Although yesterday’s weather forecast did not look very promising, Marc and I decided to walk along another section of the North Downs Way anyway, from Cuxton to Detling. The weather was a little grey when we started in Cuxton, but it was actually a gorgeous day later. My nose is now a little pink from the sun! We were both really glad we escaped London for the day! Especially as the High Speed train makes it very quick and easy to get to the start of the walk!
The walk from Cuxton to Detling isn’t quite as amazing as the previous walk through so many bluebell woods BUT it did have some gorgeous views. Plus the few patches of bluebells were spectacular this week. It is still an excellent walk for flowers!
We walked out through Cuxton, which has some pretty pretty flower filled gardens at the moment! Just outside of the village, near the rapefields you turn off right onto the North Downs Way on a path between hedges. There is a steady ascent into Mill Hill wood, then you cross a railway line and enter into Rascombe farm reserve. We walked through some rapefields but they were only just getting going, (with just a few yellow flowers) so my nose didn’t get too itchy.
The soil in these fields looks quite chalky and very full of flint. I wonder how good it is for actually growing crops? The farm reserve leaves plenty of space for wildlife at the edge of each field. They have even put up a bee hotel! I saw my first bluebells at the edge of this farm. (Yay!) After this we walked past some curious cows towards Merrals Shaw and the M2. The path turns to walk along the edge of some woodland. Then you get the first pretty panorama of the day, looking out to the river Medway and the three massive bridges we were about to cross.
Next we had to cross the Medway bridges. The worst thing about the North Downs Way is the proximity to motorways. Even when the views are pretty, they seem less amazing accompanied by the roar of cars and trucks. There is no getting away from the cars as you cross the bridge. I spent most of my time looking in the other direction towards the castle in Rochester, but I was still happy to get off the bridge and escape into the countryside.
The route follows a well maintained tarmac road, but there weren’t many cars, so it is a nice walk over to Nashenden Farm. Turn right at the farm (past some Oast houses.) There is a slow climb up onto a ridge. The first part has pretty views of the river Medway and Cuxton, then the path goes into some woods. We saw quite a lot of fly tipping the whole way along this walk, but the mound in the photo below was the biggest. I find it really hard to comprehend why someone would want to spoil such a lovely area by dumping all their rubbish! Does Kent not have rubbish tips? Or are they too expensive for people to use!?
Anyway, there was a small, gorgeous patch of bluebells in this woodland.
We kept following the path through the woods, and then along a road past a small village. After the first few houses, there was a North Downs Way sign hidden by a hedge. We turned right here and spent a while looking at beautiful views from Blue Bell Hill while we ate lunch. There is a bench here, but if someone has already nabbed it, turn left along the path as there are lots more picnic benches further along the path.
Why is Blue Bell Hill called Blue Bell Hill? There aren’t any bluebells here! Well, I found one bluebell as we left the hill to walk in the wood. But I can’t imagine they named the whole hill after one solitary flower!
The path goes on through the trees, right next to the A229. Most of the way you hear the road, but can’t really see it, until the last little bit where you have to walk right on the edge of this very fast-moving road. Eep. Luckily this does not go on for long. We turned off the road and went down some steps to join a pleasant path down to Kit’s Cot. Kit’s Coty house is a neolithic burial mound. You can see it through a hedge just off the main path. I love that it has a graffiti carving from 1875 (you might have to click on the photo to see this!) There are bars around it now to prevent more modern graffiti.
After that, you continue down the tree-lined path. There were a few fallen trees to clamber over this weekend. Maybe they’ll be gone soon!? Keep going, and cross Rochester Road to rejoin the pilgrims way.
You don’t stay on the pilgrims way for long. You have to go under the A229 again. This time the subway looks like a Darth Vader helmet. It is sort of creepy and cool! We stopped at a garage to grab some drink and to use their loos. I was hoping for an ice-cream, but this must have been the least well stocked garage I have ever visited! Ah well.
Once we had tried our newly bought sports drink, we crossed the HS1 tracks again. We passed white horse stone, which is the remains of a burial chamber. I was sort of hoping that the stone would look like a horse. But, alas, it turns out that the Saxon warlord that was buried here was called Horsa. Horsa became the King of Kent according to my guidebook. This makes me feel bad that I had never heard of him, and that I was sad not to see a horse shaped rock!
The path into Westfield Wood was quite steep as we had to climb back up onto the Downs. The trees must find it tough to stay upright in the chalky soil. We saw several trees that had fallen over exposing huge areas of roots that cling onto slabs of chalk. We saw a few more trees that were starting to lean, and that were creaking, so we passed those as fast as we could! The exposed roots look like the perfect setting for a haunted forest in a creepy movie.
Once we made it to the top of the ridge, the trees look a bit more stable. There were a few pretty patches of bluebells and another way-marker – Just 74km more to Dover!
The path along the ridge took us out of the woods to walk along farmland next to the trees. You can peek into the woods to see some gorgeous patches of bluebells. I kept finding gaps in the hedge to sneak in and take photos, while Marc kept walking. I think our pace slowed along here as it was sooo pretty.
Watch out for the powerlines as they have made a gap in the trees with nice views out to the Kentish countryside. When the path turns away from Westfield woods, there is a little stand which says you can take copies of a book for free. We are leaving the UK soon, so we didn’t take one, but it looked like it is about a walk to Glastonbury. The next little patch of woods was covered in primroses, rather than bluebells.
The path goes past some horses at Harp Farm, and past some more rapefields. The sun was hiding behind the clouds, so these fields don’t look too bright, but you can see the fields in the background shine in sunlight.
Then, you get to walk one of the most spectacular bluebell woods so far! Boxley Wood is on the steep edge of the Downs. The pilgrims way walks along the bottom of the wood, and the North Downs way takes a path right at the top. This means you can look down the hill at thousands of purple flowers. The bluebells were packed in quite densely as well so it often looked like a dappled, greeny-blue carpet.
I took too many photos (as usual) so I am posting small versions. Please just click on them if you’d like to see a larger version. The very last photo shows a single whitebell. I wonder if that will slowly become a a mini patch of white flowers in a few years time.
For the final part of the official walk, we circled around the edge of the wood. Then climbed down to Jade’s crossing on the Edge of the village of Detling. Again, there was quite a lot of large rubbish (like fridges and ovens) fly-tipped on the lower side of the wood. I have to admit I am really unimpressed with Kent County Council for not getting to grips with all this rubbish.
So, the North Downs way finishes in Detling, but we kept going down the road to Bearsted. I am glad we did. It is a pretty village with more Oasts houses, pretty architecture and a huge green where locals were playing cricket. They also had some lovely pubs serving local brews. We stopped for a drink in one of the beer gardens before catching a speedy train back to London. We decided to take a train to Ashford International, and then zoom on the High Speed back to St Pancras, rather than taking a slower train to Victoria.