We resumed the North Downs Way towards the end of October, travelling to Oxted on the East Grinstead train from Clapham Junction, where we met Jacqui.
On our way we breakfasted on coffee and pastries bought from the platform cafe.
This leg crosses the Surrey-Kent border. The official guide suggests one finishes at Otford but, with a total distance of almost 12 miles, excluding the journeys from and to the stations at either end, we decided to finish a little sooner.
And, as it turned out, the rail connections from Dunton Green were significantly better for us.
We had first to negotiate 1.4 miles through suburbia, from Oxted Station back to the official start point, at a gap in the hedge on Chalkpit Lane.
There is immediately a steep ascent to Oxted Downs. The path here is shared with the Vanguard Way, running 66 miles from Croydon to Newhaven, East Sussex.
Both continue parallel with the M25 below, passing a rather underwhelming plaque, mounted on a small wooden frame, which commemorates the crossing of the Greenwich Meridian
The paths soon divide, the NDW turning uphill at Pitchfont Lane, a sunken track through woodland, while the Vanguard Way descends towards Limpsfield on the opposite side of the M25.
We climbed several hundred metres up Titsey Hill, through extensive forestry clearance work which has ruined this section of the walk. A notice at the top said this was a consequence of Hymenoscuphus Fraxineus, otherwise known as Ash Dieback.
The land hereabouts is owned by the Titsey Foundation, which also oversees a nearby manor house, Titsey Place, and its gardens.
We continued through light woodland, aircraft occasionally droning overhead, on their way to or from nearby Biggin Hill.
Eventually emerging into open fields, we climbed steadily towards Clark’s Lane, passing a Surrey Hills sculpture. Here we stopped for morning coffee, perched on the grass overlooking the Pilgrim’s Way below, Clacket Lane Services thankfully masked by the trees.
Crossing Clark’s Lane, we joined Chestnut Lane, skirting the Park Wood Golf Course. This road hosts several desirable properties, including one called Mole End, boasting a silhouetted tribute to Wind in the Willows.
A North Downs Way milestone marks the border with Kent, after which the route descends to the A233 at Hawley’s Corner, just outside Westerham.
Skirting Westerham, we climbed through fields until we had regained the top of the ridge, following the boundary between Bromley and Kent for a while.
We stopped for lunch, again looking down across the fields below, having established from two ladies heading in the opposite direction that no benches were imminent. One turned out to be married to a man running with a dog who we had chatted to earlier.
Lunch involved a little birdspotting, but none of us could get a good photograph of the unidentified hawks hovering at some distance below.
Afterwards we continued in a similar direction, passing just beneath Knockholt, until our afternoon coffee stop at the ‘keyhole’ bench overlooking Chevening below.
A gap was originally cut in the woodland by Lord Chatham in the 1770s so he could admire Chevening House which he had leased from his cousin, Earl Stanhope.
Chevening was built early in the Seventeenth Century and significantly enlarged a century later. Sixty years ago the Seventh Earl Stanhope, having no children, transferred it to public use.
Under the terms of the legislation governing the transfer, the Prime Minister of the day is responsible for nominating someone to reside there. The Foreign Secretary is usually nominated though the House is presently shared by Foreign Secretary Truss and de facto Deputy Prime Minister Raab.
Passing round Chevening Park, we descended through fields, enjoying a lateral view of the House and nearby St Botolph’s Church, probably Anglo-Saxon in origin, but restored extensively, most recently in 1901-2.
The guide describes the next section as ‘one of the most tedious stretches of the North Downs Way’. It flirts with the M25 and M26, arriving on the outskirts of Dunton Green, a suburb of Sevenoaks. Here we left the prescribed route by the Rose and Crown, walking down to the Station.
Jacqui was very tired by this point, but we managed to nurse her to our destination in time to catch the train back to Waterloo East. There was no working ticket machine at Dunton Green and no conductor on the train either, though almost the entire journey was covered by our Oyster Cards.