Walking from (or to) Brussels: announcing victory (or surrender)

Wellington’s dispatch from Waterloo was carried from Brussels to London. It would be a long walk (and if you walk to Brussels it may announce not victory but surrender.) Still, the challenge is finding the best route.

When the cannon had ceased to bellow on the evening of 18 June 1815, Wellington rode to his headquarters at Waterloo, just south of Brussels, and in the small hours of the morning wrote his dispatch, which Major Percy carried at once to Ostend, and thence to London.  The party landed at Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet north of Ramsgate, but anyone walking the route will find there is no ferry these days, so Dover will have to do.  If walking from London to Brussels, you may be carrying not news of victory but news of surrender – but I will let the politicians worry about that.

Percy used horses and coaches. On foot it will take longer than the three days Percy took:  the walk to Dover is about a hundred miles, which is a five day walk if you are not caning it.  (I know the LDWA have a challenge to walk 100 miles in 48 hours; well. you can try it.)

The best route should keep off the roads.  It is mainly through Kent, the Garden of England, which should promise pleasing scenery albeit even though the county is sliced up by major roads and railways. The direct route is by road, on old Roman routes, as the way from Dubris to Londinium is an ancient route. There must be other ways.  There is in fact the Timeball and Telegraph Trail, which runs most of the way we want to go, all the way from Greenwich to close to Dover and avoiding the long road walk, so while I have left my original route on the map, I have (since I first posted this) replotted the London to Dover section using the Timeball and Telegraph.

I have carefully mapped it as a proper route, though not one I have walked nor intend to.  To start though I have linked existing walks – the Thames Path from Westminster to Silvertown, the foot tunnel to Woolwich and the riverside to the Darenth, thence cross-country to Rochester.  Any walk across Kent has the issue of where you cross the Medway, and Rochester is as good a place as any, and a pretty city. There the long Roman Road to Canterbury is the direct route – that does the job, but it can be avoided.

From Canterbury the North Downs Way Canterbury Loop gives a pleasing journey down to Dover.

Across the Channel you land at Ostend, in Flanders, and there you may be delighted to find the Belgian footpaths are pretty good.  The main routes are called Grand Randonnée, or Grote Routepaden; but that is for next time.  A hundred miles to the edge of the land is enough for one post – the Further Wild follows, but I have a map of it all the same.

Route map


Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25 000 000)

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