North Downs Way - Rochester to Coldblow

4 August 2007

With Lucy taking Ellie to a dog show in Hoo near Rochester in Kent, Stephen and George took advantage of a lift, for a walk along part of the North Downs Way. The North Downs Way runs for 201km from Farnham to Dover (or 211km if you take the alternative route via Canterbury), and while a couple of fragments have been visited before, this was the first proper walk along the route.

The first stage of today's outing was this unusual walk along the motorway bridge. When the M2 was widened and the second Medway Bridge built, a footpath and cycleway was included. A third bridge was added when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was built.

From the bridge looking to Diggerland, scene of Stephen's JCB driving experience last year.

Looking down on the marina and the River Medway. It took around ten minutes to walk across the bridge.

Away from the noise of the motorway, a look across fields to the river and the three bridges.

Over an hour later, we are still looking down on the valley of the Medway from the edge of the North Downs escarpment.

George standing in the middle of the road. This is the old Chatham Road, now replaced by the A229 dual carriageway which roars past a few metres above and to the left of this photo. We are part-way through a large descent from the escarpment, losing over 100 metres of height which will have to be regained later.

Exactly why the diversion off the escarpment was made when the North Downs Way was created is not known to me, and there are public footpaths than retain the height, but the visit to this site might be one reason for the extra toil. This is the site of Kit's Coty House Burial Chamber, and these four stones were in the burial chamber in the eastern end of a Neolithic long barrow dating from around 2000 BC, which was some 55 metres long. Sadly the mound itself is no more.

Looking back from that point to the escarpment from where we have come.

We then turned on to the route of the Pilgrim's Way for the first time. Remarkably, this is recorded as a byway on the map, though it is difficult to see any four-wheeled vehicle fitting along here.

The somewhat odd underpass finally takes us beneath the A229 which we having been following down the hill for some time. On the other side we found a petrol station, ideal to offer us a cold drink and an ice-cream - a welcome relief on this hot day, the summer having arrived at long last after the wettest May to July on record.

Stephen chomping on the ice-cream, we make our way over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link again, looking to the southern portal of the North Downs Tunnel.

I think this is the White Horse Stone - the guidebook said it was up some steps on the right, but this was on the left, but there were no steps on the right, and the map suggests it should be on the left anyway. The potentially misleading guidebook is also silent on its background. After this, there was a stiff pull up the hill back to the Downs escarpment through Boxley Warren Nature Reserve - "one of the most important places for wildlife in Kent and in Europe" according to the board at the bottom of the hill. Fortunately, on this hot day the climb was within the shade of the woods.

Towards the top of the hill we pass this milestone.

After another descent from the escarpment, we reach the village of Detling, through which runs the A249 dual carriageway. We are on Jade's Crossing, a footbridge opened in 2002 after Jade Hobbs, aged 8, and her grandmother became the third and fourth people to die while crossing this road.

The Cock Horse pub in Detling.

George sits by the edge of a field which is being harvested. Another climb onto the escarpment beckons.

As we climb up, a look down on to the harvesting operation.

As we approach the White Horse Wood Country Park (last visited in 2003), a hang-glider prepares to take off. The road among those trees, near the grounds of Thurnham Castle, was as far as we had intended to go today (indeed, Detling was the original objective, with Thurnham as a fall-back in case we made better than expected progress), but with excellent progress having been made, and Lucy and Ellie still at the show, we pressed on.

Looking down on Cobham Manor farm and equestrian centre. The road junction just peeking into view at the nearest point of the farm was the end of the walk where we waited for Lucy and Ellie.

George going down a set of steps in Civiley Wood

A very pleasant walk, partly because it was a proper summer's day for the first time since April, though (never satisfied) it was rather too warm at times - indeed, my skin on my lower back became quite irritated with the sweaty shirt being rubbed against it by my rucksack. But it was a good walk, and despite the relative proximity of the M2, M20 and CTRL, quite tranquil, with only a handful of people passed all day.

Total distance 20.5km (20.0km on the North Downs Way) with 566m ascent, in 6 hours 24 minutes (4 hours 58 minutes moving) - about 10% of the Way walked. I'm going to have to change the parameters for estimating walk times in Anquet, as I keep finishing ahead of the expected time, which was not unexpected (if you see what I mean) on urban walks with very easy walking, but this was a bit harder going, and still we passed the end of the planned walk and were an hour ahead of schedule at the end.

Previous North Downs Way walk - Wrotham to Rochester North Downs Way next North Downs Way walk - onwards to Dunn Street


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