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Penshurst Place (a stately home), rivers, woods, and Kent's rolling hills
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 15 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This is a pretty walk with a nice lunchtime pub. The route is through a landscape of great beauty, confirming the description of Kent as the Garden of England.
It proceeds through the grounds of Penshurst Place, with fine views of the house, taking in a truly pastoral landscape of rivers, lakes, woods and rolling hills; and passes through the lovely village of Penshurst. The walk then makes its way along the River Medway and into historic Royal Tunbridge Wells, through woods and parks which extend right into the heart of the town. The suggested tea place is in the colonnaded Pantiles.
2 castles, a stately home, rivers, ponds, woods, undulating hills and three lovely villages
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 19 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This is a fascinating and very beautiful walk through the Garden of England. It includes two castles, a stately home, rivers, ponds, woods, undulating hills and three lovely villages: the National Trust village of Chiddingstone; Penshurst, with its half-timbered houses; and Leigh (pronounced 'Lie'), with its large cricket green, dominated by the Church of St Mary.
The Medway Valley is prone to flooding, and it is possible that parts of this walk may not be passable in extreme conditions.
There are 3 places to visit on this walk (not to mention the churches), Hever Castle (large, restored, Henry VIII connection, Italinate gardens), Chiddingstone Castle (smaller, eclectic art collection, nice tea room) and Penshurst Castle (large manor house). However, you would need to do the walk in mid summer to have enough time to do them justice. Both Hever Castle and Chiddingstone Castle are members of the Historic House Association, which has a recipricol annual membership scheme, a bit like the NT's.
A gentle morning past fields and Oasthouses, then a steep climb to Knole Palace (NT) and its deer park
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 21 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
The route of this lovely walk is through what Laurie Lee described as the 'rolling, tidal landscape' of Kent.
The walk starts in the village of Leigh (pronounced 'Lie' from the Anglo-Saxon for 'forest clearing') with its many fine old buildings, goes through the churchyard and past the parkland of Hall Place, and carries on through a few too many potentially muddy fields and past many an oasthouse (the conically roofed buildings used for drying hops) to the church and pub in Underriver, the suggested lunchtime stop.
After lunch, it is sharply uphill to then follow the Greensand Way into magnificent Knole Park, passing the front entrance of Knole and leaving the park on a footpath to arrive in the centre of Sevenoaks.
You need to start this walk in good time if eating at the pub, as the bulk of it is before lunch.
2 climbs, the River Darent, two castles, and a Roman villa
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 23 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
At the start of the walk there is the Otford Solar System, which claims to be the only scale model of its kind in the world; it shows the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the new millennium.
Lunch is in Shoreham, which has 3 historic pubs to choose from.
In the afternoon, you come to Lullingstone Park with its (early summer) orchids; its Visitor Centre offers exhibitions and information about the park (and has a café).
Towards the end of the walk you pass Lullingstone Castle with its new visitor attraction, the World Garden, and Lullingstone Roman Villa (English Heritage).
The walk has two steep uphill sections and the first half can be very muddy.
A pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral via the Great Stour River, hop fields and orchards
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 28 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This particular pilgrimage to Canterbury starts beside the Great Stour River and its attendant lakes, visits the church and green at Chartham and passes through hop fields and apple orchards to the suggested lunch pub in Chartham Hatch.
In the afternoon the way is through Church Wood and Blean Woods Nature Reserve to the parklands of the University of Kent, with fine views down over Canterbury Cathedral. The entrance to the city is along the River Stour, through the Norman Westgate and down the medieval high street and alleys, entering the cathedral precincts through its ornate Christ Church Gate.
Leave early to give yourself time for site seeing at the end. Also, there's not much shade on this walk on a hot day
Gentle woods and fields, the Battle of Hastings, and Battle Abbey
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 35 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
Down the road from the station is the church and ruined manor of Crowhurst, and from farmland nearby – on a clear day – you can see Beachy Head and the sea. The potentially muddy route in winter goes through the woodlands and golf course of Beauport Park, to the church and lunchtime pub in the village of Westfield. It is 9.3km (5.8 miles) to this lunch stop.
In the afternoon the route is mainly alongside streams or the River Brede, and passes through the parkland of the Pestalozzi Children's Village. Soon the town, church and abbey of Battle are visible ahead, lining the horizon.
You may like to end the day wandering over the site of the Battle of Hastings, by the ruins of the abbey that William the Conqueror built in honour of his victory, and so to the tree marking the spot where King Harold is supposed to have been slain.
In high summer, many of the morning and afternoon paths can be overgrown, so long sleeved shirts and long trousers are highly recommended - no shorts, and do bring along a walking pole to beat back the overgrowth and omni-present prickly brambles.
A Country House, Igtham Mote (NT), Knole Palace and deer park (NT), as well as pretty countryside, and close to London.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 36 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This lovely walk passes Igtham Mote and the dramatic and very large Knole Palace (both National Trust). The palace is set in a pretty deer park.
The walk start in Borough Green, and goes south through woods and along streams to the old village of Plaxtol with its Cromwellian church. Then through the park of Fairlawne House to Ightham Mote, a beautiful moated medieval manor, and lunch in its National Trust restaurant.
The route onwards is up a potentially muddy bridleway, through orchards and along shaded woodland paths leading to the 1,000-acre Knole Park and its 365-roomed Knole House, then up by footpaths to tea in Sevenoaks, with the station some way downhill from the centre.
Quite short, but views, forest, a pretty village, a welcoming pub, and a short train journey, so good for a late start.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 43 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This would make a good, brisk, shortish autumn or winter walk, with a late start possible. The route at the outset is steeply uphill, for a time following the North Downs Way, with views back over Otford and the valley, then going through Greenhill Wood, with a glimpse of Oak Hall, before heading north to Romney Street.
In the afternoon, Shoreham village is worth visiting, with its four pubs and twelfth-century church (the station building houses the Shoreham Countryside Centre, run by volunteers and open on some weekend afternoons).
The route onwards is the Darent Valley Path into Otford, which offers a tearoom, a palace (in ruins), a church and many ancient buildings. It also contains the Otford Solar System, which claims to be the only scale model of its kind in the world; it shows the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the new millennium.
A gentle walk along The Greensand Way and through Mereworth Woods
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 50 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is an easy walk through the woods and fields of the Kent countryside, without too much in the way of hills. You will, however, need gumboots in muddy weather. The walk starts beside the River Medway, follows the Greensand Way to Roydon Hall (once the self-styled Maharishi's 'Capital of the Age of Enlightenment') and then goes on to the lunch stop in Mereworth, a village dominated by its massive Palladian church, the steeple of which is visible for miles around. After lunch, the walk is principally through the vast Mereworth Woods (very muddy in winter) on the Wealdway, then up following a stream to Borough Green. You will need long trousers for one short stretch in late summer (nettles).
Out over the North Downs with breathtaking views to lunch in Sole Street. Back up over the Downs, then returning along the Great Stour river. Muddy in winter.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 53 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk goes high up on the Crundale Downs (“crun” in Old English meant chalk, and ‘dala’ meant dell or valley), with breathtaking views. The walk comes to an isolated Norman church at Crundale, then on to a fifteenth century inn for lunch (though sadly this pub now insists on advance booking: if you are not eating at the pub you can save 2km off the route by a shortcut). The walk then passes Crundale House and the manor of Olantigh, crosses the River Great Stour and returns to Wye through its churchyard, for tea at a teashop at the bottom of Church Street or at a pub next to the railway station.
Beware that parts of the route can be very muddy in wet weather, so be prepared.
