Exploring the North Downs Way: Part 3

With my time in London fast running out – I’ll be back in Scotland in 2018 – I’m keen to continue our quest to complete the North Downs Way trail. So far we’ve run two legs – from St Martha’s Hill to Boxhill and from Boxhill to Oxted – and just over 30 miles so we’ve still got a long way to go. On Saturday I thought it would be nice to go back to the start of the trail, the furthest West it goes, in Farnham. Nige and jumped on the train and within an hour we were at the start, a hop across from the railway line and next to the busy A25 in front of a sign telling us that we were over 100 miles from Dover. So off we went…

Farnham – St Martha’s Hill – Guildford 16 miles

The first few miles follow the path of the River Wey (keep your eyes open for the friendly llamas and alpacas) with a few country lanes to be wary of as you approach a little village called The Sands. Don’t do what we did and continue through the village – be on the lookout for a sign that takes a left turn towards the golf clubhouse – otherwise you’ll end up off track and having to retrace your steps/find an alternative route (so much for our improved navigation, we blamed it on our eyesight!) The paths become very sandy, we joked almost beach-like, crossing fields and hopping through gates, and even passing an enchanted fairy tree, decorated with colourful ribbons and trinkets.

Through a lovely forested area and bypassing a few farmyards, the trail leads you to Puttenham, complete with a village pub, church and school, and takes you parallel to yet another golf course. It undulates considerably around here, passing over the busy A3, past the popular Watts Gallery, which houses a tea room and arty farty shop, and meets the Pilgrim Way path towards the outskirts of Guildford.

In the suburbs of Guildford the path takes you through the houses of Artington and down a little trail to a bridge over the River Wey again, which once crossed leads you over Shalford Park. After another stretch of tarmac takes you back into the shade of the woods towards St Martha’s Hill and we arrived at the recognisable car park where we had started our first leg with runners Cat and Steph. It’s a short but sharp climb up the again sandy trail to the church at the top but well worth it for the clear views across the Downs and we were lucky with the sunshine and bright blue skies, even taking time for a little sunbathing to catch our breath.

Reaching the top our aim was now to get back into Guildford, in time for the start of the rugby and to catch a train back to London. We decided to follow the North Downs Way trail down the hill for a little stretch and then turn off, unexpectedly into some of the muddiest, un-runable dirt paths we had seen all day, towards the city. We skirted the golf course and weaved our way through the small residential streets of Guildford towards the castle, finding the high street very easily and hopping into the closest pub to refuel with sausage sandwiches and watch Scotland beat Ireland in the Six Nations! What a day!

So now we’ve joined the dots between Farnham and Oxted, covering a total of 43 miles, and I’m excited to plan the next stage of our journey, maybe enjoying an overnight stay to maximise our running time and get a real sense of adventure outside the city!

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