By David Bathurst
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Extra info for Beaten Track: the Big Walks of Great Britain
There is a fair amount of up-anddown work, with the path rising to nearly 900ft in places but, save one or two steep climbs, there is nothing that is too arduous. There are ample rewards for modest effort in terms of some superb viewpoints and many attractive stretches of airy downland and beautiful beech-woods. Originally the North Downs were covered with dense woodlands of ash, hornbeam, beech and yew. Much of this has been cleared to expose grazing land, but several pockets of woodland remain, with many lovely flowers including violet, primrose, stitchwort, hazel, honeysuckle and lady orchid; the North Downs is the only area in Britain where the lady orchid is to be found.
The cathedral contains the tomb of St William of Perth, who was murdered near Rochester in 1201 during a pilgrimage; after he was buried, a number of miracles were reported to have taken place at his tomb. The city has strong associations 53 The Beaten Track with Charles Dickens who spent much of his life in the area, and parts of Rochester appear in his novels Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Returning down the A228 to rejoin the Way, your next task will be to cross the Medway, using the right-hand side of the splendid M2 motorway bridge high above the river (71).
Busy roads and railways run parallel to, and across the route in many places, 40 The North Downs Way creating a constant barrage of noise. Development is so intense that camping is difficult, if not impossible; even the smaller, prettier villages situated on or near the route have expanded through insensitive post-war building so there is little sense of isolation or tranquillity. 42. Farnham to Puttenham Farnham is a very agreeable place to start the journey; best known as the home of the writer William Cobbett, author of Rural Rides.