Long. The Greensand Way through remote wooded hills, passing Chartwell (Churchill, NT), Toys and Ide Hills. Gentle fields to finish.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 16 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This is a long but rewarding walk along the hills of northern Kent, much of it passing through woodland, along the Greensand Way, a popular route with walkers. In the afternoon you can enjoy views over the countryside to the south. A walk particularly recommended in late April and early May when it offers a whole series of bluebell woods and also in the autumn with the beautiful show of colours as the leaves change. The walk also passes Chartwell, (former home of Winston Churchill) and through the secluded upland village of Ide Hill, a possible tea stop.
The North Downs, hilly with views after lunch, and tranquil Luddesdown for tea.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 17 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
Don't be put off by the rather industrial nature of the train ride to the start of this walk. As soon as you leave Snodland it becomes rural and peaceful with good views and a surprisingly away-from-it-all feel. The majority of the walk is over the North Downs, mostly through wooded areas and across open fields and is hilly at times. Some paths may be overgrown with nettles in summer, so shorts aren't recommended.
Soon after lunch at Harvel, the views open out before you descend into tranquil Luddesdown, with its historic church and what may be the oldest continually inhabited house in the country.
In summer, you're likely to encounter Kent's favourite sport - cricket - both on the green behind the lunchtime pub stop - which comes half-way round the walk - and in Luddesdown behind the Victorian school.
Real-ale lovers will enjoy the tea stop - the Cock Inn at Luddesdown.
The High Weald, quiet countryside - woods and rolling hills, the Sussex Border Path, and historic Mayfield for lunch.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 18 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
The prime attraction of this walk is the pleasure of walking through the unspoiled countryside of the High Weald through a region classed as an area of outstanding natural beauty. In August and September the hedgerows are rich with blackberries. The route at the outset follows the Sussex Border Path, but soon diverts south to Tidebrook, and continues south to the pub in Mayfield. It is worth spending some time in Mayfield as it has many attractive old buildings and the 15th century church is now a grade I listed building. The route after lunch heads north east before continuing north to Wadhurst village for tea. The long walk takes you past Bewl Water, which lies just north east of Wadhurst. Bewl Water is the largest area of open water in south east England and host to a huge variety of wildlife; it is one of the region's most popular attractions.
Remote, rolling Hills, Burwash for Lunch and Batemans (NT, Rudyard Kipling's home)
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 19 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk is an good introduction to the Weald, a part of East Sussex which is less well known by walkers than the Chilterns. But its relative quiteness is one of its attractions. Passing over gentle hills and into tranquil valleys, through classic English wood and pastureland, its attractions include the unspoiled village of Burwash for lunch, and Bateman's, the one time rural retreat of Rudyard Kipling. In summer one stretch before lunch through Upper Collingtons wood can become quite overgrown with nettles and brambles, so wear long trousers and select a suitable stick on entering the wood. For those venturing on the long walk section after lunch at Burwash Common, this could with some justification be described as a wilderness walk.
Quiet, rolling hills, Bodiam Castle (NT), with a gentler finish.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 20 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This High Weald walk passes through classic Weald countryside of rolling hills, woods, hop fields and orchards. A highlight of this walk is arriving at Bodiam Castle for tea, a perfect picture of a castle, nestling in the Rother Valley, with the hooting of the steam trains of the Rother Valley Railway nearby. From there the route continues on a gently undulating course to Salehurst, before a leisurely finish back into Robertsbridge.
Gentle walk through quiet Kent Orchards with ancient pubs - Darling Buds of May territory. Hilly afternoon options.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 21 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This is a fully updated version of this gentle walk in a low lying area of Kent, made famous by the writer H.E Bates, who lived in the village of Little Chart Forestal, passed on this walk. This is quiet country: there are no great landscape features, no grand houses, and yet this is a quintessentially English walk, with fields, orchards, a couple of ancient pubs (one allegedly the most haunted in England), and towards the end, a fine and unexpected view over the Kentish landscape.
The walk is at its most perfect in mid to late May when the apple blossom is out, the lanes are full of drifts of cow parsley, and there are not infrequently vast fields of yellow oilseed rape somewhere or other on the walk. Interest on the walk is provided by the arched ‘Dering windows’ seen on many of the houses, which reflect the fact that this land was owned for nearly nine hundred years by the Dering family, who received it as a grant from William the Conqueror.
Easy cliff walk following the Saxon Shore Way along the 'White Cliffs of Dover' to historic Deal
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 30 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This simple walk (it should be impossible to get lost if you keep the sea on your right hand side) is nevertheless one of the finest coastal walks in England, taking you right along the top of the famous White Cliffs of Dover. On a clear day, you get stunning views of the English Channel, and the ferries buzzing in and out of Dover Harbour, and the French coast from Boulogne to Dunkerque. On hazier days, the dramatic (though dangerously crumbling) cliffs afford exciting views of the inaccessible beaches below.
Surprisingly for a walk that seems to spend much of its time on the airy heights, not much exertion is involved. There are only two significant climbs, one out of Dover and the other out of St Margaret's Bay. Otherwise the terrain is level or gently undulating. The last quarter of the walk, indeed, is totally flat, along a tranquil coastpath behind the pebble beach of Deal. Though less dramatic than the White Cliffs this section of the walk is full of historical and natural interest, passing Walmer and Deal castle, and – in late May and June – a stunning display of coastal flora on Deal’s shingle beach.
When using mobile phones on this walk, check they haven’t switched to a French network, as happens routinely at St Margaret’s Bay, for example
A tranquil walk along the North Downs
Kent SWC Walk 1 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
A large section of the walk is to the north side of the North Downs Way and passes along some little used footpaths, making for a tranquil walk. Its attractions include the pretty hamlet of Stalisfield Green for lunch and the historic village of Charing for tea. Some of the stiles along the route are poorly maintained and consequently this walk is not suitable for the less able walker. In summer the footpath across a couple of the rape seed fields can become very overgrown.
Starts along a valley and then over hills to Hartfield for lunch, followed by an undulating trek thorough woods and fields to Eridge.
Kent SWC Walk 3 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This is a beautiful walk in classic Weald territory of pasture, woods and hills.
In the lunchtime village of Hartfield you will find Pooh Corner, selling all kinds of paraphernalia relating to AA Milne's famous creation (including the Official Rules for Poohsticks).
An enjoyable day out in the country within zone 6, thanks to those who campaigned for and legislated the Green Belt policy.
Kent SWC Walk 7 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
Despite its starting point being within London Travelcard Zone 6, this is a completely rural walk, passing through a succession of lovely open fields full of wildflowers in spring, and through a number of bluebell woods. After lunch there is the opportunity to visit Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, the naturalist.
Easy Coastal Walk
Kent SWC Walk 12 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is an easy walk, physically plus the directions are fairly straightforward. One of the attractions of this walk is that it provides a good contrast to some of the classic coastal walks, such as Seaford to Eastbourne (book 2 walk no.28), or Hastings to Rye (book 2 walk no.29). Phone ahead for The Sportsman pub.
Coastal Walk along the cliffs to Dover, with options also taking in The Warren.
Kent SWC Walk 13 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is a highly scenic coastal walk with fine sea views throughout. It introduces you to some of the quainter sides of Folkestone, a town which like many south coast seaside towns is undergoing something of a renaissance. You then climb up past two Martello Towers (Napoleonic-era fortifications) onto a high clifftop, following the North Downs Way. This path is easy to follow, has fine Channel views, and passes the Battle of Britain Memorial and then a fascinating series of World War II installations, including a rare sound mirror (an early form of aircraft detection that was superseded by radar), and some large gun emplacements.
The only downside on this latter section of the route is noise from the A20 dual carriageway just inland, though this is muted when the wind is blowing from the sea (ie, from the south or south west). In compensation there is a dramatic approach to Dover – a narrow (but not difficult) ridge between an inland valley and the sea. The walk finishes by crossing the town’s Western Heights, passing deserted 19th century forts and with wonderful views of the town and port.
Knole Park, then west along the Greensand Way with spectacular views of the Kent Weald.
