I specifically asked to review this book because the North Downs Way, which runs from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent, passes within a mile of my house and it’s been on my to-do-list to wander along it for a while.
Published by Cicerone and authored by Kev Reynolds – who has penned over 50 guidebooks and knows a thing or two about walking – the book is a small affair and can easily be slipped in to a pocket to accompany you on a jaunt down any part of the Way where it is useful for pointing out those things around you which might otherwise be dismissed.
The tone of the book is friendly yet factual, with enough information to keep you interested, but not so in-depth that it gets dull or hard to read on the move. A snippet, lifted from the Cicerone website copy sets the scene:
“Close to the Surrey/Hampshire border, Farnham marks the official start of the North Downs Way with a carved post set beside a busy junction on the A31 a little west of the town’s railway station. From the station walk downhill to the traffic lights (844 466) and turn right. A tarmac footpath soon brings you to a narrow lane where you bear right. The lane is flanked by trees, and at a T-junction you turn right again on another metalled lane which becomes a pitted drive running alongside theRiver Wey, here a reedy, rather unimposing – but nonetheless pleasant – stream.”
It would be potentially possible to use the guidebook to navigate by, such is the depth of Kev’s instructions, and the inclusion of Cicerone’s party-piece OS 1:50000 mapping makes things abundantly clear for anyone familiar with such things.
The North Downs Way book is packed with photos, maps and information boxes which make every page-spread a visual feast and it never gets tepid. I’ve walked the section near my house dozens of times and yet the book made for an informative read on things like the local YHA and highest points. I confess that it has lived in our toilet for a couple of months which is the highest accolade a book can achieve at GWA towers.
The whole of the North Downs Way would be a mammoth walk for anyone to undertake, so the book breaks it down in to manageable sections, each of which presents a potential challenge. At the start of each section, the book lists the correct mapping for that section, as well as accommodation on the route and all-important pubs.
For £12, the Cicerone pocket-sized guidebooks are a bit of a bargain. They’re a well-written, beautifully published guidebook that doesn’t skimp on poor mapping or poor printing, and this is no exception.
SUMMARY: Well-written, very informative and easily carried guidebook for the North Downs Way. No downsides.