Every trail tells a story, a sort of narrative. This story depends on the weather, the company, the time of year. It depends on the people you encounter, some of whom share stories about their own journeys on the trail; or about the people ahead of you, who they’ve already met.
Walking the North Downs Way from Chilham to Shepherdwell is not a particularly interesting story.
All trails have sections that are marking time. Sometimes this is forced by roads, other times it’s unavoidable, the dull bits between great views. This section of the North Downs way was a flat and wearisome walk from Canterbury towards Dover.
We started walking the North Downs Way in January, doing a stage every month or two. This weekend is our fifth one on the path, where we will be completing the main part of the route.
The start was promising. The weather was good and the day warm. We passed through a churchyard with a 1300 year old yew tree, killed by falling trees during 1987’s Great Storm.
We passed through orchards full of fat apples where there may have been some scrumping (but not from me). According to Rambling Man, the fruit farm we crossed is the largest in the UK. I was moved to see a grave placed among the trees.
But this section of the walk suffered from missing signs. Even the guidebook didn’t help much, as we kept being sent in the wrong direction. One sign we did find was a road name one doesn’t want to when hiking.
Some of the fields might have been quite interesting to walk if they had crops. Instead we crossed empty flat landscapes, nothing beyond the fields but more flat countryside. Some of the maps were mostly white space.
The middle of our day’s walk took us through Canterbury, where the signs dried up completely. It did allow me a chance to look through some bookshops, but I couldn’t see anything worth carrying for ten miles.
It felt a little strange to have our hike take us through the Saturday afternoon shopping crowds.
We passed through an area or cornfields, pheasants and keep-out signs.
The rest of the day we hardly saw anyone. This is one of the strangest things about the hikes, how few people take advantage of the routes.
Near the end, a pile of litter.
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