20.5 km (12.8 miles)
6 out of 10:
OS Landranger 179 or 189 (ie, either map has the whole walk route)
OS Explorer 137 and 138 (ie, you need both these maps)
This lovely walk follows one of the finest sections of the North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of the North Downs escarpement – in many ways it feels more like the South Downs - with fine views for nearly the whole walk. There is just one 3km (1.8 mile) section mid afternoon when you are away from the escarpment edge.
While the North Downs Way is waymarked, it is not always comprehensively so, and in places the waymarks are confusing or missing. The path is not always as obvious as one might expect from such a major long distance footpath. Hence the directions in the pdf version of this walk - see the DOWNLOAD WALK button above. While they for the most part follow the North Downs Way once it has climbed from Sandling up onto the ridge, the creation of access land has also opened up some escarpment sections that were formerly off limits to walkers, and where these improve the walk they have been included in the walk directions.
There is also a map-only version of the directions (see bottom of this page) for those that prefer this.
While downland can be relatively dry in winter, this walk does have several sections on shady tracks that look potentially very muddy between November and March. In late spring there can be intense displays of buttercups on this walk.
Sandling is served by direct trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge via Ashford, journey time 1 hour 30 minutes: there are two trains an hour Monday to Friday, and one an hour at weekends. You can also travel from St Pancras International to Ashford on the high speed train (small supplement payable), changing there for the above train, which reduces the journey time from London to one hour.
Wye has two trains an hour daily to London Bridge and Charing Cross, journey time 1 hour 30 minutes, and again this can be reduced to one hour by changing at Ashford for the high speed train to St Pancras.
By car: both Sandling and Wye stations have car parks, and in Wye you may also be able to park elsewhere in the village (We have not checked this). You can get back from Wye to Sandling by changing at Ashford: connections seem to work pretty well for this, with journey times of 22-26 minutes for the whole trip.
The Tiger Inn (01303 862130 www.tigerinn.co.uk) in Stowting is a charming and friendly pub on a quiet country lane, ideally situated 9.2km (5.7 miles) into this walk. It is closed Tuesday, and only open 4pm to 11pm on Monday, but is open all day from noon Wednesday to Sunday. It seems to serve food for all these hours, but do check. It has a restaurant area, but also serves food in the bar (about six tables) and at half a dozen or so outside tables in summer. The menu is quite a gourment one, with prices of many dishes in the low to mid teens
If the Tiger Inn is full, there is an alternative pub 2.2km (1.4 miles) further up the road – the Five Bells Inn (01303 813334 www.fivebellsinnbrabourne.com)in Brabourne, a charmingly quirky pub with plenty of seating both inside and out, which offers an interesting and not over-priced menu from 12pm to 9pm daily. This requires a detour off the walk, however, which adds 800 metres (0.5 miles) to the walk length. See the walk directions pdf for details of this.
For picnics, the morning part of the walk offers many fine vantage points at which to eat, but perhaps the best is the lovely hill mentioned in point 38 of the directions (so long as you don’t mind eating surrounded by sheep).
It is 10.8km (6.7 miles) after lunch in Stowting – to Wye. There is a cafe in the village - the Wye Coffee Shop and Kitchen, but it closes at the cruelly early hour of 4pm on Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays, though at 5pm Monday to Friday, so most walkers will not get to it in time.
Fortunately the Tickled Trout (01233 812227) pub down by the river is an excellent tea stop, with a garden by the shallow River Stour in which weary walkers can paddle their feet in summer. It serves good value food all day in summer, but only from 12-2.30pm and 6-9pm in winter, and in summer has been known to offer cream teas when the weather is fine. The pub is just across the bridge from Wye station, almost close enough for you to rush across when you hear the level crossing barriers go down.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The directions below are just an outline for use with a map.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk
- [Map 1] : Older OS Maps are misleading at the start due to changes caused by the Channel Tunnel. Starting from Sandling Station car park (on the south side of the tracks), head southeast along what seems to be the route of the dismantled railway shown on the map.
- Where this disappears into a tunnel, veer left up steps and through woods (ignoring a few footpaths with a "no through path" sign on the left), then eventually turn left (north) at a T-junction to join the Elham Valley Way (About 1km in total).
- The remainder of the route is easy to follow. Continue North for 2km, following the Elham Valley Way, over the M20, and up Tolstoy Hill to the Radio Masts.
- NDW: Head North West on the well marked North Downs Way (NDW) towards Cobbs Hill (4km)
- [Map 2] : NDW: Continue on the NDW, approx 300 degrees. The NDW leaves the ridge.
- NDW: At the bottom of the hill is the small village of Stowting and the excellent Tiger Inn (lunchtime pub) (1.5 km).
- NDW: After lunch, its back up to the ridge, for a further 1.5 km
- [Map 3] : NDW: Continue north west along the NDW (4 km)
- NDW: There is a lovely viewpoint at the end of the Ridge. You can a wide sweep of the Kent coast, as far as the hills around Hastings, as well as Wye and its station.
- [Map 4] : NDW: Head North along the escarpment for 1 km, then turn west down through the woods then fields into Wye (3km).
- NDW: The Tickled Trout pub is at the far (west) side of the town, the station 100m further.