News From the North Downs Way Trail Officer
News from the North Downs Way Project Team :-
Tony Gowers has been working for the North Downs Way Project Team for the past few years and as National Trail Officer since April this year.
Tony says that “During my time working on the Trail I have been constantly amazed at the range of heritage and history that can be discovered along and around the North Downs Way National Trail. As the days shorten there are still wonderful and surprisingly peaceful walking experiences to be enjoyed just beyond the outskirts of London.
To enjoy the stunning views southwards and the changing autumn colours, you can easily seek out the traditional beauty spots like Box Hill, Reigate Hill and the Wye Downs, but for an alternative experience you can also hunt out less well known places like the Silent Pool in deepest Surrey, linked to Agatha Christie’s disappearance in the 1920s and the evocative ruined church at Eastwell in East Kent where the last of the Plantagenet kings is buried. In fact wherever you are along the Trail you are never far from cathedrals, castles, ancient villages and beautiful downland scenery.
Watching the BBC series Restoration reminded me of the range of history to be found along the North Downs.
In the first series a building called the Darnley Mausoleum was featured. Designed by one of Britain's most eminent architects, James Wyatt, Grade I Listed Darnley Mausoleum embodies the Age of Enlightenment's preoccupation with the classical way of death. This grandiose Mausoleum is now in a sad state of disrepair.
Situated close to the mid point of the Trail near the new Medway Bridge, the Mausoleum can be viewed using one of the new North Downs Way Lost Landscapes Heritage Circular walks starting in Cuxton.
In the second series a building at the foot of the North Downs in the village of Charing was featured. This was the ruined Archbishops Palace parts of which date back as far as the 12th century. Evidence suggests that Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to the Great Hall. For the past hundred years the Palace and its various buildings have been used as a farm and have fallen into ruin.
The Archbishop’s Palace can be found close to the ‘split’ in the Trail near Ashford, Kent in the village of Charing. This area can be explored further using another of the North Downs Way Lost Landscapes Heritage walks leaflets based on the village of Charing.
In the latest series the building which came runner up in the grand final is located amongst the North Downs in Surrey. The Watts Gallery “one of the most beautiful small galleries in Europe” was built in 1903 and was intended to serve as a gallery for the paintings of the artist George Frederick Watts. The Watts Gallery remains one of the few purpose built one-man galleries in Britain and is a perfect example of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style. The Gallery is now in need of general remedial maintenance.
You can discover Watts Gallery and the equally fascinating Watts Chapel next door in the village of Compton at the western end of the Trail near Guildford. As well as being free to get in and open daily except Thursdays, Christmas and Easter, Trail users should note that there is a wonderful tea shop next door.
Enjoy your walking on the North Downs Way National Trail this autumn and find your own piece of heritage……. ..”