North Downs Way

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North Downs Way
North Downs Way near Hollingbourne 1.JPG
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)
SeasonAll year
The North Downs Way, and the other Kent long-distance footpaths

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 on the North Downs Way


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 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 Broughton Lees 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.


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[edit]


  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[edit]

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