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North Downs Way 2020 “An Inspirational Journey Through Kent and Surrey”

Date: 1st Nov 2020 Author: Alistair Tickett

Ben (Scout), Jocelyn (Beaver)  & Steve (ASL)  from the 4th Ewell’s big adventure

When lockdown had eased and we could get out in the countryside, we went for a couple of walks. We decided it was so much fun being in nature that we would go for a walk every weekend.

We had some ideas, which somehow ended up as a plan to walk the whole North Downs Way. We started on 21st June– Father’s Day – in Farnham with an aim to test kit, legs and the trail and gradually the plan took shape. The original plan was to split the route into 22 stages, but it evolved as we went along, and gradually Ben & Jocelyn’s legs got stronger and their stamina built up so we could walk further each time.

This involved planning as a family using the OS maps and National Trail website to find the best start and finish point. How far we walked was largely based on how hilly it was likely to be and the mantra was “half close your eyes. If the map looks orange, it’s hilly!”. We ended up walking the route in 20 stages of around 6-8 miles each, but some were much longer, such as the day we finished at the highest point of the North Downs Way at Botley Hill after a walk of 8.75 miles!

We also planned the food and kit – Ben carried the First Aid Kit, Jocelyn had the compass and snacks, as well as their own drinks.

Lots of the time it was sunny and a good temperature for walking. Our long stage into Rochester was on a searing hot day so we got prepared, started early with sun hats, took plenty of water and organised the rest stops. There was never a day which was too wet to walk. A bit of drizzle, or some wind wasn’t going to stop us. Just a little extra dose of ‘Being Prepared’ with raincoats and walking boots got us through!

Highlights were our overnight stays in Rochester, where we visited the castle, and Canterbury where we visited the cathedral. The wonderful villages we passed through were interesting with old churches, thatched cottages and oast houses. Also there were wide open vistas and countryside which changed from forest trails in the west to agricultural farmland (with all the associated smells!) as we walked east. We also noticed as we went that the sweetcorn ripened, the wheat was cut and the orchard apples were harvested.

We learned lots of new words along the way, such as dappled, rutted, undulating, contour and foliage. We also learned how to fuel ourselves properly for a day out walking (especially on super-hilly days), learned the importance of the correct footwear and nettle-proof trousers (the Scout Shop cargo trousers were great) and most importantly we learned that we could keep going for much longer than we thought. Who said learning stops when school does?!

Queen Scout Grandad (James Long) and Nanny joined us for some of the walks and met us as we crossed the FINISH line in Dover on a chilly September afternoon. In total we walked 141.9 miles, with a time of 59hours, 19minutes and 56 seconds. We climbed 4545 metres and descended 4901.



I want the public to know how Scouting continues to open young people’s eyes to a world of extraordinary promise and possibilities.'
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls