North Downs Way

The North Downs Way National Trail is a long-distance path in southern England, opened in 1978.[2] It runs from Farnham to Dover, past Guildford, Dorking, Merstham, Otford and Rochester, along the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Kent Downs AONB.

Colley Hill, view
Colley Hill on the North Downs Way
North Downs Way
North Downs Way near Hollingbourne 1
The North Downs Way near Hollingbourne
Length153 mi (246 km)[1]
LocationSouth Eastern England, United Kingdom
DesignationUK National Trail
TrailheadsFarnham, Surrey
Dover, Kent
Highest pointBotley Hill, 885 ft (270 m)
Hiking details
SeasonAll year
Kent Long Distance Footpaths
The North Downs Way, and the other Kent long-distance footpaths


Planning for a new Long Distance Path, as they were classified in 1949, began in Kent in 1950. After an extensive survey, it was agreed that a route on "a line which offers the best scenic qualities for the walker" along the ridge of the North Downs, rather than the Pilgrim's Way (which even in the 1960s was predominantly metalled road), was preferred. Working alongside Surrey County Council, plans were eventually submitted in 1966.[3]

Heading Up Hollingbourne Down. - - 170954
Heading up Hollingbourne Downs on the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way was officially designated by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Anthony Greenwood, on 14 July 1969, and opened in parts shortly afterwards, becoming fully open in 1978. At that time, it was 141 miles (227 km) long, 36 miles (58 km) of which were newly created public rights of way.[3]


East of Boughton Lees, the path splits in two, the northern section running via Canterbury and the southern via Wye; at this stage the path crosses the Stour Valley Walk and passes the Wye Crown. The two sections of the path reunite at Dover. The northern route is 131 miles (211 km) long, and the southern route 125 miles (201 km), the current length of the North Downs Way being 153 miles (246 km). The official guide to the trail divides the North Downs Way into fifteen sections.[4]

Sections of the North Downs Way
Section Start point Finish point Distance (km) Ascent (metres) Descent (metres)
1 Farnham Guildford 17.7 203 233
2 Guildford Westhumble 21.0 293 288
3 Westhumble Merstham 16.0 442 384
4 Merstham Oxted 12.8 311 249
5 Oxted Otford 18.9 524 587
6 Otford Cuxton 24.1 524 587
7 Cuxton Detling 20.1 404 299
8 Detling Lenham 14.9 320 281
9 Lenham Wye 17.9 128 247
10 Wye Etchinghill 18.1 396 303
11 Etchinghill Dover 19.3 406 506
12 Broughton Lees Chilham 9.5 156 171
13 Chilham Canterbury 11.6 187 215
14 Canterbury Shepherdswell 16.7 248 158
15 Shepherdswell Dover 13.7 152 268

The pathway is mixed-category in that it varies throughout length from footpath (around 48 percent) status to bridleway, byway and road. Some 19 percent of the Way follows roads, though 75 percent of those are minor lanes.[1]

The path (east of Boughton Lees, the southern section) runs along the ridge of the North Downs hills, and follows parts of the Pilgrims' Way.


S East Geology
Geology of the South East: chalk is light green

As the pathway runs through the higher parts of the downland, the trail and surrounding countryside are characterised by chalk-based soil and calcareous grassland with broadleaf woodland on the upper slopes. It reflects the underlying sedimentary chalk deposits on the highest parts of the trail. There is livestock grazing on the lower slopes with clay soil and crop agriculture predominant in the valleys.

See also


  1. ^ a b National Trails - Facts and Figures about the trail
  2. ^ Drewett, J (1985). "Chapter 1: Landscape and Countryside". Surrey. Shire County Guides (2nd ed.). Princes Risborough: Shire Publications. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-7478-0051-4.
  3. ^ a b County Council, Kent (July 1969). Archive files (CC/C-PL/19/16/1). Maidstone: Kent County Council.
  4. ^ Saunders, Colin (2013). North Downs Way. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 9781781310618.

External links

Coordinates: 51°18′N 0°24′E / 51.3°N 0.4°E

Blue Bell Hill

Blue Bell Hill is a chalk hill between Maidstone and Rochester in the English county of Kent. It overlooks the River Medway and is part of the North Downs. Settlements on the hill include Walderslade; and Blue Bell Hill and Kit's Coty villages. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries much of the hill was quarried for chalk.It is a 5-hectare (12-acre) nature reserve which is managed by Kent Wildlife Trust. It is also part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Wouldham to Detling Escarpment Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Nature Conservation Review site, Grade I.A picnic area serves as a rest point for walkers on the North Downs Way which runs along the top of the hill whilst the prehistoric trackway of the Pilgrims' Way skirts its foot. A modern crematorium also surmounts the hill.

The A229 dual carriageway follows the route of a former Roman road and climbs the hill, today linking the M2 and M20 motorways. High Speed 1 also runs beneath the hill, via the North Downs Tunnel, and archaeological work in advance of it uncovered a Neolithic long house on its slopes. The Bluebell Hill transmitting station is located on the hill, as is the Lower Bell pub.


