Crawling along the Vanguard Way

The Vanguard Way is a bloody wonder.

Who would have thought that in this day and age you could walk from the coast to London city passing through an entirely rural corridor.

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I was dropped off near Forest Row, quite a way up from the coast and set the challenge of making it home before the kids had eaten all the Easter eggs.

I wasn’t too concerned. I had money in my daysack and thought I could pop into a village shop for a sustaining creme egg if the need arose. I hadn’t factored in quite how isolated this route is. After 7 hours of walking I had passed not a single shop, pub or local convenience. I survived on a bag of sherbet pips and a bottle of coconut water but by the end even the snails were looking tasty.

The Vanguard Way was soggy this morning but I had a waterproof jacket and a plastic bag to keep my sweets dry.

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The damp air didn’t deter me or the animals. Easter bunnies were frolicking, grouse and pheasant were screeching at me from the hedgerows and lambs were being born as I squelched across the fields.

Today’s pace was painfully slow, I felt fairly fresh and healthy but the hilly terrain and the littering of stiles had the effect of stopping me in my tracks, repeatedly.

I cannot abide stiles. I reckon land owners design the most evil, wobbly contraptions to deter invading walkers. One field I passed through had passed an electric cable across the handrails and it was only the occasional buzz that warned me to attempt a handsfree ascent to avoid a shocking experience.

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As I approached Croydon across the North Downs I thought I’d stumbled upon the escape route from a local escargot farm but it seems the Romans brought monster snails to the Southern counties as well as Burgundy and these were free range Roman Snails enjoying the chalky environs of the North Downs.

I couldn’t bring any home for tea as they are an endangered species in the UK and it is now illegal to harvest them. I don’t think anyone was too disappointed.

The Vanguard Way

  • 66 miles from Croydon to Newhaven
  • There is a fantastic resource for the route available at http://www.vanguardway.org.uk/
  • Colin Saunders has produced extremely detailed route descriptions that you can download in sections and the GPS for each section is available to download. I downloaded the GPS and followed the breadcrumb trail as my printed booklets soon disintegrated in the rain.

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