As ever, it was Lucy who discovered this long distance walking trail and told us all that we really needed to do it. It had two attractions: 1) It’s a long walking route that actually starts in the suburbs of London and 2) It’s named after the Vanguard Walking Club, who sound a lot like us.
Part 1 attracted a lot of extra walkers – friends of friends and other walking groups joining ours. No offence to East Croydon, but it’s not exactly a well-known beauty spot. I imagine a lot of people at the station thought we’d all got a bit lost when we met in all our hiking gear.
But, soon enough we were heading through suburban streets, following the plentiful Vanguard Way signs along un-promising looking pavements.
There was the odd patch of greenery – Lloyd Park and Coombe Wood (more of a small garden) and then we entered Littleheath and Selsdon Wood and suddenly – COUNTRYSIDE. It only took about an hour and we were surrounded by woods.
The route continued becoming more and more rural as we crossed fields and dipped in and out of copses, finally hitting the North Downs Way.
The path was quite undulating in places with a particularly steep downhill stretch to a bridge over the M25. But once outside the famous London Orbital Motorway, we really felt like we had left Croydon and the suburbs behind us.
Once we arrived in Oxted, we found all the high-street pubs full so ended up in the welcoming Wetherspoons by the station for a celebratory pint at the end of our first leg of the Vanguard Way.