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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Next time I take a map!

Not that its hard to get lost but the fingerposts and waymarkers just disappear after the M20 sliproad on the way to Vigo and Meopham! I am on Ebay as we speak, ready to purchase a Harvey Map.

The trail from Otford to Wrotham was very wet after nearly 48 hours of rain. I did not see a soul for the first 8 miles of the run, which was nice to be able to have a little personal sing song and chat to oneself! After Wrotham the NDW joins the Pilgrim's Way and it was at this point that a good pair of road shoes would have sufficed. The trail was hard, compacted, not even a feeling that it had rained at all, no puddles or anything. Hard trail gave way to road and a possibility of a lack of signposting led me up a huge hill with amazing views.....but it was the wrong way methinks! I headed down the other side of the Down to Trowsley Park, where I recall part of the Harvel Hash House Harriers 5 is run on. This was the fastest run I have done....5 miles XC in 31 mins....famous! Anyway, I was trundling along in about 8.45s, rucksack on, self sufficient on this day. If the signs were poor over the last couple of miles, they were non-existent here.
Unless I was off track, I was following the contour of the Downs and not letting myself be distracted by the steep footpaths to my right.

Out of the end of the park was a huge pile of rubbish.Nice, I thought.....but out of the corner of my eye I spotted a small concrete stump with the words North Downs Way imprinted. Great.

The NDW has a few things to learn from the SDW. The acorn is easy to follow on the fingerposts. However, there are a plethora of different signs.....White acorn fingerposts, yellow acorn signs, purple acorn signs, restricted byway (with and without acorns), wooden posts with NDW and Pilgrims way posts and signs. Please stay generic as it is hard enough without a map!

So through Vigo and Meopham and onto another wood. These original pilgrims (I guess) wanted to travel clandestine.....Green Hill Wood, Platts Hill Wood, Hognore Wood, Downs Wood, Hawsdown wood (?!) Great Park Wood, Crookhorn Wood and so on......made it hard to see the lie of the land and led me to feel that without good signage and a couple of trig points, I could be going anywhere.....especially when I jumped out of my skin as 3 motorbike scramblers came blasting along the path at about 40 mph and nearly took me out! That was not clandestine!

So, coming out of miles of woodland I note a sign to Snodland. I don't know what "snod" is but a whole land of it...? This is what happens when you are on the trail for a few hours on your own! My mind averted to the large lakes that I summised could be water-filled quarries of such vivid blue. The largest and most aquamarine in colour was about 1km in length, from Pilgrims Rest to the start of what I assume was a quarry/cement factory. What a place for a swim! But not now......

I was quite disappointed with the next part of the run, as the route left the Pilgrims Way and joined the busy Rochester Road. If there was another way to go then I missed the markers.....this was quite disappointing but I know that the hills ended at the Medway and that huge M20 Bridge. I saw the rise of the chalk Downs on the other side of the River...that was for another day.  I ended up getting the train from Strood. Stood is an odd place full of odd people. I must admit, a sweaty backpacked runner down industrial-estated-stone-cladded streets is probably odd, but it did look a bit "Norfolk" in terms of the size of gene-pool. Funny looks aside, it was back to Maidstone and then to Bromley South, where I decided that running the last 4 miles home was a better idea than waiting another 20 mins for a train.

A map would have given me huge confidence but all in all, a good day out.

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