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By David Bathurst

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The road runs parallel with the M25 which is on the right, and, with the M23 coming in from the left, you could be forgiven for feeling like the jam in a motorway sandwich. Immediately ahead is the interchange of these motorways, and the lover of motorway engineering can obtain a grandstand view of it from the bridge just ahead. The North Downs Way, however, leaves Rockshaw Road just short of the bridge, turns left and passes under the M23, climbing to a triangulation point some 660ft above sea level, higher than Box Hill.

The A249 crossing, reached by a sharp right turn and steep descent, is the closest you get to Maidstone. This bustling Medway town, badly affected by flooding in the autumn of 2000, boasts the largest church in Kent (All Saints) as well as a fourteenth-century Archbishops’ Palace. After the introduction of hops from the Continent in the sixteenth century, the town became the centre of the Kentish brewery industry. As you walk through Kent you will see many fine examples of oast houses or kilns which were formerly used for drying newly picked hops.

It is a fine combination of natural beauty and man’s ingenuity. Once over the tunnel, the Way continues to lose height, proceeding through the woods and into open country, then having passed some limeworks, soon reaches a minor road (42). The Way crosses more or less straight over but by following the road to the right you will reach Oxted, where direct trains to London are available. ’ Prettier is the next-door village of Limpsfield where, among the yews of the churchyard, the composer Frederick Delius is buried.

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