The village of Boxley in the Maidstone District of Kent, England lies below the slope of the North Downs approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of the centre of Maidstone town. The larger civil parish of Boxley has a population of 7,144 (2001 census), increasing to 9,554 at the 2011 Census, and extends to the north and east of the town including the settlements of Boxley itself, Grove Green, most of Weavering Street, Sandling and the southern extremities of Walderslade and Lordswood at the top of Blue Bell Hill.

The M2 and M20 motorways cross the parish to the north and south of the village and the High Speed 1 railway line passes to the south of the village in cuttings and tunnel. Despite being so close to Maidstone and two motorways, the village is surrounded by woodland, and still retains a village feel. The ruins of Boxley Abbey are located here. The parish church is dedicated to St Mary and All Saints.

The church and the Abbey Barn are both Grade I listed buildings and the site of the abbey is a scheduled monument. Boxley Abbey House, Parsonage Farm and St Andrew's Chapel in Boxley and Weavering Manor in Weavering Street are all Grade II* listed. The Pilgrims' Way trackway and the North Downs Way pass through the parish. The village was the filming location for the film version of Porridge.

Within the parish are the Museum of Kent Life and Vinters Valley Nature Reserve. A 19th-century granary from Boxley was dismantled and re-erected at the museum.

Boxley Warren

Boxley Warren is a 83-hectare (210-acre) Local Nature Reserve north of Maidstone in Kent. It is privately owned and managed by Maidstone Borough Council. It is part of North Downs Woodlands Special Area of Conservation and Wouldham to Detling Escarpment Site of Special Scientific InterestThis site is yew woodland with diverse fauna and flora. It includes the White Horse Stone, a Neolithic standing stone which is a Scheduled Monument.There is access from the North Downs Way.

Charing Beech Hangers

Charing Beech Hangers is a 52.6-hectare (130-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north of Ashford in Kent.This steeply sloping site has mature beech and oak, and the ground flora is varied with some uncommon species. Invertebrates include the rare slug limax tenellus and several scarce moths.The North Downs Way runs along the south side of the site.

Compton, Guildford

Compton is a village and civil parish in the Guildford district of Surrey, England. It is between Godalming and Guildford. It has a medieval church and a close connection to fine art and pottery, being the later life home of artist George Frederic Watts. The village has considerable woodland and agriculture, and the undeveloped portions are in the Metropolitan Green Belt. The village is traversed by the North Downs Way and has a large western conservation area. Central to the village are the Watts Gallery, the cemetery chapel commissioned by his wife for him, two inns and the parish church.

Downs Link

The Downs Link is a 36.7 miles (59.1 km) footpath and bridleway linking the North Downs Way at St. Martha's Hill in Surrey with the South Downs Way near Steyning in West Sussex and on via the Coastal Link to Shoreham-by-Sea.

Gatton, Surrey

Gatton was a former village and borough in Surrey, England, and an ancient parish. It survives as a sparsely populated, predominantly rural locality, which includes Gatton Park, no more than 12 houses, and two farms on the slopes of the North Downs near Reigate.

The parish lay within Reigate hundred.


Godmersham is a village and civil parish in the Ashford District of Kent, England. The village straddles the Great Stour river where it cuts through the North Downs and its land is approximately one third woodland, all in the far east and west on the escarpment of the North Downs. It is six miles north-east of Ashford on the A28 road midway between Ashford and Canterbury in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the North Downs Way and Pilgrims' Way traversing the parish.

The village is divided in two by the floodplain of the Stour. The parish civil includes Godmersham village itself, and Bilting. It shares many of its activities with the neighbouring parish of Crundale, a smaller parish to the east.


Gomshall is a village in the borough of Guildford in Surrey, England.It is on the A25, roughly halfway between Guildford and Dorking, and in Shere civil parish, which, reaching to Peaslake and Colmar's Hill, in 2001 recorded a human population of 3,359. Nearest places are Shere, Albury and Abinger Hammer.

The River Tillingbourne flows through Gomshall, while the North Downs Way passes just to the north. The village also has a railway station, served by Great Western Railway trains running between Reading and Redhill.


Hastingleigh is a small civil parish centred on an escarpment of the Kent Downs.

The parish is three miles east of Wye and ten miles south of Canterbury, extending to the hill-scape of the Devil's Kneading Trough, on the North Downs Way with views towards Ashford, Romney Marsh and the patchy remnant forest of The Weald (between the Greensand Ridge and South Downs).


Merstham is a village in the borough of Reigate and Banstead in Surrey, England. It is north of Redhill and is contiguous with it. Part of the North Downs Way runs along the northern boundary of the village. Merstham has community associations, an early medieval church, a football club and an art gallery.

Mogador, Surrey

Mogador is a hamlet in the Reigate and Banstead district, in the English county of Surrey. It is at the edge of Banstead Heath, which provides it a green buffer from other communities, and about 1 km from the top of the north-facing dip slope of the North Downs. At an elevation of about 200 metres it is one of the highest settlements in south-east England. It is just north of the M25 motorway.

The nearest settlement is Lower Kingswood, through which Mogador is accessed by road. Other nearby settlements include the hamlet of Margery, the villages of Kingswood, Tadworth and Walton-on-the-Hill, and the town of Reigate. The area surrounding the hamlet is a mixture of farmland and common land, with Colley Hill and Reigate Hill to the south and east being National Trust land. Other common land areas nearby include Walton Heath and the Buckland Hills. The North Downs Way passes immediately to the south of the hamlet.

The hamlet gave its name to the telephone exchange which provides the service to Lower Kingswood and most of Kingswood, now included in the 01737 area code.

National Cycle Route 17

National Cycle Route 17 is part of the United Kingdom's National Cycle Network. It presently runs southwards from Rochester, via Maidstone to Ashford where it links with National Cycle Route 18.

The route is open and is signed between Rochester and Maidstone, with the rest due for development. It leads from Rochester, via mainly minor roads, towards Blue Bell Hill, where it meets the North Downs Way (long distance footpath), both routes follow the Pilgrim's Way to Detling.

There is also a spur line down to the county town of Maidstone. The Pilgrim's Cycle Trail carries on towards Hollingbourne, after which it becomes traffic free towards (above Harrietsham, then via minor roads to Charing. It then heads to Westwell, Kent, and then via traffic-free route to Ashford, via Kennington, Kent.

In Ashford, it meets National Route 18 heading to the town centre, the route then heads out of Ashford via Sevington.

In future, it will continue to the south coast, through Bonnington and then (near Newchurch, Kent), it will link with National Cycle Route 2 between Folkestone and Lydd. Heading west, it will follow the approximate line of the North Downs Way National Trail entering Surrey.

North Downs

The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. Westerham Heights, at the northern edge of the North Downs, near Bromley, South London, is the highest point in London at an elevation of 245 m (804 ft). The North Downs lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs. The North Downs Way National Trail runs along the North Downs from Farnham to Dover.

Ranmore Common

Ranmore Common is an area of wooded former common land on the North Downs, immediately northwest of Dorking in the English county of Surrey. Its civil parish is Wotton, a geographically large village with a small population west of Dorking. Ranmore Commons — it is also seen in the plural — is within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and part of it is Ranmore Common SSSI, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Surrey Hills AONB

Surrey Hills is a 422 km2 (163 sq mi) Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which covers one quarter of the county of Surrey, England. The AONB was designated in 1958 and adjoins the Kent Downs AONB to the east and the South Downs National Park in the south west.

Thames Down Link

The Thames Down Link is a 24 km (15 mi) official walking route linking the Thames Path and the North Downs Way. It starts in the town centre of Kingston upon Thames and finishes at Box Hill & Westhumble railway station.

Vanguard Way

The Vanguard Way is a long distance walk of 66.2 mi (106.5 km) from East Croydon station in outer London (OS grid reference TQ328658), travelling from the north, to Newhaven, on the south coast of England. It passes through the counties of Surrey, Kent and East Sussex, between Croydon and Newhaven, East Sussex. It connects the London suburbs to the south coast, via the North Downs, Ashdown Forest, South Downs National Park and the Cuckmere valley.The walk was developed in celebration of the 15th anniversary in 1980 of the Vanguards Rambling Club, who named themselves after an occasion when they returned from a walk travelling in the guard's van of a crowded train. The route's formal establishment occurred on 3 May 1981, and the Vanguards Rambling Club have remained as the route's management.The Vanguard Way connects with central London with the Wandle Trail along the River Wandle from Croydon and is sometimes used as a walking route between London and Paris, connecting with the ferry ports on the south coast. The walk also connects with the London Outer Orbital Path, North Downs Way, Greensand Way, London Countryway, Eden Valley Walk, Forest Way, Wealdway, Sussex Border Path and the South Downs Way.

Wotton, Surrey

Wotton is a well-wooded parish with one main settlement, a small village mostly south of the A25 between Guildford in the west and Dorking in the east. The nearest village with a small number of shops is Westcott. Wotton lies in a narrow valley, collecting the headwaters of the Tilling Bourne which then has its first combined flow in the Vale of Holmesdale. The parish is long north to south, reaching to the North Downs escarpment (and the North Downs Way) in the north to the escarpment of the Greensand Ridge at Leith Hill in the south.

Wotton Common forming the south of the parish is elevated woodland dotted with a few vernacular-style houses and has the county's only natural waterfall. The common's main settlement is Friday Street.

National Trails
(England and Wales)
Scotland's Great Trails
Long-distance path
(Northern Ireland)
Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
North Downs
Greensand Ridge
Low Weald
Lakes and ponds
Long-distance paths
National Cycle Routes


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