North Downs Way recce

I’m doing my first 100 mile race in two weekends time – the North Downs Way 100. It’s from Farnham to Knockholt Pound and back again. I’ve run the NDW from Farnham to Merstham (and back) before, but not east of Merstham, so yesterday I decided to check out that part of the trail.

The first part of the trail east from Merstham was pretty good – across some fields and then gravelly trail. A bit of road, some woodland paths and then I took a wrong turn and maybe did half a mile or so extra whilst finding my way back to the trail.

There’s a fantastic view from the top of Tandridge Hill, and then a steep set of steps to descend, at the bottom of which you can see where the trail will take you across past a quarry in parallel with the M25. After this the trail took a lengthy climb up Pitchfont Lane and not far off was a section I where had some problems. James (RD) mentioned on Fetch recently that there’s a section currently overgrown with nettles – of course I forgot about this and foolishly tried to battle my way through it a bit before realising the futility. I had bare legs below my shorts, so lots of stings and the trail really was overgrown. So, I climbed over a barbed wire fence and got out to the road and avoided the rest of the nettles. I hope that gets cleared in the next two weeks!

NDW distance marker

The next section was along a rough gravelly road (The Ave) where there are some massive houses set back from the road. At least, I think there are – all you can see are big gates and a driveway leading up into the trees. There’s a distance marker here showing that Farnham is 48 miles to the west and Canterbury 65 miles to the east.

Shortly after this I had another navigational fubar. After climbing some steps, I came out into a field which is on a steep slope – I was in a corner at the bottom of the slope. I couldn’t see any trail markers but knew which direction I had to head, so I set off along the slope. As I got near the other side of the field, I could see a big group of cows at the top of the slope. I couldn’t see a gate or any markers, so decided to head back to the other side of the field and climb to the top. I then saw a marker pointing towards the cows. The gate I needed was bound to be behind all the cows, right?

Moove over

As I got close, I could see the kissing gate that I was looking for. It was totally surrounded by cows. In fact, there was a cow *in* the gate. Nearby was a bigger gate, with barbed wire along the top. I decided to chance that instead of the cows and carefully climbed over. On the other side, I was able to get a photo.

Most of the rest of the way to Knockholt Pound was on overgrown and uneven tracks along the edges of fields and meadows, eventually coming out onto a narrow road leading into the village.

I popped into the shop here, bought a sandwich and a can of Dr Pepper for lunch and a big bottle of water to top up my pack. Lunch was enjoyed on a bench on the village green – very nice!

The return leg was going great until around 20 miles when my right foot started to hurt. I’ve had a tight achilles of late and a few days after the Kent 50, I had a flare up of PF along my arch. That’s what was bothering me again yesterday, although it was more painful than previously. The 13 miles or so from there back to Merstham were pretty uncomfortable, with ibuprofen only really taking the edge off it. I’ve got two weeks to try and sort that out – I’ll book a massage next week to work on my calf and achilles and I’ll do the tennis ball thing.

So, that was my last big training run before the 100, and it was well worth checking out the route – I’d much rather miss turns or get a bit lost on a recce than during the event itself!


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