Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Seventeen days and close to 400 km/250 miles after leaving Bristol, Jake and I arrived in the charmingly name seaside town of Folkstone. On our combine total of over one million steps (513, 105 each, or 256, 552.5 per leg) we have trundled through the South’s heart, absorbing a landscape steeped in wildlife, history, culture and, now, a thick blanket of my inner leg hair; short-shorts may bare the distinct advantage of exposing milk bottle knees to the sun, however, their abrasive ability, especially on the inner thigh, is comprehensive. I have chosen to abstain from attaching a photo to compliment, just imagine a plucked and slapped goose breast and you are as good as there.
We began the North Downs Way (NDW) close to Farnham train station, on day nine of our walk. After 20 meters of the national trail we were redirected back onto the path by a lady sanding at her upstairs window in the April sun. The NDW runs through what is predominantly a chalk influenced landscape, threading in and out of grassland and woodland. As we followed the well-marked trail east, the delayed spring began to finally show itself, with the flowering of the abundant bluebell forever in our observations. But this dainty woodland dweller was merely a sample of the bounty of wildlife that blesses the NDW; to name but a few, deer, foxes, butterflies, rabbits, a host of birds, several amphibious species, the usual pastoral gallimaufry and, less predictably, tortoises.
In all, the weather has been more than kind to us, with just a few rainy nights in the tent and the occasional heave of thunder. In fact, Jake and I both have Casio tan lines, which says it all.
Adversities so far have been relatively few and far between, but include a number of blisters (for me that is, Jake, unbelievably, has had none), sunburn (mostly Jake’s right shoulder), uncomfortably tangled hair in an uncomfortable-to-name place, a worryingly sore ankle (Jake’s), which thankfully disappeared, the consumption of too much pork pie, and, oh yes, Jake’s near death experience; a particularly steep climb was rewarded with an apple. Jake, as always, ate the whole thing, consequently choking on the unchewed stalk.
Our diet has been opportunistic, by which I mean awful. Noodles, bread, pastries, sweats, biscuits, chocolate and Golden Grahams have dominated, whilst the word ‘vegetable’ vanished, or should I say leeked (apologies) from our vocabularies.
Odd sights have been plentiful. Whilst in Biggin Hill we were passed by a fire engine which was plastered in images of Boris Johnson’s smiling face, accompanied by the resonating sound of ‘Ring of Fire’. At Dunn Street campsite, we walked in on a medieval re-enactment and in Larking we bought a banana the size of a Diplodocus femur, or a little smaller. We also passed through a number of amusingly named hamlets and villages - Clench, Crowdown Clump and Cuckoos Knobb.
Our evenings so far would enthrall the most boisterous of party animals, even the golden lion tamarin. A typical night in the tent goes a little like this:
- - Stop drinking fluids by 18.00 p.m. so as to reduce the chance of needing a nighttime tinkle.
- - Cook then eat, teeth (thank God for comas).
- - Bed, diary, and then a little French.
- - Asleep before dusk.
Conversely, a typical night in a Bed and Breakfast appears to be even simpler:
- - Buy heaps of snacks and eat them whilst watching either football or Made in Chelsea. Yes, you heard me!
Whilst walking, Jake and I spoke to scores of intrigued passers-by, many of which related to our expedition in one way or another, or were simply interested. On several occasions we even received ‘on foot’ donations. Carol and Roger, who own and run the magnificent Old Farmhouse, close to Biggin Hill, donated £85 to our WaterAid fund. Meanwhile, we are continuing to get wonderfully generous donations from those at home. Gwynneth, George and co. had a race to fill water bottles with coins. The girls reportedly won, but we would like to thank them all.
The beginning of the North Downs Way.
Camping in amongst the bluebells.
Luxury at The Old Farmhouse
View of the Kent countryside and the English Channel from the Wye Crown.