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First the good bits: this guide is strongly made and well bound, the pictures are good quality and the mapping is first class. The maps are based on OS Explorer series, surely the best there are. The background information on the Downs is OK.
Now for the bad bits: there is a lot of extraneous matter that few walkers will need - circular walks etc - and the written route directions are truly dreadful. Instead of actual distances - eg turn left at the junction in 400 yds - it uses useless words like "soon" or "shortly." The word "soon" can mean any distance from 25yds to well over a mile and I ...soon... came to dread it. Where distances are used they are frequently inaccurate - one distance quoted as 100yds turned out to be 1/4 mile! Also many directions are complex, badly worded and very hard to decipher.
Overall this is not a bad guide but it would be so much better if (a) the background and other extraneous material were separated into another book or part book, and (b) the route directions were completely rewritten.
Buy it for the maps, if you buy it. The waymarking of the Way is pretty good and with them and the maps you can, as after a while I did, manage without the route directions altogether.
This is probably the best guide available for the North Downs Way. OS map sections are always preferable to drawn diagrams (in my opinion) to provide accurate explanation of the route and the topography.
I have walked the route covered by the guide, using it along the way, although it's best not to depend on it as some of the descriptive text is a little bit lacking in places. As a consequence, there remain several points where a decision is left to the walker regarding which direction to proceed where the book offers little or no advice. But, then again, I have yet to find a totally foolproof guide for any walk in this respect (and it would need to be 500 pages long if the North Downs Way was to be described in such intimate detail !).
Generally the NDW is maintained and way-marked very well. The guide works best as a compliment to this and by keeping ones wits about you, the way-marks and the guide together will ensure that neither the seasoned or casual walker is likely to go astray very easily.
The guide has plenty of information about the scenery through which the walk carves its way and describes (with maps !) one or two circular walks for those wishing to explore around the main route which I have found interesting.
On the whole then, this is an excellent little book with plenty of maps covering the entire route of the NDW. It is also tactile - a nice book to handle and dip in to. Plenty of beautiful photographs of the super scenery along the way are included. Highly Recommended !
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I think this is a great Guide but the 'proof of the pudding', as it were, will be in the walk that it has inspired me to take - from Otford to Canterbury - later this year.
There's a strong and complementary use of narrative, local photography, big map at the front and more detailed maps inside - all broken down by 'bite size' parts of the North Downs Way. The book will inspire a variety of audiences, regardless of whether you are interested in knowing more about the places along the way, seeking ideas and locales for a family day out or undertaking a longer challenge over several days...Of course if I get lost en route to Canterbury I will come back and edit this write-up!
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