12 London group walkers turned up at Dunton Green on a gloomy morning to walk west along the North Downs to Oxted.
We had some amusement near the beginning as we speculated why a pair of running shorts might have been left hanging on a tree branch.
Leaving the shorts behind we passed by Chipstead Lake, which is used by a sailing club, then had good views of a series of motorway junctions (in which some of us were actually quite interested).
I had pre-walked this section the week before when there were glorious autumn colours with the sun shining on wooded banks, but unfortunately this was not to be repeated today. The initial overcast weather deteriorated to an insidious drizzle, which persisted to the end of the walk. I'd hoped for excellent views across the Darenth valley, but there were none.
We had a quick look at Chevening church and then climbed on to the North Downs escarpment with good views of Chevening House. This Jacobean/Edwardian building was left in trust to the nation in 1959 and since then has had various ministerial and royal occupants (and currently the 'three Brexiteers', I was reliably informed).
We had lunch sheltering under some trees (which nevertheless dripped on to our sandwiches). Afterwards we made a detour off the North Downs Way so as to pass close to the highest points in Greater London and Kent and to avoid a steep descent and re-ascent. This bit was bit fiddly and we lost some time.
As we crossed Westerham Hill I gave everyone the chance of an early escape route by bus, with no takers at that point. But half an hour later there were complaints about it getting dark and questions about where the nearest public transport was. I explained that it was at Oxted station, our destination, but this response was met with consternation. However, twilight lasts longer and the human eye is much more adaptable than people think. In any case I and a number of others had headtorches with us. But I have to say the final path down into Oxted was surprisingly difficult to follow; one of the walkers later told me that the route had been diverted round a new sports ground since he had lived in Oxted as a child. At one point, focussing on navigation, I nearly fell into a ditch.
On arrival at Oxted most of the party proceeded to the welcoming Wetherspoons pub and five of us ended the day with a very good Thai meal at the restaurant next door. Despite some earlier disruption to the trains we all got home safely.
The group developed a good sense of camaraderie and I'd like to thank my fellow walkers for making the day much more enjoyable than might have been expected given the poor weather.
Photos courtesy of Google Images, as we did not take any due to the dull weather