Kent SWC Walk 20 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
The first mile of this walk is on suburban streets in Sevenoaks, and then there is a two mile stroll across the deer park of Knole House. A slightly awkward section follows, crossing a busy A road and following a rough bridleway that can be very muddy in winter. There is also noise from a nearby dual carriageway on this section, though there are fine escarpment views too.
It is worth putting up with these inconveniences, however, because once you cross the dual carriageway (on a bridge), the traffic noise ceases and you find yourself in a beautiful area of undulating fields and farms that is as lovely as anywhere in England. One of the two possible lunch pubs is in the village of Sevenoaks Weald, at the start of this section. The route then climbs in stages up onto the Greensand Ridge, with increasingly fine views to the south.
Once on the ridge you are plunged into woods that in late April and early May are awash with bluebells - this is one of the best places in the South East to see them. You end up at the picturesque hill top village of Ide Hill, where the second of the lunch pubs is situated.
After this the route turns north-west, passing through the National Trust's Emmetts Gardens on a public footpath that also runs right past its tea room. The final section of the walk is in the woodlands of The Chart, before a fine descent down a hill into the village of Westerham which has plenty of tea possibilities and London Transport buses back to London.
Out via the National Trust's Knole Park, House, and Igtham Mote. Back by the Greensand Way along the escarpment of the Kent Downs.
Kent SWC Walk 21 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is an absolute favourite Sunday outing of mine, passing two National Trust properties (Ightham Mote and Knole House) and traversing gentle countryside on the Greensand Ridge that somehow seems quintessentially English. In early spring it has interesting wildflowers - wood anemones, bluebells and wild garlic - and in the afternoon there is a fine (but gentle) climb up along an escarpment with magnificent views.
Pretty Ridge Walk along the North Downs Way with lovely views. Nice pubs for lunch and tea
Kent SWC Walk 24 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This lovely walk follows one of the finest sections of the North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of the North Downs escarpement – in many ways it feels more like the South Downs - with fine views for nearly the whole walk. There is just one 3km (1.8 mile) section mid afternoon when you are away from the escarpment edge.
While the North Downs Way is waymarked, it is not always comprehensively so, and in places the waymarks are confusing or missing. The path is not always as obvious as one might expect from such a major long distance footpath. Hence the directions in the pdf version of this walk - see the DOWNLOAD WALK button above. While they for the most part follow the North Downs Way once it has climbed from Sandling up onto the ridge, the creation of access land has also opened up some escarpment sections that were formerly off limits to walkers, and where these improve the walk they have been included in the walk directions.
There is also a map-only version of the directions (see bottom of this page) for those that prefer this.
While downland can be relatively dry in winter, this walk does have several sections on shady tracks that look potentially very muddy between November and March. In late spring there can be intense displays of buttercups on this walk.
Easy coastal walks, passing the dramatic ruins at Recluver
Kent SWC Walk 28 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This is an easy coastal walk - it is entirely flat - and the directions are straightforward and consequently minimal. It passes the dramatic landmark of Recluver, the remains of the twin towers of a 12th C church set amongst the ruins of a Roman Fort (free entry, English Hertitage, Wikipedia)
In summer there are opportunities for sea swimming throughout (see notes below), and though the walk is almost entirely on tarmac or concrete paths, with only a 1km section beyond Reculver that is on grassy clifftops, there are still plenty of rural delights. After an initial section on the seafront promenade (or cliff top park) of Birchington-on-Sea you follow the raised sea wall over the flat marshland (a sea channel until the 12th century: see Points of Interest below), along an unspoilt shingle beach which has interesting wildflowers (in summer) and seabirds: also fine views of distant shipping and windfarms, and the ruins of Reculver church as an aiming point on the horizon. Beyond Reculver your path takes you along the top (or bottom) of a very pleasant grassy slope facing the sea, which again has interesting wildflowers in summer, to the charming, if slightly faded, seaside resort of Herne Bay.
Incidentally, while one may think of this as a perfect summer walk, it makes a nice winter outing too, if the weather is fine. The low sunlight on the sea and marshes can be quite entrancing, and at this time of year the birdlife is more numerous, particularly at low tide when they feed on the shallow shingle and mudflats. Best of all this is a walk almost entirely without mud. Note that there is no shelter, however, so in rain it can be fairly wretched. If the winds are blowing strongly from the west, consider reversing the walk (see Walk Options below.)
Open views and a wooded ridge before lunch. A short afternoon passes a large organic farm (wildflowers) and the Leather Bottle pub (of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers) in Cobham
Kent SWC Walk 35 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is an exploration of the very pretty and little known area of the North Downs just to the east of the Medway Towns. The morning is nicely contrasted, with a mix of open views and woodland, then a longer wooded ridge which has extensive bluebell woods in late April or early May. You then cross open fields and downs to the village of Luddesdown, which is surrounded by an organic farm, which is rich in wild flowers in spring and summer - particularly poppies in early June. Afterwards there is one more lovely ridge crossing to bring you to lunch in Henley Street. In the afternoon, a loop of the walk takes you up to the pretty village of Cobham, where you can stop at The Leather Bottle, a pub that features (briefly) in Charles Dicken's Pickwick Papers.
A moderately strenuous stroll in the North Downs, taking in the pretty village of Shoreham
Kent SWC Walk 37 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 3 miles (6 km)
This walk approaches the familiar walking territory around Shoreham and Otford in Kent from an unfamiliar angle, passing at first over wooded hills, then climbing up and over a steep ridge to get down to Shoreham. In the first 3km/2 miles of the walk there is some traffic noise from the M25, but how much depends on the way the winds are blowing and other atmospheric factors. As you approach Shoreham this fades.
In the afternoon the route largely reverses the morning of the Otford Circular walk (Book 1, walk 43 on this website), though with one twist that introduces the lovely hidden valley of Magpie Bottom, now a nature reserve, with fine downland flowers and butterflies in the summer.
The walk also has several nice bluebell woods, particularly (but not exclusively) in the latter part of the walk, and in autumn there are lots of beech and sweet chestnut woods to provide colour. In winter the walk is not over-afflicted with mud, but the descents into Shoreham and Otford can be a bit slippery.
Field, woods, quiet valleys, a gem of a pub, and close to London.
Kent SWC Walk 38 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
Despite its proximity to London, this walk is surprisingly rural in character, passing through fields, woods and quiet valleys, often along shady bridleways. The second half of the walk is entirely within a London borough, though it does not feel like it. Although there are few noteworthy features, the gently rolling countryside provides some fine vistas, and the lunchtime pub is a real gem.
Kent Orchards, then follows the Greensand Way to Igtham Mote (NT), One Tree Hill, Knole House and deer park (NT)
Kent SWC Walk 41 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This walk follows the Greensand Way all the way from Yalding to Sevenoaks. The route is fairly well waymarked, and so you may find that for whole sections you can dispense with these directions altogether. Note that some signposts can get overgrown by vegetation in summer, however, and at whatever time of year, the waymarking disappears for crucial sections.
In late April and early May the walk passes a series of bluebell woods, and also a couple of commercial apple orchards near Hill Hoath which blossom around the same time. Otherwise for the first half of the walk you follow the Greensand Way across undulating Kent farmland. There are no less than three lunch pubs on this section.
Later the way becomes hillier and the Greensand Way climbs up to the lovely moated manor house of Ightham Mote (pronounced “Eye-tam”), a National Trust property whose tea room can be accessed without paying the entrance fee. From there you embark on a particularly lovely section of the Greensand Way, which climbs slowly up the escarpment. The final stretch is across the grounds of Knole House, another fine National Trust property with a tea room.
Greensand, incidentally, is a type of sandstone, that runs in a ridge south of the North Downs and north of the Weald. Some of the greensand rocks actually do have a greenish tinge, though others are a more predictable brownish red. The soil produced is particularly suitable for growing fruit, which is why this part of Kent was a traditional area for growing apples and hops (for making beer), though none of the latter are in evidence now.
