15.6 km (9.7 miles)
5 out of 10, with all the climbing in the morning
OS Landranger 179; Explorer 137.
This walk is in some ways a companion to the Walk 53, Wye Circular in Time Out Country Walks Volume One, as it shares the same remote lunch pub (which sadly now insists on advance booking). Otherwise, however, it takes an entirely different route, starting from Chilham station, crossing the River Stour and then climbing up into a pleasant area of downland and upland fields and woods.
Perhaps the finest section is just after lunch, when the route takes you along a downland escarpment with panoramic views. You then descend to pass through the attractive estate of Godmersham Park, a house that was owned by the brother of writer Jane Austen, and where she often stayed. The walk finishes along a quiet back lane which takes you to the picture postcard hilltop village of Chilham, dominated by the stately home of Chilham Castle.
All the climbing is in the morning half of the walk, with the afternoon largely downhill or flat. There are a few small bluebell woods in the central section of the walk, flowering in late April and early May.
Since this walk shares the same lunch pub as Walk 53, Wye Circular in Time Out Country Walks Volume One, it is possible to combine the morning of one and the afternoon of the other to do a Wye to Chilham of 17.7km (11 miles) or a Chilham to Wye walk of 16km (9.9 miles). Of the two, the Wye to Chilham walk perhaps has the best of the scenery. Full details of the Wye Circular walk are available in the ‘Time Out Country Walks 1’ section of this website
Chilham is a stop just before Canterbury West on the line out of Ashford. It is served by one direct train an hour out of Charing Cross and London Bridge, with a journey time of 1 hour 50 mins.
However, you can reduce that to 1 hour 5 mins by taking a high speed train from St Pancras International (supplement payable) to connect with the direct train at Ashford.
If doing the Wye to Chilham option, Chilham is one stop beyond Wye, so you will need a day return to Chilham.
To get to lunch in Sole Street comfortably, take a train that arrives at Chilham no later than 11am (ie the one that arrives at 10.46 on the current timetable). Fast walkers may be able to take the train an hour later, however.
|Points of interest||
Godmersham Park was one of three country estates owned by Edward, the brother of the writer Jane Austen. We know from her letters that she made several visits to it, and she describes having dinner with the owners of Chilham Castle, so she would certainly have travelled the route between the two houses taken by this walk. The house is now a college and its interior is changed from Jane’s day, but the exterior is substantially as it was.
One assumes that Jane also walked around the estate and enjoyed its tranquil countryside (then undisturbed by the A28), but in fact her letters – written to her sister Cassandra – never discuss such matters, instead focusing on people and gossip.
Edward owned Godmersham because he had been adopted by the rich Knight family, distant relatives of the Austen’s, even though his natural parents were still living. This arrangement – rather odd to us – meant he got the education of a gentleman, went on a Grand Tour, and – crucially – was able to help the rest of his family financially.
Edward’s eldest daughter, Fanny, was a favourite of Jane’s, and in her letters to her the author made several famous remarks about her work which are now much quoted. However, Fanny secretly found her aunt a bit common. Later in life she famously described Jane and Cassandra as “not as refined as she ought to have been” and said that had her father not invited them to Godmersham “they would have been very much below par as to Society and its ways”. Jane also seems to have been a less popular guest at Godmersham than her sister – at any rate, she was, as far as we can tell, not invited so often.
In the 1980s, Chilham Castle, which has the delightful postal address of “Chilham Castle, Canterbury, Kent” , used to stage medieval jousting and other such attractions. The current owners (who include the founder of spread betting firm IG Index) seem to prefer a quieter life, with the gardens are open on the second Tuesday of the month in summer, but not the house. The castle has a history going back to William the Conqueror which you can read on www.chilham-castle.co.uk, but it has basically always been a family home. The current house dates to 1616, but the keep of the old medieval fortress also still survives.
The Compasses Inn, Sole Street, Crundale (01227 700300 www.compassesinn-crundale.co.uk), 6.5km (4 miles) into the walk, is the only possible lunch option on this walk and sadly now insists on advance booking - three midweek walkers in April 2016 only with difficulty persuaded the pub to serve them, even though it was empty, because they had not booked. If you are one of the elect, food is served serves food from 12pm to 2.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 12-6pm Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
The best picnic area is the escarpment after the pub, whose location is indicated in paragraph 44 of the walk directions.
If you can get there in time, Shelly’s Tea Room in Chilham, open 10.30-6pm in summer or to 5pm in winter, is the best option for tea and cakes. Though it looks small from the outside, it has an upstairs room and, according to its proprietor, “regularly holds groups as large as 45 people”.
Of the two pub options in Chilham, the White Horse (01227 730 355) has a nice location in the main square, and also does tea and sells chocolate bars, as well as serving hot deserts. More cosy in winter, however, and just down the hill on the main walk route, is the Woolpack Inn (01227 730 351), which does “traditional afternoon teas with scones and cake” from 3pm to 5pm daily, and is open for bar drinks and hot food all afternoon and evening.
Note that it is 900 metres from the centre of the village and 700 metres from the Woolpack Inn to Chilham station, so leave 15 (or ideally 20) minutes to do this. There is nowhere pleasant near the station to spend an hour if you miscalculate.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk