a golf course into a small hamlet. I love the moles painted on one of the houses next to the path. There were quite a few gorgeous houses along the way. However the road itself is pretty rubbish and very muddy. Everyone must have spent so much on their amazing houses that they forgot to save some cash to pave the roads.
Anyway, we found a sign post: 767km done, 106km to go!! Dover here we come!!
Next, the route leads across the A233, into another field with a path along the edge of it. There are brand new North Downs Way signs so you can’t get lost! Later we saw some signs that mentioned the upkeep of this path is paid for by the EU. I wonder if it will be maintained after Brexit!? I hope it will.
There are some nice views down to the M25. By now it is far enough away that you can’t really hear it. Apparently you can also see down to Westerham if it is less misty. I love moments like this when you can see the a side-on view of the Downs that you are about to wander along.
Then the path heads straight back into a wooded area. I rushed through this part because I stopped to take a photo of some primroses and some amazing looking trees (they are at the bottom of the page!) By the time I’d finished snapping away, everyone else had zoomed off so I had to run to catch up.
There is a short, steep climb to get back on the top of the Downs. Then we were treated to a ridge walk along the top. There were fewer trees so the surrounding views are excellent. It seemed like the perfect place to stop for lunch.
I did make a few attempts at a pannorama, but it was just slightly too bright. My camera just couldn’t cope!!
After this we had officially left Surrey. We got to follow a path along the barrier between Kent and Greater London. The fields to our left were officially in Bromley. Fields looks the same whatever the county, so we kept going!
We were several weeks early, but we could see that the wooded areas just off this path will be full of bluebells in April!! I’ll have to come back another year as bluebell woods are the best thing about the English countryside. I’d love to see them in carpeting the woodland here.
The next part of the walk might be the muddiest section so far! No matter how much you attempt to hop onto sods of grass, you *will* end up muddy at this time of year! Ah well. Just bring walking boots, or shoes you don’t mind dipping into muck!
This walk has sooo many kissing gates. Do kissing gates exists in the rest of the world? They are gates that have a sort of air-lock-like structure. They are always open in one direction, but closed in another, so animals can’t get through them. When I was little, whoever was inside the gate had to give a kiss to whoever is waiting to get through next. I told my husband that he has to kiss me at each gate, so he made it into a game, and tries to escape the kiss when he can. *Grumble grumble.* Matthias and Ashwini didn’t know about kissing gates, but Matthias was quickly trained to wait at each gate for his kiss.
The fields that were not muddy were full of flinty rocks. I would have thought the farmers must have attempted to remove some of them, but there are just so many! It isn’t very surprising that there is evidence of ancient folks (both Mesolithic and Neolithic) on the North Downs!! There would have been plenty of flint for people to make into tools.
After wandering through the fields, we traced around the edge of Park wood. As we first entered the woods, I saw more snowdrops in one place than I have ever seen! There were great clusters of them beneath the trees and sparking through the dappled light. It is hard to get good photos of such delicate flowers, so you’ll just have to believe me that this was magical. I Think this must be another good spot for looking at bluebells next month.
Partway around the woodland there is a commemoration bench that looks down through a gap in the trees to a huge house at Chevening. Our walking guide says this is the official country residence of the British Foreign Secretary. As UK Politics is a little mad at the moment, that would be Boris Johnson. You can’t really see from my photo, but it looks like an enormous house. I wonder if Boris has to pay the bedroom tax on each of the rooms he doesn’t use!? I wonder if that is why newspapers mention he has to share the house with David Davis and Liam Fox while they plan Brexit.
Now, although we did have a map, we forgot to actually look at it at this point. The result is we went a little off the official route. We saw this lush green grass with a gorgeous path down through the hills…so we walked down it. We were having so much fun and enjoying the way the light turns the grass into a such a vivid emerald green, we didn’t notice we’d walked off our map. Oops.
It was only after a while following well marked pathways that we realised that we had not seen a North Downs Way waymarker for a while. By then we had made it to a pretty church in Chevening.
We were all quite glad that we went the wrong was as it was so pleasant to walk down the bright green grass. However if you’d like to do the official walk, stay on the hill. We should have continued along on top if the hill in this view:
It wasn’t too far off the path and we could see an easy short cut to find the North Downs way again. We just walked along the bottom of the Downs until we found an official route marker. Then we had to walk in single file along a busy road, that runs alongside the M25 This is the least pleasant part of the walk. The traffic is really loud, and you can really taste the pollution. This walk will be so, so different in a few years time if there are electric cars. The parts next to roads would be far quieter and less stinky!
Anyway, once you’ve crossed the M25, it feels like you’ve made it back into the countryside near Otford. In fact you’re walking between a slither of the M25 and M26 – but because of the lay of the land, it is less noisy and so feels more rural. We walked across some more flint-filled fields, crossed some train tracks for the South Eastern Mainline, and slowly headed over to the lavender fields. We were far too early to see fields of purple lavender, but it looks like an amazing place to visit in the summer!! The people that live here are so lucky! Their houses and gardens must smell amazing in when these fields are in bloom.
So, we just had to walk the last little bit along the pilgrims way into Otford. Otford seems like a gorgeous little village with some beautiful architecture and lots of antique shops. The centre of the village has a duck pond if you’d like to chat to some quackers. The village commissioned a large mosaic story board to celebrate the millennium. It is still looking good senventeen years later.
So, that is another perfect weekend walk along the North Downs way. It is still very close to London so it is easy to get to for a weekend stroll. To get to Otford Station, just walk straight through the village to the opposite side.
I didn’t share too many tree or fungi photos above, but I took loads (as always!) so I’ll just add them here. A while ago I saw a BBC documentary that said there are eight times more types of fungi in the UK than flowers! Since then I’ve always been on the look up for cool fungi.