A swimming walk. Starts with a disused railway line, Saltwood Castle, and downland. Finishes along the coast to Folkestone.
Kent SWC Walk 51 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
This walk was designed as a swimming walk – that is, to give you a pleasant morning walk of 7.3km (4.4 miles) and then get you to the beach for an afternoon sea swim (the sea is warm enough from July to September). However, it also makes a pleasant short outing at any time of the year – for example as a late start walk in spring or summer, or a brisk excursion in winter. There are one or two bluebell woods near the start of the walk in late April or early May
The walk starts along the track of an old branch line which chugged down the hill to Hythe and Sandgate until its closure in 1951. Then there is a pleasant section of orchards and fields which brings you to the village of Saltwood, with its church and castle (the home of Alan Clarke MP: he of the famous diaries), before you suddenly find yourself on a fine section of open downland. The first steep (but not very long) hill climb is here, which takes you up to a ridge with fine views of the sea.
After a slightly awkward (but also very short) road section, you pass by Sene Farm and over more downland territory, before descending into the Seabrook Valley and on up the second steep hill, which brings you out by a military cemetery with even better sea views. Finally, there is an unexpected and quite dramatic descent down through luxury houses to the coast at Sandgate for a pub lunch and a swim. The walk ends with a pleasant 2.4km (1.5 mile) stroll along the (largely traffic-free) sea-front promenade into Folkestone, finally climbing up to the The Leas, the town's clifftop promenade.
A contrast between hidden valleys in the North Downs and the Darent Valley Path through three interesting villages.
Kent SWC Walk 59 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
Some of this walk will be familiar from the two Book 1 walks which start in Otford, but most of it covers new ground. It starts along a country lane through the secluded Austin Lodge valley, climbing to the isolated settlement of Romney Street. It continues on an undulating section to a ridge with fine views of the Darent valley, from where you descend into Otford. The route takes you past the Otford Solar System, a scale model showing the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the millennium. The village has many interesting old buildings and the full route takes you past the ruins of the Archbishop's Palace, a rival to Hampton Court in Tudor times.
There are two possible routes back to Eynsford. The longer takes a similarly undulating route along the western side of the Darent valley, weaving in and out of Book 1 Walk 23 (Otford to Eynsford) on its way to Lullingstone Park, an attractive landscape of chalk grassland and ancient woodland with an internationally important collection of veteran trees. The route into Eynsford goes past Eagle Heights, one of the UK's largest Bird of Prey centres which is open daily to 5pm from March to October, 4pm on winter weekends. Admission (2016) is £9 but you might be able to see something of the afternoon flying displays from the public footpath.
The shorter return route mostly follows the Darent Valley Path, with some stretches alongside the river itself. The route goes through the attractive Kent village of Shoreham where The Mount Vineyard is sometimes open for tastings, and later passes extensive lavender fields at Castle Farm.
There are several interesting buildings in the valley near the end of the walk:
- Lullingstone Castle (01322-862114) is a historic manor house with limited opening hours, but its grounds contain an unusual parish church (open to the public at all times) and a World Garden with plants from around the globe which is open Fri–Sun afternoons between Easter Saturday and end-October (Sun...
The Greensand Hills on the Surrey/Kent border to historic Westerham, with a choice of routes for the return leg.
Kent SWC Walk 63 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
Much of this walk is on the wooded Greensand hills running parallel to and just south of the North Downs, which you can see across the valley for much of the outward route. The return route is closer to the southern escarpment and has far-reaching views out to the High Weald.
The route out of Oxted is via Limpsfield, where a stained glass window dedicated to St Cecilia in St Peter's Church commemorates the celebrated musicians who are buried in its churchyard. The walk continues across the National Trust's Limpsfield Common, the High Chart (some of which is part of the Titsey Estate) and Squerryes Park.
There is a choice of lunchtime pubs in Westerham, described by Daniel Defoe as a “neat, handsome, well-built market town”. Memorials in the 14thC St Mary's Church and two statues on the Green honour its most famous residents, General James Wolfe and Sir Winston Churchill. Wolfe was born in the town and his childhood home, named Quebec House after his famous victory in 1759, is owned by the National Trust. The house is open Wed–Sun afternoons from mid-March to October; admission (2016) is £5.50.
The afternoon route starts with an attractive section up the open Darent valley and climbs onto the wooded Crockhamhill Common, from where an optional extension (see below) loops out to Churchill's family home Chartwell, also owned by the National Trust. The garden and restaurant are open throughout the year, but the house is only open from March to October; admission (2016) is £13.40 or £6.70 for the garden only.
This walk began as an attempt to extend Book 2 Walk 16a (Hurst Green to Oxted) to take in the attractive town of Westerham. As some of the more direct routes proved unsuitable it has evolved into a separate walk, almost as long as the main Walk 16. Some sections inevitably overlap with the route of the Book 2 walk, but these are mostly done in the reverse order and only the final section is the same as Walk 16a.
The sections of this walk around Chartwell had to be revised...
A contrast between a remote part of the Weald and three attractive and popular Kent villages
Kent SWC Walk 78 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk starts from a lonely station and wends its way through remote valleys, woods and tiny settlements in the undulating landscape of the High Weald. It descends into the Eden Valley for refreshment stops in the beautiful villages of Penshurst and Chiddingstone, before ending in Hever. Each of these three villages has an interesting church which is worth visiting, as well as a popular historic house open to the public.
Penshurst Place is a well-preserved medieval manor house with an attractive formal garden, the home of the Sidney family since the 16thC. It is open weekends from mid-February to March, and daily from April to October; admission (2016) is £10.80.
Chiddingstone Castle is a castellated manor house rebuilt in the 19thC, containing an unusual collection of art and curiosities left behind by its recent owner, Denys Eyre Bower. It is open Sun–Wed from April to October; admission (2016) is £9.
Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, was restored in the early 20thC by William Waldorf Astor and features some spectacular gardens. It is open daily from April to October and on some dates in November and December; full-price admission (2016) is £16.50, or £13.90 for the gardens only.
The second half of the Main Walk will be familiar to anyone who knows Book 1 Walk 19 (Hever to Leigh), but the recommended lunch and tea stops are in different villages and the only significant overlap is the section from Chiddingstone to Hever (done here in the reverse direction).
The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
An easy walk through fields in the Kentish Weald, with some fine bluebell woods en route, and an option to visit Sissinghurst Gardens (NT).
Kent SWC Walk 80 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
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.
Close to London, this walk in north-west Kent is entirely rural, traversing fields, woods and valleys in London's 'Green Belt'. It passes Charles Darwin's home, Down House (EH)
Kent SWC Walk 82 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
Although close to London, this walk in the north-west of Kent is entirely rural in character, traversing fields, woods and valleys in London’s ‘Green Belt’. It passes Charles Darwin’s home, Down House, now an English Heritage property housing a fine exhibition about Darwin’s life and work.
The lunchtime pub options are in Downe (a little less than halfway), or in Cudham (a little over halfway). The tea stops are 30 -40 minutes from the end of the walk.
The Eden valley, Penshurst Place and a rural pub for lunch.
Kent SWC Walk 92 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
The walks described here have been transferred and expanded from Extra Walk 78 (Cowden to Hever), with much of the sections to and from Leigh being taken from Book 1 Walk 19 (Hever to Leigh) and Book 1 Walk 15 (Leigh to Tunbridge Wells). Some of the Wealden territory around the Eden and Medway rivers will therefore be familiar, but these new routes are judged to be worthwhile because they take in a classic rural pub at lunchtime and some excellent tearooms.
