Or 15 miles hiking along the North Downs Way
Or how many pubs can we visit in 6 hours
A friend called Carolina is going to be trekking Machu Pichu in Peru in the next few weeks and has been taking her training very seriously. She will be trekking at 4000m above sea level, which is no mean feat!
When she found out about my 50 at 50 Challenge she got in touch and we hatched a plan to find her some hills and turn one of her training sessions into one of my challenges.
'Hill's?' I thought. Hmmm I know the perfect place - the North Downs Way. Having just walked 55km of it for Challenge number 4 from Farnham to Reigate rather than attacking Box Hill again there is a wonderful hill about a kilometre long when you start the North Downs Way at Otford - just wanted Carolina needed. So the route was planned to walk from Otford to Wrotham and back - a round trip of around 15 miles.
So leaving Blackheath on a wet Saturday morning a merry band of 5 hikers were ready for a day of mud!
Carolina, Jules, Rachel, Mike & me, bundled into cars and off we set.
Otford is a lovely Kent village, so parking in a car park opposite a pub (that we would visit later at the end of the walk), we heading out of the village to a road called the Pilgrims Way and headed up hill.
It was the hill that just kept on giving, concrete gave way to a track, which gave way to steps, and more steps and guess what .. more steps. The heart rate was definitely on the up too!
The hill opens out into woods at the top and luckily the North Downs Way is well sign posted ... or so I thought. I've walked this part of the NDW many times, however we were all so engrossed in conversation, and trying to stay upright in the mud, that we soon realised that we had gone a little off course.
The route takes you through Kemsing Down Nature Reserve, past Otford Manor, frequently giving you amazing views across the Kent countryside, if you can get past all the mud!! The word of the day was squelch!
Wending our way along the Pilgrims way for 3km we chatted, dodged large puddles and took in the views, and were praying hard the the rain stayed away. We finally found ourselves in Wrotham, a typical Kent village with more pubs than shops or people, but with done of them yet open we settled outside and packed lunches we soon devoured.
So lunch consumed the heavens decided that they were going to open and add to an already muddy, wet and damp day. Spirits were not dampened though, as we we now had to ascend hills which had been rolling downhills on the way out, and try to stay upright on slippery wet steps.
Our glutes were beginning to feel the effect of trying to stay upright, and just at that moment we saw Butts Hill Cottage, how apt!
It is amazing the things you see when you do a route in reverse!
Needing to get in hill practice Carolina tackled one of the larger hills twice. Climbing the hill we waited at the bottome, and then all decided we were going to run up the hill (I am not sure that this is what I signed up for!).
Heart rate amplified we headed back into the woods and picked up the muddy trails that had led us out to Wrotham, the time flew by as the famous five got to know each other and bonded over our love of kissing gates, the word squelch, random sheep and horses, and autumn leaves.
The woods gave way to Kent weald views where some of the group took time out to take photos, or try out their catalogue poses!
Aside from raising money for charity, one of the things I wanted to come from completing 50 challenges for Pancreatic Cancer was to foster a sense of community. I wanted to meet new people, get out and do things in the big outdoors and make new friends - this challenge certainly ticked all those boxes.
As we made our way back towards Otford there was just one last thing for Carolina to do - to attack the long hill we started with. Picking our way half way down the hill (trying not to end up on our bums!) 4 of the famous five stood by as we watched Carolina climb back up the hill and then make her way down again.
Now as any good hiker knows, you always start and finished a long walk at a pub, and this hike was no different. Refuelling at The Bull in Otford was very much in order - and we all highly recommend the food!
Just over 14 miles were completed, with Carolina putting in extra effort for her Machu Pichu trip. A fun muddy day was had by all and challenge 6 was done!