Main walk 12.9km (8 miles)
a) Ending at Sissinghurst 11.9km (7.4 miles)
a) Ending at Cranrbook 14.6km (9.0 miles)
b) Longer walk via Sissinghurst 20.3km (12.6 miles)
c) Starting at Sissinghurst 11.8km (7.3 miles)
Both stations for this walk are on the line between Tonbridge and Ashford, and are served by trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge. Journey time is about 1 hour. Catch the train nearest to 9.30am from Charing Cross to Staplehurst to get to the lunch pub in time
Options a) to c) require the use of Arriva bus number 5 from/to Staplehurst.
OS Explorer 136 & 137; OS Landranger 188
This is an easy walk through fields and woods in the Low Weald of Kent, with a very fine bluebell wood en route from mid May to early April, and good displays of wood anemones from mid March to mid April. The whole route is wonderful for wild flowers in late April and early May.
Optional extensions allow you to visit Sissinghurst, the former home of the diplomat Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, the writer now more famous as the lesbian lover of Virginia Woolf. The house was originally a moated Tudor mansion, which fell into disrepair until only a few buildings – including the gatetower and the stable buildings were left. Nicholson and Sackville-West bought the property in 1930 and created the famous gardens that are now maintained by the National Trust.
Notoriously, each lived in their own separate building – Sackville-West in the tower, Nicholson in the nearby house, only coming together in the communal living room in the stable block. A member of the family still lives on the property, though it has been owned by the National Trust since 1962. The gardens are open daily from mid March to December.
a) Ending at Sissinghurst or Cranbrook This alternative afternoon for the walk takes in Sissinghurst Gardens (see Walk Notes above) and allows you time to make a visit to them. It is 3km (1.9 miles) from Frittenden to Sissinghurst, and after that the route follows National Trust permissive paths for 2.3km (1.4 miles) to the village of Sissinghurst. You can catch Arriva bus no 5 (ultimate destination Maidstone) from here to Staplehurst station, making a total walk from Staplehurst of 11.9km (7.4 miles).
Alternatively you can continue on for 2.6km (1.6 miles) from Sissinghurst village to the very pretty town of Cranbrook, once one of the most important centres in this part of Kent, but bypassed by the railways until late in the 19th century and so retaining much of its old-fashioned charm. This makes a 14.6km (9 mile) walk from Staplehurst. Cranbrook has various tea options and a working windmill that still grinds corn and which is open 2.30pm to 5pm on Saturdays and bank holidays from April to September.
b) Long walk to Headcorn via Sissinghurst This option was originally created to allow walkers to visit Sissinghurst Gardens, but option a) is a much better way of doing that. However if you particularly want a longer walk or like a bit of adventure, this 9.5km (5.9 mile) route from Sissinghurst to Headcorn is for you. After a fairly long section on a quiet (almost entirely traffic-free) rural lanes, it crosses gently undulating lowland fields - mainly pasture - on paths that are not much in use, with stiles and signposts that have not always been well-maintained. It can therefore be a bit of a challenge in route finding. .
c) Sissinghurst to Headcorn You can use Arriva bus no 5 from Staplehurst to start the walk from Sissinghurst village. Permissive National Trust paths take you to the Sissinghurst Gardens in 2.3km (1.4 miles), and you can then do the 9.5km (5.9 miles) option b) route to Headcorn: but see the description above for the challenges of this route. This makes a total walk from Sissnghurst village to Headcorn of 11.8km (7.3 miles). >.
Note that the Sissinghurst house and gardens are closed in January, February and early March, but the permissive paths used in options b) and c) are open all year round.
|Lunch and Tea||
The Bell & Jorrocks , Frittenden, TN14 7QB (01580 852415). Food served noon -3.00pm Wednesday to Sunday. Located 7.1km (4.4 miles) from the start of the walk, this is the suggested lunch stop. Groups should definitely book, as this is a small family-run pub and cannot cope with large numbers of customers turning up unexpectedly
Village Tea Rooms , Headcorn (01622 890682). This is the suggested tea shop. It closes at 4.45pm Mon-Sat, and at 4.30pm Sun.
George and Dragon , High Street, Headcorn, TN27 9NL (01622 890239). This is a very friendly and cosy pub, which offers both full cream teas and excellent food.
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, 3km (1.8 miles) beyond Frittenden on walk options a) or b), and 2.3km (1.4 miles) from the start of option c), has a National Trust self-service restaurant and tea room which can be accessed without paying an entrance fee to the site. It does hot meals from midday to 2.30pm, and serves tea until 5.30pm daily from mid March to the end of December. The Sissinghurst complex also has a separate small cafe, near the entrance to the car park.
On option a), the Milk House pub in Sissinghurst village is a possible pub stop and Cranbrook has several tea options including Ted's Room, a comfortable modern cafe and Waterloo House tea room, a more traditional cafe. Otherwise the George Hotel has comfortable sofas and serves hot drinks.
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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