Hemispheric straddle

The day was mild and seemed like a good time to get out for a little trek. I had no idea what awaited me as I set out.

I buy some of my kit from the Orvis store in Westerham, Kent. The bus from nearby Bromley, crosses a route known as the North Downs Way, so I disembarked there.

At first it was a narrow road and I was wondering if this thing was really a trail or just another stroll down a boring lane. Eventually, though, it veered off and after some steps I was on dirt.


The route has the usual variety of terrain, none of it hard. There was one long, steep, set of steps.*

The top of this climb saw me take a breather amongst some moss covered everything.

At one stage I passed a sign, then went back to see what it said. It's a marker of the Greenwich Meridian. My trek was taking me over two hemispheres. I had crossed from east to west. This does happen in the UK, probably more than I realize—but this was the first time where a definite point was marked.

The Meridian sign was one thing, the rest a bit of a mess. If you had read the old Torn Dot Blog, you'll know I slammed the UK's abysmal maps and pitiful signage. This section of the North Downs Way was the complete opposite on signs. There are too many different types.

Where I went West from the bus, across the road is the eastern direction toward Canterbury. There the signage was hopeless. The bottom right stone sign is one of several, mostly hidden under bushes. I had to clear some off to get a photo of this one.

The big downside (pun intended) of the North Downs Way is the expense. If you walk the whole thing, you will spend well in excess of $2000. That will cover accommodation and meals. Transport there and back is extra. Compare that with a month across Spain (500 miles) for less than $1000 (Camino de Santiago Frances)—and the food is better, water is free (and all over the place) plus you get free wine (yukky, but after several you won't care).

The stated length of the entire North Downs Way, is 153 miles. The real length: traversing some steep hills and walking off route some miles at several points for accommodation—is more like 180 (map miles and real miles are different).

I noticed that on reviews, the average for this is about 2-3 stars. Water fountains are unheard of in England nowadays, you have to carry extra and in nearly all cases buy it. Water is a commodity here. Though on occasion I have been able to refill my water bottle at a café. Watch out—not all tap water in the UK is drinkable (be careful and don't get dysentery—the only place I've ever had it is in England).

My little walk on this was enjoyable and I only met one other person, a guy walking his dog. We walked together for a while and he told me about the steep steps, so I was forewarned.

* That long set of steps
The guy I met called this Jacob's Ladder, but that name is bandied about all over the world. What the real name is, if there is one, I haven't a clue and could care less. What I can tell you is, that I went up them.

This is only the very beginning.
There are about 130 more steps, further up.

Going up is easy. Coming down and doing it wrong, could see you end up in hospital or worse! Those hand rails are there for a reason—use them! Some of the step edges are wobbly, get the message. Take great care coming down, this is long and steep.

This is part of the North Downs Way, an expensive and
overrated trail in the South of England, but you might enjoy it.
Jan 01, 2015

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