We had a day off last week and decided we would walk Canterbury to Dover, which will be our first days walk when we head off to France next month. We thought we’d give the route a go, one for the distance practice and another to see how accurate the guide book for the Via Franiegena is. We have used walking guide books in the past, you sit at home reading through thinking how greatly detailed they are, until you get out on the footpaths and realise they are vague and almost useless. I have to say though, this book proved very detailed, accurate and a superb reference (apart from getting lots in the woods – more about that later) This route is also part of the well signposted North Downs Way.
We started the day at Margate train station, the ticket chap was very helpful and worked out the cheapest fare for the two of us, Margate to Canterbury then returning from Dover to Margate, really cheap with our Railcard for Two, just under £16 altogether.
Arrived in Canterbury to lovely sunshine, nipped into Debenhams to use the toilet (no toilets en-route at all !) then set off through Canterbury towards Patrixbourne. Passing Patrixbourne Church into some fields and along a pathway running beside the A2, noisy but not as bad as you would expect, its a shady tree line path higher than the road.
The weather was just right sunshine, a little cloud and a light breeze…stunning views over the Kent countryside almost all the way. We passed Highfield Court, a friend thinks this has some connection with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Also through orchards of fruit blossom.
One little drama en-route (on my part), a fly got under my sunglasses right into my eye, how much did that sting…I am not talking just catching in your eyelashes, this was RIGHT in, made my eye stream, then Geoff couldn’t see it, so I thought it had gone behind my eyelids (yep, drama queen) I was having a bit of a moment at this point… eventually calmed down as the stinging subsided… BUT it continued to sting in the corner of my eye all day, I expected to get home and find the fly had tattooed itself to my eyeball !!!
We stopped for packed lunch in a grassy field in the sunshine, there is nowhere along the way to buy food, drinks or use a toilet (I am not a go in the woods type of girl), the guide book said go prepared with provisions.
Eventually we made our first mistake, we came to the edge of a field, the sign said go straight through, however, the farmer had fully planted the field with young crops (as some do) blocking the route, after some debate we decided if our friend Terry was with us he’d insist we march straight across…. so we tip-toed between the plants, damaging none, feeling terribly guilty and looking around for an angry farmer with a shotgun ! As we came to the next junction we decided to consult the guide book, reading back, it mentioned the field, it said do NOT go straight on, go left..opps maybe we should have looked before we leaped so to speak !
A little later we dropped down to a small footpath after Woolage Green and followed the path round the edge of a field, sadly some fly tipping as we entered the woods, this was also the only place a felt a little uneasy, was there someone lurking in the woods ?? So then we are in the woods, the path comes to a dead end, the book mentions nothing about turns etc only a mention of crossing a bridge over the railway line, the map is unclear ( I hate woods) so we trek along, the path is blocked in a few places with fallen trees, before we know it we are off the path and among the bushes, we see light to one side and head that way only to find its blocked by a fence, then a train goes past, we decide to follow the track thinking it will bring us to the bridge..nope, we turn back and trace the original path and set off again…you get the picture, we’re lost, after about half hour I suggest we go back to the edge of the field by the road and re-group and get our bearings… low and behold as we approach the road there is a signpost high up on the road pointing in a different direction…I mean, who would look up to the sky line when walking on a low footpath for the next signpost….Nice wild primroses in the woods though..
At this point the weather begins to turn, we knew it may rain around 4pm so we were expecting it, the next hour didn’t feel as great, we’d got flustered in the woods then the weather turning and realising we still had some distance to go all compounded together… long walks are a bit like that, some highs and some lows, a few sugary jelly babies later and all was right with the world again.
Through more fields under stormy skies as the rain started.
We sheltered in the grounds of Waldershare and put on our rain gear heading on to Dover.
We seemed then to walk uphill forever, Geoff kept saying we would be going downhill soon as we came into Dover.. it was an awful long time before that happened. Finally Dover Castle appeared in the misty rain, leaving us a 20min walk to the station, by this time we were nearly out of water and not even a jelly baby left to eat !
We arrived at the station about 18:30 tired, damp and muddy but hey, what a great way to spend a day off.