North Downs Way: Riding In The Shadow Of The Rat Race

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This might be what it feels like to be a rabbit, or a fox, perhaps. Scurrying along the edge of hedgerows, through labyrinths of close grown bushes, darting out into sunlight and across a field, then back into the shade of a holloway. It’s not Watership Down I’m riding along – though with my knowledge of southern English geography, it might as well be – but instead the new North Downs Way cycle route, running from Farnham to Dover.

North Downs Way Hannah Stock
Trails lie tucked under the trees.
North Downs Way Hannah Stock
Views appear between the trees and hedgerows.

This is alien geography to me. There are hills – indeed, the first climb out of Guildford (we start here, as it’s where Cycling UK has its office) has me worrying what the days ahead might hold – but I discover that once up, it is possible to ride along for miles, not actually realising you are up until there’s a sudden break in the hedges and a broad vista presents itself. Then, you find yourself looking across broad valleys and small rolling hills until your eye reaches the ridge of the South Downs in the distance (to the south, in fact – even my geography can manage that). It’s no rural idyl though – there’s a constant background roar of the motorways feeding and circling London, and as we ride through the series of connecting snickets and thickets there’s a strong sense of being at play while the rest of the world works.


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Make a big day of it and leave time to take in the views. Credit: Cycling UK

Further Information

  • GPX files of the route are here, on the Cycling UK site.
  • Farnham to Dover is approximately 150 miles, 34 miles of it is on roads.
  • The route can be easily split into sections (and the GPX is in three 50 mile options) using local rail services.

Disclosure

Accommodation and food for the trip were provided by Cycling UK.

Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (5)

    I live in Rochester, right on the North Downs.

    I loved the write-up.

    The North Downs is a little “harsher” than the South Downs. The inclines a little more abrupt and the scenery can be beautiful but you are never far from road noise or (too much?) civilisation.

    The scenery isn’t quite up to SDW “standards”, (perhaps I am just too used to it?) and it’s very easy to get a little lost as you pointed out!

    Anyway, loved the write-up!

    Great write-up Hannah! How nice to see a new off-road cycle route in the South and well done CyclingUK for devising it.

    Shame you missed out the section from Sevenoaks to Burham, that is a joy to ride.

    Great write-up and it’s encouraging to see articles about actually riding bikes (and enjoying it!) rather than more ‘here’s some expensive kit to buy’.

    @uberpod you should check out the magazine if you haven’t already – there’s hardly any product in it at all, it’s mostly about riding.

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