Second Day on the North Downs Way
On this morning my walking partner and I woke up at about 5:30 am with the sun. The view from the B&B window really was lovely.
No… we did not. We took our time getting ready and with our leftovers from the night before, we headed into town to the Co-Op to get provisions for the day and make our way to the trail. It was nice to be able to just take our time; we stopped for some coffee and then walked out of town. I forgot to turn my Map My Walk on both the first and second day until about 1+ mile in. I had just remembered when we topped this little hill.
It was a little chilly and foggy and just fresh. We stood at the Greenwich Meridian Line.
and then followed along where the book told us to stay to the left of the field along the treeline…Through this lovely looking vegetation, to find out that their stalks slash at your skin and are worse than tiny papercuts… they go for your hands and even through your pants… you don’t even realize it at first and then you start to sting here and there. Little bastards… They’re pretty though.
It felt so good to sit down. My feet were so very tired. The grass was thick, tall and soft, a lovely cushion. My black pants absorbed the sun and spread the warmth evenly, the sun was so welcomed. We got lucky both days, it had only sprinkled a little here and there but nothing that required the panchos to come out. I was so blissfully happy even the hundreds of bugs that were cruising over the top of the grass didn’t bother me. We were all happy to be alive in that moment… except for the one who got on my sandwich… he was just asking for it.
So after we rested for a bit we got back on the trail and came to the first stile where we encounter cows… a herd of them trying to come through the stile. There was lots of hand waving and coaxing. They were all huddled up under the trees, apparently British cows don’t like the sun…
And we had to walk through mud and cow shit… at that point, it was impossible for us to tell which was which. Shortly after that we made our very first mistake on the trail. It wasn’t entirely our fault… we were walking with a fellow pilgrim and he was convinced that we were suppose to go over this kissing fence. My friend read her guide book and it said we were suppose to be on the other side of this field, but then there was a picture of the kissing fence IN the guide book.
… it was a little confusing. Mostly the book gave great directions… turn right here… turn left and go through a stile, keep right along the tree line… this one we were just distracted on. It’s funny because you can see where we got off track on the map I did from the MapMyWalk app. Towards the left there are two little lines heading north. The first is the off trail… then backtrack.
Oops… we didn’t go too far. But by the time we were back on track, I was out of water, so we got off trail again to go visit the Tally Ho! Pub on Stoneing Lane, refilled our water bottles and rested yet again.
I gotta tell you, when you’ve been walking for hours and miles and miles you really can tell the difference from walking on concrete or asphalt to walking on the lovely, soft, welcoming ground. The trek to The Tally Ho almost killed me… not really, but when I’m exhausted I can be a bit dramatic. After resting a while, I was so much better and ready to hit it again. We made it back on the trail, with another little hiccup. The guidebook said go to the gate and there is an opening to the left of the gate… well, there was and it was tiny… like I’ll push you through and you can pull me through kind of tiny. We made it through without any real damage being done and half way down the field realized we should be on the other side of the fence. Luckily it worked out because the end of the fields both dumped back onto the trail. That was also the time we realized how absolutely necessary the guidebook was. There were a number of footpaths that are provided for the local residents and they cross over the North Downs Way. Well, if you’re walking along and aren’t paying attention to your book you can miss a turn. Which we almost did ….
“is this it? Are you sure?” I ask
“no… there aren’t any signs” she responds…
“well, I guess we can walk down and always turn around” I say… let’s do this.
Half way down the field there’s a little post with an acorn on it… why wasn’t this at the turn?
Then the landscape changed slightly and we were walking along this river of Blue Bells… they followed our trail just like a lazy river would.
This is about the time I was teetering on exhaustion. Shortly after this we stopped in a meadow, sat, snacked and called around looking for a place to stay for the night. The thing about walking this Pilgrimage is that it’s not cheap. There aren’t hostels along the way or tons of B&Bs or hotels. If you want to get off the trail you have to walk a mile or 2 or more into a town. There’s no camping allowed on the trail either. So we found a place and knew we would be skipping the part of the trail to Rochester in order to make it to Canterbury by Friday. We had made it to about 12 miles and I was seriously tired. We weren’t even to Otford yet. The guidebook said it was 10 miles… MapyMyWalk said we were already at 12 and we weren’t even at Dunton Green! I thought I could sleep wherever I fell. But we pushed on. It’s really hard to enjoy the beauty that you’re surrounded in when you’re so tired you’re delusional.
Once again, my walking parter was amazing. She lied to me like a trooper… coaxing me along, telling me we were almost there. The thing was we were both tired and as we descended a big hill I thought I would be able to make it no problem. Then we had to walk along a busy road with no pavement… at the time folks are heading home… it was a little scary. Then we kept walking along on concrete sidewalks for what felt like miles… and actually it WAS miles. It turns out that we should have just walked into Otford instead of going off trail into Dunton Green because it was almost the same distance… and a lot less concrete. But we were too tired at that point to stop, fully read and comprehend what the words on the page meant.
I was so excited when we got to the station in Dunton Green, although I’m sure I didn’t look excited. We looked for a ticket station… no ticket station. The sign reads, you can’t buy tickets here, you have to go to this other station. There was absolutely no way that was happening. So we read on to see that you could go to the machine and buy a pass of sort saying, I’m going to buy a ticket in Sevenoaks, well the machine was Out of Service. We both agreed that we didn’t care if we got a fine, we were getting on that train. And we did… it came about 15 minutes later. We got off at Sevenoaks and bought 2 tickets to Charing where we had found a place to stay, in the meadow I had mentioned earlier. This place was called The Oak, and I loved it.
The boiler (radiators) was broken and I didn’t even care. It was cute and had little shampoos and conditioners and a pub that served some of the best starters I’ve had in the UK. The staff was all so friendly and engaging… asking us where we were from and what we were doing. It was great. So friendly, not like in London.
After a glass of wine and some delicious food, we both went back to the room and slept. I haven’t told you yet that at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on the walk or not. We had walked over 16 miles that day and I didn’t know if I could physically walk on my feet anymore. I was to the point of exhaustion on the train ride where I almost broke down in tears and wanted to just buy a ticket to London that moment and go home. I told myself that I would sleep on it and if I could walk in the morning and if I could find some inner strength I would forge on. So after that delicious meal and recounting the events of the day we went back and slept… which was not a problem on any night I was on this walk.
This is the map for the day. The red is what we walked. I drew a purple line to show that we really should have just walked into Otford, especially since the train from Dunton Green takes you to Sevenoaks and then you get on a train that goes through Otford. And that’s why you plan ahead people… The blue line is the train to Charing.
At this point I would like to acknowledge the skill, level of fitness and dedication that those walkers have in order to actually walk the entire way. Well done. Sorry I’m not one of you.
If you missed Day 01 on the walk, you can read it HERE.