On completing the North Downs Way after 15 years

Here’s a picture of the Channel Tunnel terminal from the North Downs Way, which passes it on an escarpment above the town of Folkestone on Britain’s south coast. I’ve look at it twice this year in very different circumstances.

View from the North Downs Way above Folkestone
View from the North Downs Way above Folkestone

Back in February, six weeks before I was due to climb Everest, I went for a walk in the hills around there. I was nursing an achilles tendon injury which I hoped to be able to shake off before my expedition. About an hour into my walk I had climbed up onto the escarpment and realised my ankle was knackered. I hobbled back down and was boarding a train back to London two hours later imagining that I’d dealt my dreams of climbing Everest a fatal blow.

Luckily I hadn’t. My ankle recovered miraculously during a week of enforced rest at base camp, and I stood on top of the world’s highest point on 19 May.

I was back on this stretch of footpath above Folkestone again last week. Six miles later I finally completed the North Downs Way, which finishes just down the coast in Dover, around 15 years after I first started it. I’ve been gradually doing it in a series of days walks from London, but it’s taken me a while.

From desperation to celebration in a few short months. Folkestone’s not everyone’s idea of a memorable town, but I’ve got my own special reason for remembering it well.

Dover seen from the North Downs Way
Dover seen from the North Downs Way

It’s not officially the slowest anyone’s ever completed the 124 mile National Trail from Farnham in Surrey to Dover on the Kent coast, but I reckon it must be fairly close. I’ve been doing the long-distance path in a series of day walks by rail pretty much since I first moved to London in 1996.

I’ve been holding off on the last stretch from Wye to Dover because it involves a joint-creaking 24 miles of up and down without a handy train station in between to break the journey up, which means I needed a long summer’s day to do it in.

But here was the view of Dover Castle and port when I came over Western Heights near the town centre. It’s quite nice really – not just a busy ferry port full of chavs crossing over to Calais for cheap booze.

Mind you I was feeling pretty stiff and needed a pint myself. Luckily there’s a pub right next to the station.

To receive email notifications of my blog posts about mountains and occasional info about new releases, join my mailing list and get a free ebook.
Note: I get a very small referral fee if you buy a book after clicking on an Amazon link.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published, but it will be stored. Please see the privacy statement for more information. Required fields are marked *

Lively discussion is welcome, but if you think your comment might offend, please read the commenting guidelines before posting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.