Starting from Penshurst station (almost 3 km away from its village), the Main Walk goes through low-lying farmland in the Eden valley, crosses the river at Vexour Bridge and continues on an undulating route through typical Wealden countryside to the tiny settlement of Hoath Corner. After lunch in its rural pub the walk loops round to the north and east, crossing the outward leg at Wat Stock before descending to the village of Penshurst for tea. The main attraction here is Penshurst Place, a well-preserved medieval manor house with an attractive formal garden, the home of the Sidney family since the 16thC. It is open weekends from mid-February to March, and daily from April to October; admission (2016) is £10.80. The final part of the walk is a shortened version of Book 1 Walk 19.
The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
The start of the Main Walk has been changed to avoid a somewhat unappealing route into Chiddingstone and so only the Reverse Walk now goes through this pretty village (although it does feature on several other walks). One result of the revised design is that the routes from Penshurst and Leigh now merge in mid-morning, simplifying the earlier version's bewildering set of route sections.
This walk no longer has a Penshurst Circular option, although in practice you could do this by switching to the Reverse Walk and retracing your outward leg from Vexour. A more satisfying circular route is included as an option in Extra Walk 235 (Tonbridge to...
A dramatic ridge walk along the North Downs Way, overlooking the English Channel.
Kent SWC Walk 93 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk follows the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW) along the edge of an escarpment with views over the English Channel for almost the entire route. Apart from 2 steep climbs near the start, the route is level and easy going.
The walk starts with a steep climb up Tolsford Hill, with views over the English Channel, to pick up the waymarked North Downs Way (NDW). Heading east, the NDW descends into a valley and under a disused railway line. There's a second steep climb up the other side. Navigation along this stretch is a little tricky in places, so do take / print out a map.
The rest of the walk is easy, along a level, well maintained path along the side of the hill with spectacular views out over the coast, the English Channel, and later Folkestone, and the Channel Tunnel rail terminal. For the rest of the walk, you can see Folkestone, and either of the stations you are aiming for!
Just past the viewpoint over Channel Tunnel, by an ancient hill fort, there is an option to cut the walk short to Folkestone West. Note that this involves a long pavement walk to the station.
The main walk continues, contouring around the summit of a hill, high above Folkestone, with views out over the channel, until it reaches the coast at the start of the White Cliffs of Dover. Here there is a choice.
- Finish in Folkestone. Turn right and follow the coast path down to Folkestone's seafront. You can catch the train from Folkestone Central, but if you have time, continue along the elegant cliff top promenade a little way to have tea at the Folkestone Grand - a faded Victorian era Grand Hotel.
- White Cliffs of Dover. Turn left and continue the cliff top walk along the White Cliffs for a little way with views over the Channel and the Warren (an undercliff), passing the Battle of Britain memorial, to reach a nice cafe with sea views. Either retrace your steps (recommended) and take the path down into Folkestone, or continue to Dover.
- Finish in Dover Turn left, and continue along the White Cliffs,...
Easy coastal walk with fine cliff top views, 3 classic seaside resorts, and a number of stunning sandy bays and coves that make it a great swimming walk
Kent SWC Walk 101 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is a gentle coastal walk linking 3 historic coastal towns (Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate) on the Isle of Thanet (NE Kent). Much of the walk is along low chalk cliffs with views over the channel, with several secluded coves. At low tide, you can walk along the beach between them.
The farthest corner of the Isle of Thanet is arguably where the east coast of England meets the south coast, though the gently curving coastline makes it hard to identify a precise turning point. This gentle walk along the coast passes 3 historic seaside towns and many bays and beaches.
For much of the way it is possible to choose between walking on top of the 20-30 metre high chalk cliffs ("cliff top level"), or at low tide, walking along the beach or promenade below ("beach level"). Although this stretch of coast is largely built-up, there is a wide strip of open grass along most of the cliff top. The beaches are sandy and flat - the tide goes out a long way.
The walk can be done "clockwise" (starting in Margate) or anti-clockwise (starting in Ramsgate or Broadstairs). Clockwise allows 2 possible endings, so you can choose between a medium and a longer walk. Anticlockwise give you 2 possible starts.
These notes, and directions below, assume "anticlockwise". The start of the walk is best done at low tide. It is a series of bays which are joined together at low tide. At high tide, you need to use the cliff top path between them. The last part of the walk has a concrete promenade at beach level (OK at high tide). If starting at Margate ("clockwise"), its the middle and end which are best at low tide.
Apart from the small part to/from Ramsgate station, the route is pretty easy - just follow the coast, swapping between the cliff top path and the beach as you wish and the tide dictates!
Ramsgate and Broadstairs have interesting old town areas to explore around their harbours. Margate, while not so historic/pretty, has many bars and cafes
These 3 resorts are very busy on sunny days, but the rest...
A walk full of historical interest in the low hills around Romney Marsh
Kent SWC Walk 106 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
From the station a path takes you across a field and straight into Ham Street Woods, a National Nature Reserve noted for its nightingales in spring. As you climb through this ancient oak wood you are following the route of two long-distance paths: the Greensand Way and the Saxon Shore Way, although the sea receded long ago and is now 10 km away.
This part of the country was one of the first to be accurately mapped by triangulation, with one end of the all-important baseline being in a field next to Ruckinge church. French cartographers had begun a major survey of their own country and in 1783 (despite a history of rivalry with Britain) proposed a collaboration to improve global navigation, an initiative which led to the establishment of the Ordnance Survey in 1791.
After passing through Ruckinge, once a haunt of smugglers, the walk begins a long and rather featureless stretch alongside the Royal Military Canal, hastily constructed in the early 19thC to protect England from a threatened Napoleonic invasion. As William Cobbett was fond of pointing out, the emperor whose armies had crossed the Rhine and the Danube was hardly likely to be deterred by this innocuous waterway; the invasion never came and the project was soon being condemned as an extravagant military folly. In the ditches alongside the canal you might come across some more resolute invaders, such as the green marsh frog (originally from Hungary) or even one of its predators, the mink.
The walk eventually leaves the canal for a lunchtime stop in Warehorne's village pub. It continues through gently rolling pastures, a wood noted for its bluebells and Gusbourne Vineyard. After passing the unusual 14thC Horne's Place Chapel – which can be visited by prior arrangement (0304-211067) – you climb a small ancient mound whose ‘pew with a view’ looks out across Romney Marsh. The panoramic view should persuade you that this was indeed a coastline in Roman and Saxon times, with Appledore...
A varied landscape between two interesting Cinque Port towns, from the low hills of the eastern High Weald almost to the coast
Kent SWC Walk 113 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
The inspiration for this walk came from studying the High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT). The final section of this long-distance path joins two interesting towns, both members of the historic Confederation of Cinque Ports. The landscape between them is nicely varied, with flat grazing marshland in wide river valleys interspersed with low hills containing steeply-sloping wooded valleys (gills), fields and orchards. Most of the walk follows this well-waymarked published trail, with detours to pubs or places of interest at Wittersham and Peasmarsh.
Before you set off from the picturesque town of Tenterden, which calls itself the “Jewel of the Weald”, it is worth taking a preliminary stroll along the wide tree-lined High Street with its many historic buildings. The first part of the walk proper features an attractive wooded valley on its way to the hamlet of Small Hythe, a major port in medieval times before the River Rother changed its course. Smallhythe Place was the harbourmaster's house; later it became a farmhouse and in the early 20thC was the home of the Victorian actress Ellen Terry. It is now owned by the National Trust and can be visited from March to October; admission (2015) is £7.40.
The route continues across Reading Sewer and climbs onto the Isle of Oxney, an area of high ground which at one time was surrounded by the sea and river channels. A detour off the HWLT through an attractive wood brings you to the village of Wittersham and lunch at the Swan Inn. In the afternoon the route crosses the Rother Levels, where the wide river is popular with anglers. It then climbs gently through pastures and a wood towards Peasmarsh and a possible mid-afternoon break. The walk concludes with a gradual descent past orchards into the open valley of the River Tillingham, one of three rivers flowing towards Rye.
