North Downs Way (Canterbury Loop):
Boughton Lees to near Aylesham

10 April 2011

With Lucy taking Ellie and Hetty to a rally trial near Folkestone, Stephen and George took advantage of a lift to return to the North Downs Way, last visited in 2009 when the "main line" from Farnham to Dover had been completed, leaving the 52 kilometres of the alternative route - the Canterbury loop.

So after a short walk from the village green in Boughton Lees, we reached the point where the Canterbury and direct routes diverge. Since I was here in February 2009, a smart new signpost has been erected.

Passing the church at Boughton Aluph

Boughton Court

We then climbed up onto Soakham Downs, from where there is a glorious view backwards.

A slightly grubby George as we finish our ascent. This was about the grubbiest he got all day, as the mud is largely from the early morning dew, and as the warm sunshine dried the ground during the day, he became cleaner.

The next section was an extended walk through downland woods. The bluebells aren't quite at their best yet, but were showing definite promise.

Much of King's Wood is coppiced, and here there are extensive coppicing works going on.

The walk was very light and airy - a delightful walk.

The top of a wall is just visible, this being part of the remains of the Godmersham Park deer leap, to allow deer into the park for the kings to hunt, but prevent them from escaping.

There was then a descent of around 100 metres out of the woods and through the hamlet of Mountain Street

We walked around the edge of Chilham Park; the 12th century Norman keep of Chilham Castle is just hiding in the trees to the left of the Jacobean "Chilham Castle" dating from 1616.

On the boundary wall of Chilham Park lies this intruigingly named house with appropriate door furniture.

The pleasant village square of Chilham where the bells were being rung for Sunday service.

And behind me is the entrance to Chilham Castle

From Chilham it was a road walk up Long Hill to the wonderfully named village of Old Wives Lees, after which we gratefully left road-walking behind for a while and walked along this avenue which lies between orchards.

Another little ascent brings retrospective views across orchards to two oasts

The route passes through more orchards with large numbers of apple crates ready for the harvest.

Under the railway line and more apples

No Man's Orchard is now owned by two local parish councils and is preserved as a more traditional orchard than the commercial ones we've just seen.

More coppiced woodland

On the far side of the A2 dual carriageway, steps have been provided but clearly the majority of users prefer to walk up or down the slope. The steps are just the wrong distance apart to be used easily.

On one side is the A2 but on the other side the apples are coming into blossom

Coming into Canterbury we pass The Eight Bells

...named after St Dunstan's

The pretty Great Stour flowing through Canterbury


Another part of the Great Stour, viewed from the main shopping street of Canterbury

The Canterbury Pilgrim's Hospital of Saint Thomas

The gate to the cathedral precinct. I didn't fancy paying to walk around or even just look at the cathedral (even if they would have allowed George), so what might have been a highlight of the walk was passed in a moment.

St Augustine's Abbey Garden might also have been an interesting highlight, presented to the city in 1977 ... for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors to the city. Unfortunately English Heritage have interpreted this to mean that they should charge 4.80 for admission, so this too was passed in a moment.

And thus I suddenly found myself in suburban Canterbury, gently underwhelmed and slightly grumpy about the city which hadn't wanted me - just 3 for an ice-cream which I had also refused.

Who puts up these signs? And who employs them?

After eventually escaping suburbia, we rested for a while among some fields, then walked on and passed more mature orchards.

An oast at Hode Farm

There was a long and gentle descent along the sunken Hode Lane

...which took us into Patrixbourne where there was this pleasant ford, the first I've seen on the National Cycle Network.

Our way lay back up out of the valley of Nail Bourne and another section alongside the A2, passing near Higham Park

The path then runs almost straight along the Barham Downs for several kilometres

George by the B2046 Aylesham Road, where we waited for Lucy to pick us up. Considering he has walked 33 kilometres, he is looking remarkably clean thanks to the extended period of dry weather. George's longest walk yet on his 9th birthday - happy birthday, George.

Total distance walked 33.4 km (32.1 km along the Canterbury Loop of the North Downs Way) with 638m ascent, in a fairly relaxed 8 hours 56 minutes.

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson