2006 April 22 to April 29 - Pilgrims' Way from Winchester to Canterbury
Summary of Walk
22 April Winchester to Froyle
We stayed overnight at Keith’s parents in…..
After paying homage to St Swithin at Winchester Cathedral we set off at 8:40. Leaving Winchester we followed the Itchen through Martyr Worthy, passing Itchen Abbas with its unusual bell tower, and stopped for a pint in the Ship Inn at 12:30.
We passed Alresford with its water cress and Tichbourne site of the famous Tichbourne Claimant case, the inspiration for Dickens’ Jarndyce and Jarndyce. After following a disused railway we reached the outskirts of Alton at Chawton and Jane Austen’s house – an hour too late for visiting.
A long slog through Alton, where we saw a hot air balloon taking off; and then to Froyle; exhausting end to a very long day’s walking. Refreshed by comfortable lodgings in a red house by a lake.
23 April Froyle to Farnham
A hearty breakfast then, in our waterproofs we went out into the heavy rain. It eased off for most of the morning and, passing several vulgar, expensive places with big guard dog warnings we reached Farnham via the Art College. We had a pint in a pub and then walked to Jenny’s. This proved to be a long walk uphill in pouring rain. But we got a warm welcome, hot bath and our wet clothes strewn all over Jenny’s kitchen. After a delicious meal we sang for our supper as a Quiz Team but let down our hostess by only coming second.
24 April Farnham to Dorking
After a lift from Jenny to the start of the walk we walked within hearing of the traffic on the Hog’s Back, but it was invisible because of the mist. Easy walking up to the Old Ship Inn near Guildford, a good lively pub where we stopped for a beer and lunch. Then we crossed the Wey and climbed St Martha’s Hill to the eponymous church at the top with its great views. After some ups and downs we reached Newland Corner and Huw and Keith stopped for a cup of tea enjoying the sight of a furious row between two motorists. After passing through woodland all four were together at Ranmore Common with a view of Dorking below shining in the sun. Passing Gilbert Scott’s Ranmore Church and into the vast Denbies vineyard with a gentle descent to Bentley’s Farm where Mr Franks welcomed us and then gave us a lift to the pub for tasty meal.
25 April Dorking to Oxted
A hard day with lots of climbing. We took the stepping stones across the Wey and then it was straight up tot eh top of Box Hill. Misty walking on slippery chalk slopes. We followed an undulating path until we reached the top of the Downs at Colley Hill. Don and John had taken a different route then all four joined up for the walk into Reigate via the golf course in the shadow of the motorway reaching the Feathers in Merstham for lunch. We were joined there by Rodney, Huw’s businees partner.
Then we crossed the M25 and M23 and walked to the roar of traffic passing a derelict folly tower. Escaoing from the motorway noise we followed a narrow road full of Chelsea tractors picking up their little darlings from school. We walked through surprisingly isolated countryside where Keith banged his knee, and walked through woods down steep steps overlooking the railway. Don and John had got into Oxted and organised a taxi form the end of the route into our lodgings. Three of us squashed into a tiny room in the B&B run by a retired Hell’s Angel – “smile please you’re on CCTV”. A miserable meal in an Indian in the deserted town centre.
26 April Oxted to Wrotham
A day of three motorways – M25, M26, M20. After a good breakfast we got a taxi to the start of the path. Don left his sticks in the taxi but they were delivered later when we stopped for lunch – were they worth £14? A lovely day’s walking behind large, wealthy houses with ghastly signs to deter burglars. Lovely views accompanied by the roar of the motorway, including one spectacular view of Chevening. Lunch at the Rose and Crown at Dunton Green. Then through Otford and up a steep hill and along the Downs, Huw got lost having missed a key signpost, phoned the others from under a large cross which nobody else saw, but eventually joined the path and Keith at Cotman’s Arms. Huw’s feet were in a bad way by the end of the day. Excellent meal in a nice but empty restaurant. The hotel is trying hard but will it succeed?
27 April Wrotham to Thurnham
An epic morning’s walking: 15 miles in 6 hours without a break. Fitful sunshine in the morning and we walked through woodland and rape fields to the outskirts of Cuxton. We crossed the channel tunnel line and the A2 then along the endless Medway Bridge. A girl was standing there half way across on her own. Passing Borstal we had a long steady 2 mile slog up Waldershare Hill to reach the Robin Hood pub and a lunch of beer and crisps. “Chef’s off” just after 2 pm! On we went passing confusing diversion signs, past Kit’s Coty to the underpass for the A229 to find it was flooded. No option but to chance it across the very busy Maidstone-Chatham highway. We complained to KCC about the poor signage which put us at risk.
There was now a high road and a low road to Detling, two of us took the low and two the high. Taking the bridge at Jude’s crossing we paused to read the sad story of a young girl and her grandmother who were killed by traffic here. We reached the pub at Thurnham where we had a great meal joined by Sheila, Naomi and Jay.
28 April Thurnham to Boughton Aluph
Cool and cloudy. Huw now had his trainers instead of his too-small boots, a huge relief, no more walking backwards down hills. Taking packed lunches we had an easy morning’s walking through Hollingbourne, Harrietsham, past the War Memorial by Lenham and down into Charing where we had a pint in the Royal Oak and lunch in the churchyard in the sunshine – a moment to treasure.. Onwards through woods with glimpses of views all over South Kent. We went through East well Park and into Boughton Lees for an early evening pint at the Flying Horse. Passing Boughton Aluph church (sadly locked) we reached Soakham Farm, our destination, after a great day’s walk. . They gave us lifts there and back to Wye for dinner.
29 April Boughton Aluph to Canterbury
Cool and cloudy but brightening through the morning. An easy final day through King’s Wood with its glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral in the distance. We passed through Chilham, too early for the Tea Shoppe; and through Chartham Hatch, too early for the pub. We walked through No Man’s Orchard which belongs to everybody in Chartham Hatch, and after Bigbury Hill we crossed the A2 into Harbledown and passing the beginning of Rheims Way we walked through the Westgate Gardens to the main street where we bumped into Keith’s daughter Kate. Finally, emotionally, we reached the cathedral for photos, hugs and laughter. Home to the bliss of a hot foot bath