Perched on its sandstone outcrop, Rye was an important port before its rivers silted up and the sea receded, and its cobbled streets are well worth exploring. One...
Ancient villages, churches and pubs in a classic Kent landscape
Kent SWC Walk 121 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
Starting and finishing at a station just beyond Canterbury, this is a beautiful walk through a quiet corner of Kent, taking in a series of ancient villages, each with a similarly ancient pub and church. The village of Wickhambreaux in particular is so quintessentially English that it might be a film set.
The terrain is most flat, with only a few gentle hills, but there are still some good views just after Stodmarsh. There walk has a variety of landscapes, from woods to arable fields, and from a farm growing strawberries in polytunnels to fields with grazing cattle.
There are good displays of bluebells in late April and early May in the woods before and after Fordwich, and in late March and early April you can also see some wood anemones here.
Some of these woodland stretches are on bridleways that can become very muddy and churned up in winter, but the walk also has many dry sections on quiet tarmac lanes and tracks.
On the original map-led version of this walk there is an awkward 300 metre walk on a busy road near the start of this walk. In this version, it has been given a slightly different start which eliminates this problem.
A short climb over the Greensand Hills followed by a gentle walk across the Low Weald, with a fine bluebell wood at its centre
Kent SWC Walk 135 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
The start of this walk borrows from Book 2 Walk 16a (Hurst Green to Oxted) for the two alternative routes up and over the Greensand Hills to Tenchleys Manor. It then heads south to Staffhurst Wood, a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Many of the trees in this ancient woodland were felled in the 1930s and it was further damaged in World War II when it was used as an ammunition dump. It has now been re-established as a traditional ‘coppice with standards’ wood: hazel and hornbeam cut every few years under large oak, ash and beech trees allowed to grow to their full size. It has a fine display of bluebells in spring and many varieties of fungi in autumn.
The afternoon section is mostly across low-lying farmland but there are also a number of low hills with surprisingly good views. The walk crosses the River Eden and comes to the small settlement of Crowhurst, whose churchyard contains a magnificent old yew tree, comparable with the one in nearby Tandridge. There are some attractive old farmsteads and manor houses in this rural area and you get a peep at one of the best preserved, Crowhurst Place.
The final section is across a flat plain and through Lingfield Nature Reserve into the town. The conservation area around its grand parish church contains many well-preserved buildings from the 16th-18thC. By the village pond there is another ancient tree (the Lingfield Oak) and a cage which was still being used to imprison miscreants in the late 19thC. Although Lingfield Park Racecourse is not on the walk route, the town (and trains) will be busier on race days and you might want to consider one of the alternative walk endings, described below.
This walk originally included a route back to Oxted, but this has been transferred to Extra Walk 277 (Godstone to Oxted) and extended to create a walk which goes past both of Surrey's ancient yew trees. These two walks share the same lunch pub and so several more options...
A climb into the Kentish Downs and a descent to two historic houses.
Kent SWC Walk 138 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
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.
Greensand Way Stage 8 - fine views from a gentle ridge and excellent pubs en-route
Kent SWC Walk 150 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This stage of the Greensand Way passes through gentle Kent arable and apple orchards land with views to the south for much of the way. After starting on the flat in the Medway Valley and passing through the pretty village of Yalding, the route climbs in very gentle stages up onto the Greensand Ridge, and follows it for the rest of the walk, with fine views to the south almost the whole day.
This is classic ‘Garden of England’ Kent, with many commercial apple orchards (particularly pretty when the blossom is out in late April or early May). In the afternoon it passes no fewer than four ancient churches, the most striking, perhaps, being Boughton Monchelsea, perched on the very edge of escarpment, with a graveyard which in spring and summer is a riot of oxeye daisies and other wildflowers.
The lunch pub in Linton is also dramatically perched on the edge of the escarpment, and has a garden and terrace with fine views. At the end of the walk Sutton Valence is an ancient village which is worth exploring, not least because of its three pubs.
To extend the walk to a train station, continue to Harrietsham (see the OS map: directions not provided), which has both a pub and a train station, but adds 5.2 miles to the walk.
Greensand Way Stage 9 - fine views from a gentle ridge, orchards and nice pubs
Kent SWC Walk 151 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This is the 9th stage of the Greensand Way (GW) - from Sutton Valence or Harrietsham to Pluckley. A very rural walk with delightful walking through 'Darling Buds' scenery of orchards and meadows. A great pub in pretty village for lunch, and a nice pub by the station for tea.
Two possible starts to the walk are given here. By far the most attractive - as well as satisfying Greensand Way purists - is the one from Sutton Valence. But getting to it involves a 13 minute bus ride from Headcorn station, costing £3.50 at time of writing.
The Harrietsham start gives you a railway station to railway station option, and saves you the bus fare, but this is cancelled out by a more expensive train ticket. Scenically it is less interesting, crossing a motorway, arable fields and going through rather dull coppiced woodland (admittedly with a good display of wood anemones in late March and early April and bluebells in late April and early May).
Greensand Way Stage 10 - orchards, a gentle ridge, but an urban ending to Ashford
Kent SWC Walk 152 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This is the 10th stage of the Greensand Way - from Pluckley to Ashford
Greensand Way Stage 11 - an urban start, the outskirts of Ashford but a much nicer ending
Kent SWC Walk 153 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is the 11th and final stage of the Greensand Way - from Ashford to Ham Street.
The morning of this walk is unavoidably dull. It starts by heading west through Ashford's suburbs to regain the route from the previous stage, and then circles around the outskirts of Ashford. The afternoon is much, much nicer, countryside again, to the pretty village of Ham Street.
Author's note. This walk is only included for people who wish to do every step of the Greensand Way by public transport. If you choose 1 stage of it to skip, make it this one! It would be much nicer to have merged it with the previous stage from Pluckley, but that would have been far too long. Do have a look at the route on the OS map page. I did look at a shortcut, due south from Ashford Station to regain the Greensand Way south of Ashford, but could find no suitable route. Suggestions welcome!
Interesting coastal walk past sand dunes, an army range, and a nuclear power station to a unique shingle desert. Travel by bus
Kent SWC Walk 154 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This is a very intersting if not classically pretty walk, along the south coast of Kent has much to explore. It starts in historic Rye (a Cinque port), and follows a river down to the sea. Then it passes a quiet beach backed by sand dunes to Camber. After that the walk enters into the Lydd Ranges, which is now a nature reserve.
The most interesting part of the walk is Dungeness - a huge nuclear power station (helping to save the world from Global Warming), a pub, a village of chalets with driftwood gardens, a heritage railway with miniture steam trains, 2 light houses (the power station was built in the way of the first...), Britain's only desert (due to the low rainfall) and its biggest expanse of shingle (small pebbles) - leading to a strange, unique and desolate landscape.
Either continue along the coast to The Pilot (pub) for a bus, or walk inland through the nature reserve (and a RSPB site) to Lydd village for a bus
- Lydd Council - may have range opening times online
- Dungeness Nature Reserve - info on flora and forna
- Dunerness (wikipedia)
- RSPB Reserve
- Lydd Ranges - MOD
- Trip Reports : 1 and 2
Cobham Park and the newly-restored Darnley Mausoleum, organic farms and nature reserves
Kent SWC Walk 173 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk takes in a surprisingly varied landscape around the Medway Gap, where the North Downs have been breached by the river. There are many old chalk quarries here, but the processing and cement manufacturing plants have closed and Snodland's paper mill is the only major survivor of the area's industrial past. Holborough Lakes (between Halling and Snodland) is a large new housing development on some of these abandoned quarries.
Near the start of the walk you go through a local nature reserve, then across undulating rural farmland. A steady climb takes you over the chalk grassland of Ranscombe Farm Reserve, a working farm managed by the charity Plantlife. The final part of the morning section is through Cobham Park, where the landscape is gradually being restored to Humphry Repton's original design (and the neo-classical Darnley Mausoleum is occasionally open to the public).
Lunch is in the attractive village of Cobham, well-known for its associations with Charles Dickens: the Leather Bottle is one of the coaching inns mentioned in The Pickwick Papers. The village has a fine parish church whose most striking feature is the Brooke Tomb in the chancel, although most visitors come to admire its magnificent collection of medieval brasses in the pavement in front of the tomb, an astonishing survival when so much was lost in the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17thC.
After lunch you go through the village of Luddesdown (pronounced Ludsdun) which has an equally interesting and quite different parish church, then along an open valley which is part of Luddesdown Organic Farms. You climb over a wooded part of the North Downs and make a gradual descent into the village of Halling (pronounced Hauling), with fine views across the Medway Valley. The final part of the full walk is a contrasting short loop around Halling Common on the banks of the River Medway.
Two alternative (and more direct) routes between Luddesdown and Halling were researched in order to reduce this...
A surprisingly remote part of the High Weald on the Kent/East Sussex border
Kent SWC Walk 175 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This walk takes in a quiet part of the High Weald on the border of Kent and East Sussex. At its centre is the sleepy village of Cowden, whose surprisingly industrial past is preserved in some evocative local names: The Old Forge, Furnace Pond, etc. The village did indeed have a blast furnace from 1573 and the region's plentiful supplies of iron ore supported a thriving industry until the 18thC, when coke from the northern coalfields replaced charcoal from local trees as the preferred fuel.
The walk route passes several attractive old manor houses but the area's well-known historic houses which are open to the public (Hever Castle, Penshurst Place, etc) are all on the other side of the railway. Away from the tourist coaches, this is a surprisingly remote area of low hills and wooded valleys with some fine bluebell woods, notably Heathersome's Wood and Coomb Wood.
The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
An alternative afternoon route was dropped when the White Horse at Holtye closed in 2014. Without the option of an alternative lunch pub there was little point in retaining this slightly longer route, especially as parts of it had become neglected and overgrown. However, similar problems are now affecting other rights of way in this area and although the route has been tweaked in one or two places the little-used footpaths are not the easiest to follow.
Riverside walk along the banks of the Darent and the Thames with stunning views of the Dartford river crossing
Kent SWC Walk 202 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
Wild riverside ramble by the banks of the Darent and the Thames, featuring stunning views of the Dartford river crossing.
This is Kent, but not the garden of England. It is the Thames, but not the picturesque Thames of Oxford or the familiar London river. This is a walk through the edge lands, where everything is in a state of flux, where the normal rules do not apply and the land is constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the river or the Thames Gateway project to warehouse the poor, or both; where human endeavours, great and marginal, crop up quickly, flourish and decay, leaving only remains; where the desolate heathland, which once covered much of England, still remains. This is the wild, wide, working Thames, frightening in its potential power.
This is the first of a 5 walks along the Kentish Thames. You can find the complete set at http://kentishthames.wordpress.com
Refreshments: Shops and Cafes in Dartford , Asda shop and cafe on route at Greenhithe , 2 pubs off route in Greenhithe .
Public toilets: At stations
Acknowledgements: Thanks to the writers Iain Sinclair and Nicola Barker, who inspired this series of walks.
A walk of contrasts, urban sprawl, and then caught by what it may have been like a hundred or more years ago, coming across the Wheatsheaf pub and Chapter House Farm. Plenty of good pubs along the way.
Kent SWC Walk 207 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
A walk of contrasts, urban sprawl, housing developments, busy roads, and then once or twice you are caught by what it may have been like a hundred or more years ago, coming across the Wheatsheaf pub, passing by Chapter House Farm. Alas all too brief glimpses into the past before you return to present day reality. On a more positive note, there are plenty of good pubs along the way to wash away any feelings of melancholy.
Birdwatching and nature walk - the Thames Estuary, Hooe Peninsular and Cliffe Pools RSPB Nature reserve.
Kent SWC Walk 209 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This is a flat walk on the periphery of the Hoo peninsula in northern Kent that visits the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools, one of the most important wildlife habitats in the UK. You also take lunch in the interesting village of Cliffe whose history can be traced back to Norman times and possibly earlier. The walk is best done at low tide when the extensive estuary mud flats are exposed and there more opportunities to view the bird life.
This walk is best done in autumn or spring to get the best out of the bird-watching opportunities as you go round the path bordering the huge lakes and mud-flats of Cliffe Pools and by the river Thames. However it can be done at any time of the year and in the summer you are likely to be serenaded by the nightingales that inhabit the bushes and scrub of the reserve.
This is not a typical countryside walk and you are aware of the industrial heritage of the area but the spectacular landscape of open water, marshes and big skies is evocative and atmospheric with a rich sense of history. There are gravel working operations at Cliffe Fort but this does not detract too much from the walk.
Authors Note: This walk used to be a short circular walk to Higham but with the closure of the pub in Higham there is now no refreshments option so the walk has been developed into a longer walk along the Saxon Shore Way all the way to Gravesend where you can pick up a fast HS1 train back to London.
Gentle walk through the Kentish Weald to one of the tallest follies in Britain.
Kent SWC Walk 219 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
After an unpromising start – 1 km of roadside walking – you eventually escape into typical Wealden countryside of fields, meadows and the occasional wood. At Shipbourne (pronounced Shibbun) you join the Greensand Way for a short section to the hamlet of Dunk's Green, then head south-east along the valley of the River Bourne to Hadlow. On this last stretch you find yourself heading towards one of the more peculiar sights you are likely to encounter on a Home Counties walk: a multi-tiered Gothic folly, taller than Nelson's Column.
Hadlow Tower was built in 1838 by William Barton May as an embellishment to his equally eccentric father's extravagant house in Strawberry Hill Gothic style (“the most singular looking thing I ever saw” according to William Cobbett). Much of Hadlow Castle was demolished in 1951 but fortunately the Tower was saved; after a local campaign it has now been beautifully restored and converted into a charming heritage let. It is open in summer months to pre-booked visitors on Thursdays only (contact 07913-861979), last entry 3pm; admission (2016) is £7 (£5 concessions).
The walk route also passes Hadlow's other attraction, Broadview Gardens (free entry). This is a collection of small landscaped gardens designed by successive generations of horticultural students at Hadlow College.
Two sections of the Main Walk overlap with Book 1 Walk 21 (Leigh to Sevenoaks) and Extra Walk 41 (Yalding to Sevenoaks), although the latter is in the reverse direction. This less-than-perfect scenario should allow you to reach Hadlow by mid-afternoon, but on days when visiting the Tower is not an issue a good alternative is this walk's companion: Extra Walk 220 (Tonbridge to Hadlow) covers completely new ground and has more interesting features en route.
Gentle walk in the Medway Valley with a unique church and one of the tallest follies in Britain.
Kent SWC Walk 220 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk takes in both sides of the River Medway to the east of Tonbridge (pronounced Tunbridge: see Walk Notes), a low-lying area of meadows, farm fields, orchards and hop gardens. The scenery is pleasant rather than dramatic and the walk would be unremarkable were it not for two highly unusual features: a unique church and a striking folly.
There is nothing remarkable about the exterior of All Saints, Tudeley: an old guidebook described it as “obscure and unfrequented”. Nowadays the reverse is true, because its twelve stained glass windows were all designed by the great 20thC Russian artist, Marc Chagall. Initially commissioned by Sir Henry and Lady d'Avigdor-Goldsmid to create a single memorial window after the death of their daughter Sarah in 1963, Chagall was inspired to create windows for the entire church (as he had previously done for a synagogue in Jerusalem and a chapel in France). The final group of windows were dedicated in 1985, a few months after his death at the age of 98.
