It had been a while since I had last done a walk with Tammy, so I was well up for it when she proposed a North Downs walk on the last day of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, setting out from the historic village of Wye in Kent, centred about 12 miles from Canterbury and about an hour’s drive from Eltham. After a lengthy spell of inclement weather during May, as a result of the Atlantic jet stream, summer finally arrived over the Bank Holiday weekend. The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent.

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We parked near and set off via St. Gregory and St. Martin’s Church, not before I picked up a drink at the Co-op across the road. Accompanying us on the walk was a brown cocker spaniel by the name of Joey, a task for which Tammy regularly volunteers. Leaving the eastern side of Wye and following the Stour Valley Walk emerging through Long Plantation, we crossed an open stretch chalk path, as white as a sheet in the bright sunlight, as it rose towards Beech Wood. Wild flowers adorned the grassland between Beech and Marriage Woods. Emerging from the woods, we picked up the AE101 lane heading towards Marriage Farm. Here we took a narrow track following a line of trees towards a collection of homesteads near Down Farm, where we reached a tarred road as it joins the AE103 to Down Farm. The tarred road, which we had also crossed earlier when passing through Long Plantation, heads down through Olantigh Wood. Just as the road enters Olantigh Wood, a path heads off to the left along its edge. This track joins the North Downs Way on the Wye Downs, near the Wye Memorial Crown markings gouged out of the chalk hillside. This spot provides spectacular views across the Kentish landscape beyond, which called for a tea break and a sandwich, to pause for a moment and take in the splendour of the English landscape.

We continued along the chalk ridge to Broad Downs, location of the most spectacular coombe is known as the Devil’s Kneading Trough. The views here are quite spectacular. There is a route off the ridge at this point however we remained on high ground. We encountered sheep grazing on the hillside grassland, who remained surprisingly tame given the presence of a rather active cocker spaniel, albeit on a leash. The hillside was littered with cow pies, some of a more liquid consistency than others. Joey had taken to rolling playfully on the grass, ending up with a good amount of the bovine creatures’ dung smeared across his back, the green streak in stark contrast to his chocolate brown hair, which displeased Tammy somewhat. A water trough provided the ideal opportunity and Joey was summarily dispatched and dumped into the water and cleaned, with the added benefit of allowing the mutt to cool off.

In the vicinity of Newgate Scrubs, off Cold Harbour Lane, an establishment advertising itself as providing Luxury Home Boarding for Dogs may be found. Yes folks, a Five Star licensed Dog Hotel! Shortly thereafter, at Cold Blow Farm, we took the path off the hillside, leaving the North Downs Way in the process. We crossed Brabourne Road, which, if not for the fact that it was once the Pulgrims Way trackway, following the lower slopes of the North Downs escarpment, carefully avoiding the steep slopes above and the sticky clay below. The Pilgrims Way was a 120 mile route from Winchester to Canterbury, followed by mediaeval pilgrims, heading for Thomas Becket’s tomb. The route follows a pre-historic trackway dated to 500BC. The Pilgrims’ Way is not a designated long distance footpath, but it can be followed as most of it is roads today.

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