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A trip to Flanders pt 5: Ups and (North) Downs

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

On the fifth day I finally on some hillier trails .........

Day 5

If there is one thing that’s really noticeable about the North Downs Way, it’s that it goes DOWN a lot. And from my, albeit limited, experience so far, the downs are always immediately followed by UPS.

So the groove of the almost metronomic pace I’d maintained for the first four days, went out of the window today. In fact the only flat ‘fast’ (relative term) mile today was crossing the Medway Bridge. I’m not complaining though. Off-roading among the hills is the kind of running I enjoy the most.

I was a bit late getting to the office this morning – 13 mins after 9, so sorry about that. No real excuse, other than it took a while to drag myself out of bed to look for breakfast and get my shit together. Will try harder tomorrow. In fact I better had, I’ve a ferry to catch.

Most of the first half of today’s run consisted of quite undulating country lanes, interspersed with a few overgrown and wet footpath section to get me in the mood for later. The scenery was quite pleasant but nothing remarkable happened, except coming up to a ‘Road Closed’ sign in the middle of nowhere. – not even at a junction.

Looking at the map any alternative was a long way round, so I decided to risk continuing and hope a way through on foot was possible. A mile later I was getting paranoid that I would have to backtrack. But around the next corner I felt a big sense of relief and at the same time felt angry. I could get though but had to climb over the reason for the closure – a big pile of crap that had been flytipped in the middle of the road. Grrrrrr

I knew that as I headed out into rural Kent the opportunities to shop for provisions would get fewer and farther between. I therefore took the opportunity to buy some lunch and make use of a nice bench in the picturesque village of Cobham (15 miles in) to scoff it. Yeah I know what your thinking, turns up late, nips off for an early lunch – what a skiver!

Well, I opted for a short lunch and was back on the move within about 20 mins. And almost immediately after leaving Cobham I was on a nice trail dropping down to meet the North Downs Way: which would see me right through to the coast.

The NDW lulled me into a false sense of security though, as the first couple of miles consisted of an easy trot down to and across the Medway. But once on the south side of the river she (are trails feminine or masculine? I’ve not thought about it before, but now I’m intrigued. I’m sure the French have a view. Anyway, I digress) – she started heading up. And up. And up. For what seemed like an eternity. It was a slog but worth if for the view from Bluebell Hill. Time to pause and get my breath ba….. hehem… take a picture.

The remainder of the day on the NDW was a rollercoaster as she, or he (oh who cares) went steeply down, up, down, up down etc etc as the path skirted the edge of the escarpment.

It rained on and off all day, but I was quite thankful of it cooling me down after the heat and humidity of the past 3 days. That was until I was 2.5 miles from the end when it turned into a monsoon. I didn’t mind the wet clothes or slippery mud, but it really scuppers your ability to navigate using maps on a touch screen smartphone. Lesson learnt there.

I ended my day at the Roebuck pub in Harrietsham. Not just because I fancied a Guinness. They also had a bed for the night. The eagle eyes amongst you may have noticed that my tracker shows my finishing point for today a few miles further on at Charing. But I can assure you I wasn’t skiving again and getting an early dart to the pub. I’d changed my plans last week because I couldn’t find any suitable digs in Charing. Honest!

I seem to have rambled a bit today, so I’ll sign off now before I send you to sleep, and just leave you with the stats.

Stats for the day

Miles covered: 36:13 (194.54 accumulative)

Time elapsed: 8:24:37

Time moving: 7:06:41

Elevation gain: 2801ft

Average pace: 11:49/mile (slowest day yet, see above)

Consumption during the run:

– 2 x crusty rolls with ham, cheese and pickle from an excellent traditional village shop in Cobham

– 1 packet of crisps

– 1.5 litres of Tailwind mix

– 1.5 litres of plain water

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