Tudeley's sister church is also on the walk route. For understandable reasons St Thomas à Becket tends to be overlooked but it has a series of 13thC wall paintings. The church is no longer used for regular services but is normally open from 10am-4pm.
Throughout the walk there are occasional glimpses of its other main feature, rising high above the landscape. There can be few stranger sights on a Home Counties walk than this multi-tiered Gothic folly, taller than Nelson's Column. Hadlow Tower was built in 1838 by William Barton May as an embellishment to his equally eccentric father's extravagant house in Strawberry Hill Gothic style (“the most singular looking thing I ever saw” according to William Cobbett). Much of Hadlow Castle was demolished in 1951 but fortunately the Tower was saved; after a local campaign it has now been beautifully restored and converted into a charming heritage let. It is open in summer months to pre-booked visitors on Thursdays only (contact 0793-861979),...
Views from the North Downs ridge on the way out, returning across farm fields and finishing with a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle
Kent SWC Walk 221 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
A short stretch through Hollingbourne village brings you to the North Downs Way (NDW) and up the side of the downland which you will have seen for much of the train journey. After a short detour through the edge of the Hucking Estate (explored more fully in this walk's companion: see below) the walk follows the NDW through a mixture of open downland and woods, with undulating stretches across a succession of sunken lanes and hollows in the hillside. Another short detour off the NDW takes you past some medieval castle ruins in a small country park before you drop down to the lunch pub in the village of Thurnham.
The return leg along the foot of the downs should be less taxing, although the paths across large farm fields can be heavy going on wet ground. After going back past Hollingbourne station you have the chance of another refreshment stop in the village of Eyhorne Street before the full walk concludes with something quite different. A dreary link route (across the high-speed railway and a motorway; two stretches alongside a busy main road; back through muddy woods and along overgrown field edges) is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.
Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £24 (2015), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.
This walk was originally the Long Walk option of another circular walk from Hollingbourne. After a major revision forced by the closure of...
A walk through Jack Fuller Country
Kent SWC Walk 222 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
A shortcoming of this walk is that there is no lunch stop. That over, if you are happy enough to picnic along the way, then this walk should make for an agreeable enough outing finishing with a refreshment stop at one of the various pubs in Robertsbridge. Further to the lack of a lunch stop, all is not lost if you are happy to make an earlier start for the Battle or Stonegate ending and take lunch approximately ⅔ of the way into the walk.
The Eden Valley Walk through Haysden Country Park to Penshurst Place and Chiddingstone Castle
Kent SWC Walk 235 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk provides a link from a major town with a frequent rail service to the rolling countryside around the villages of Penshurst and Chiddingstone. You are soon out of Tonbridge town centre and heading for Haysden Country Park, a popular recreational area of lakes and water meadows alongside the River Medway. The area's industrial past can be glimpsed in the many abandoned waterways and reclaimed gravel pits, while the modern Leigh Flood Relief Barrier is a reminder that this low-lying area is prone to flooding.
The remainder of the morning section follows the Eden Valley Walk to a choice of lunch places in Penshurst. This attractive village is dominated by Penshurst Place, a well-preserved medieval manor house with an attractive formal garden, the home of the Sidney family since the 16thC. It is open weekends from mid-February to March, and daily from April to October; admission (2016) is £10.80.
After lunch the route climbs the low hills between the Medway and Eden rivers to the equally pretty village of Chiddingstone where (if open) you could explore the grounds of Chiddingstone Castle, a castellated manor house rebuilt in the 19thC which contains an unusual collection of art and curiosities left behind by its recent owner, Denys Eyre Bower. The house is open Sun–Wed from April to October; admission (2016) is £9. A short final section takes you back over the River Eden on an old bridge and across low-lying farmland to a station which calls itself Penshurst but is 3 km away from that village.
The walk crosses the area which is intentionally flooded when the Leigh barrier is raised so it will not be feasible in this event. The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
This walk was originally intended to loop back to Tonbridge after a lunchtime stop in the village of Leigh, but the semi-permanent closure of a pedestrian footbridge over the A2 has stymied the most promising circular route. On this...
Gently undulating High Weald walk in the low hills and valleys around Tunbridge Wells
Kent SWC Walk 236 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
From a remote station this walk climbs up the low hills between the River Medway and Tunbridge Wells, soon with some attractive views across a steep-sided open hillside reminiscent of wilder parts of Britain. A gently undulating route along field edges, country lanes and wooded valleys takes you to the village of Speldhurst, where the parish church of St Mary the Virgin contains a set of notable pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.
After a lunch stop in the village's 16thC inn the walk loops back towards the Burrswood estate, situated in a wooded valley passed near the beginning of the walk. Its 19thC manor house is now a small NHS hospital, with walkers being encouraged to use the permissive paths through its grounds (and visit its tearoom). Its long driveway leads to the hamlet of Old Groombridge and the remainder of the walk is the same as the shorter ending to Extra Walk 120 (Eridge Circular). This goes past Groombridge Place, a beautiful Jacobean manor house surrounded by a medieval moat, then follows the course of the heritage Spa Valley Railway's extension from Groombridge to Eridge. Along the way you can often see climbers practising their skills on an impressive outcrop of Ardingly sandstone, Harrison's Rocks.
A relatively high proportion of this walk is on quiet country lanes, but the soils in the High Weald do not drain well and some stretches can be very muddy after wet weather.
The first version of this walk started from Cowden (the station before Ashurst) and went via Fordcombe, Burrswood and Groombridge to Eridge. However, the intended lunch pub in Fordcombe proved unreliable and the alternative pubs came too late in the walk. Starting from Ashurst and taking a new route via Speldhurst should be less problematic.
The longer start from Cowden has been dropped but could be reinstated if necessary.
Gentle walk via elegant Tunbridge Wells, delightful woods, the Wealdway, and Haysden County Park
Kent SWC Walk 238 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
An attractive woodland estate at the top of the North Downs and a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle to finish
Kent SWC Walk 253 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
For much of the train journey you can see the North Downs ridge off to your left and from the station you are soon striding across vast farm fields towards this open downland. A fairly steep little climb then takes you straight into the Woodland Trust's Hucking Estate, an unexpected oasis of grassland and woodland in a landscape dominated by arable farming.
The walk continues with a figure-of-eight circuit through this attractive estate, going out along gently sloping open valleys to the tiny hamlet of Hucking before looping back along woodland paths and grassy rides. After leaving the estate you join the North Downs Way as it slants down the hillside to Upper Street, one of the three settlements which make up Hollingbourne village.
The walk concludes with a contrasting section on the other side of the village. After going through the deceptively peaceful Hollingbourne Meadows you have to suffer the constant roar of motorway traffic, high-speed trains thundering past and a dreary stretch alongside the busy A20. This dismal link route is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.
Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £24.50 (2016), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.
This walk has been split off from Extra Walk 221 (now Hollingbourne Circular via Thurnham). The two-year closure and uncertain future of the Hook & Hatchet pub (see below) made the original walk's...
A short walk across three commons in South East London
Kent SWC Walk 281 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 6 miles (10 km)
This short walk crosses three commons which have been used for hundreds of years as a source of wood as evidenced by the many coppiced trees. Today coppicing is still practised but the mix of woodlands also provides habitats for a variety of animals. The walk follows in part the River Ravensbourne which fills the three Keston ponds and flows into the Thames at Deptford. Charles Darwin carried out parts of his research on Keston Common. On the way you get a glimpse of Ravensbourne Lodge previously owned by the Bonham-Carter family. The most ancient remains encountered on this walk are from the iron age. The walk was inspired by the marked Three Commons Circular Walk and broadly but not exactly follows it.
The walk crosses several roads some of them quite busy. Cross them with care !