North Downs Way: Borough Green and Wrotham to Cuxton

Six weeks after reaching Wrotham, we were back at Borough Green Station, ready to walk the eleven miles or so to Cuxton.

We had travelled via Clapham Junction and London Victoria, catching the Ramsgate train, which reached Cuxton shortly after 10AM.

It was a Saturday in mid-May and perfect for walking. There were blue skies above, with a smattering of cloud, but it wasn’t overly warm. Even so, I had my hat, sun cream and zip-off trousers in readiness.

We trudged the rather uninspiring 1.4 miles from Borough Green back to our previous end point in Wrotham, then crossed the M20 and quickly found ourselves back on the Pilgrims’ Way, climbing up on to the Downs once more.

The Guide was a little imprecise about exactly where we should leave it to enter Hognore Wood, but we eventually found the correct turning and began a steep ascent to reach the Gravesend Road, before descending again down Vigo Hill.

Vigo is named after its inn, itself named after the naval Battle of Vigo Bay, which took place in 1702. The Vigo Inn is now closed.

From 1942 to 1946 there was an army training camp here, which ran a preliminary course for future officers.

Soon we were in Trosley Country Park – formerly part of the estate of Trosley Towers, built in 1887 by Sir Sidney Waterlow, but demolished in 1936 – where much dog walking was taking place.

We stopped at some shady benches close to the Visitors’ Centre where we took coffee before heading along the lengthy park trail, past many more dogs and their owners.

We eventually emerged onto Commority Lane, and a house of the same name, whose titles may be a corruption of ‘commodity’. This took us back down to the Pilgrims’ Way again.

The path continues along a ridge, with woodland above and to the left hand side, and open fields below, to the right.

After some distance we climbed steeply upwards, emerging to enjoy extensive views from Birling Hill, next to a road junction.

We crossed the road, now heading north along Holly Hill. It was already close to 14:00 and we he had been looking for a suitable lunch spot for some time.

Eventually we found one, taking our seats on one of several upended trees, with a view over what looked like an old quarry in the foreground, towards Chatham, Rochester and the Medway Estuary.

The sound of regular shooting punctuated our conversation.

Having consumed our picnics, we were shocked to witness Jacqui almost immediately depositing most of hers on the ground again!

However, this process seemed to make her feel much better and so, after a rest, we continued slowly along Holly Hill, and then on through woodland near Great Buckland.

Here we turned in a north-easterly direction, through an area known as Rochester Forest. Somewhere in this section we found a comfortable bench, opposite the exit to Halling, where we enjoyed our final break.

Then on, through Wingate Wood, where we were promised glimpses of the Medway that failed to materialise, before turning north again to cross the Bush Valley.

We almost missed our turning to Upper Bush, a tiny hamlet with a handful of beautiful houses, which we greatly enjoyed.

There was another North Downs Way milestone here, informing us that we now had only 42 miles left to reach Canterbury, and 54 miles to Dover.

I was quite keen to get a photograph of the signpost in Lower Bush (such immaturity) but sadly we diverted across fields to reach the endpoint of this stage which, rather curiously, is the rather unprepossessing garage of the first house on Bush Road as it heads into Cuxton.  

Unfortunately Jacqui now began to feel the effects of her earlier indisposition, and we only managed to catch the planned train by the skin of our teeth.

On the way, I saw another of those chubby pink unicorns. Is it just me who sees them?

The fare regime is complex in these parts, depending whether you intend to catch a fast service into St Pancras.

Since we didn’t intend this, the conductor aboard this first train advised us that, on alighting at Strood, we should catch another via Dartford.

However, passengers on the platform told us that our tickets would be valid on the incoming fast service, as far as Gravesend, because it didn’t officially become fast until it reached there!

Perhaps fortunately, our tickets weren’t inspected on this train and we changed at Gravesend on to the Waterloo East service, joining a carriage with one young woman and her cuddly toy apparently asleep across three seats adjacent to us.

Increasingly noisier bands of noisy young people joined us, heading up to London for a night on the town.

As best we could, we tried to enjoy the spectacle of this typically nocturnal tribe engaged in their peculiar pre-mating rituals.

TD

June 2022

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