Hot bank holiday and Penshurst Place

An unexpectedly superb weekend of weather; it seems to me that late summer and early autumn are now routinely drier and warmer than mid-summer but I’m too lazy to look for figures to back that up. I hope, dear readers, you’ve been able to get out and about. A small component of my family ventured forth by car and bicycle to Penshurst Place (on the Chiddingstone circular walk) yesterday. We parked at Haysden country park a mile or so from Tonbridge station, then cycled the remaining 3.5 miles to Penshurst Place, on lanes at first, then off-road alongside the river Medway.

We passed a good swimming/picnic spot in the river close to the bridge as it passes beneath Ensfield Rd, before ascending the moderate hill at Well Place Farm then freewheeling down the slope to Penshurst Place manor house itself. The gardens are always a joy and so is the cafe by the house in a large courtyard dominated by a lime (I think) tree. I wrote about the house and its interesting history for the Guardian a while back – also got more detail there on how to get there and prices. A great afternoon out if you are fancy free on the bank holiday but best done with a car/bike combination.

There are trains from Victoria (via East Croydon) and London Bridge but Penshurst station is two miles from the house. I haven’t devised a walking route from the station away from the road yet but there must be one. Hmm…

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Festivals and blackberries at Hever

Anyone doing the Hever walk  this weekend will be in for a (hopefully pleasant) surprise. At Wilderness Farm, in the south-east corner of the walk, the Neverland Festival is in full swing and the footpath between Stock Wood and Newtye Hurst Wood goes right through it (stewards are on the gate to check wristbands). Expect to see a lot of pirates, mermaids and lost boys, and hear some great bands. As festivals go it’s small scale and in a beautiful setting – definitely one for the diary next year. There are more festivals coming up at the site. I personally think they add to the walk in a funny kind of way.

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Meanwhile, further down the path there are some great unpicked blackberries (well, not any more) lining both sides of the path for 300 metres. In these days of foraging (presumably the whole population will be at it after Brexit!) it’s rare to find so many. Now I just need to freeze them.

Hever in the summer heat

Yep, crisp winters’ days are great; mellow autumn walks can be lovely; and spring fills you with hope. But can you really beat heat? Humid, sultry but not too hot today. Clear enough for views stretching for miles too. With my younger son I did the Hever walk in reverse (yes I’ve got the nagging feeling it’s better than the way round I’ve suggested in the description – you get the half-mile road bit out of the way early, for starters). The insect world was happily whirring away; flotillas of butterflies arose from the buttercup-rich meadows. A sparrowhawk glided past us silently in one glade. And in a field by Stock wood we came across some friendly older guys flying large radio-controlled aircraft, including aerobatics, next to a little grass runway cut out of the meadow. They were the only people we met on the 5 mile route; remarkable really when you consider that Hever Castle was, well, heaving. Some pix…

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A taste of summer

Lullingstone and castle

Lullingstone and castle, summer 2014

Summer has suddenly broken out for the first time in weeks. Today is looking good, tomorrow also after a dull start. The heat truly comes on for Monday though there may be some cloud around, so expect humidity, but a good time to take kids paddling in the river or down to the coast. However, there are thunderstorms up ahead. What I’d love to get on this site is a good pic of lightning from one of the walks; a sort of north-west Kent storm-chasing scenario on foot. There haven’t been many occasions when I’ve done one of the walks in hot summer weather… just hasn’t happened much lately, but here’s a pic of Lullingstone Castle from the Shoreham to Eynsford walk on a hot day in July two years ago.

Whitsun and I: late May colour around Hever, Kent

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Despite the bluebells having gone, the Kent countryside is looking fantastic, so verdant, so ancient, so colourful with green, yellow and white predominating. This is especially true on the Hever circular walk  with its constant shifting between wood and meadow, long views and short, allowing distant glimpses of mysterious old homesteads and farm buildings with seemingly Tudor chimney stacks appearing between gaps between the trees. At a point on the route near the hamlet of Hill Hoath (nr Chiddingstone) there’s an old ‘holloway‘ – an absurdly venerable trail (part of the Eden Valley Path) enclosed by trees. People must have used this path since pre-Roman times, until a few 100 years ago, to move their herds between pastures. Over the centuries their herds and wagons appear to have worn the path through the sandstone, which has the roots of large beeches growing improbably from its mossy stone sides. At the western end of his section of the path, guarding over it, is an enormous yew tree, clearly 500-plus years old. This was a truly memorable afternoon’s walking. It even featured an inquisitive llama (pictured). 

On the 5-mile stroll we didn’t encounter a single soul; surprising for such a great day and the fact the walks starts off next to the visitor honeypot that is Hever Castle. It’s great that you can use their car park for free to visit the wonderful St Peter’s Church – final resting place of Thomas Boleyn and Margaret Cheyne – and the starting point of the walk.

On returning to south east London we watched the very gripping Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, in which Luka Modric showed yet again that he’s the world’s best midfielder. A great day.

Download this walk as a pdf here

 

Wild flowers after the bluebells

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So that’s it for this year’s bluebells but buttercups, cow parsley and hawthorn are making for some fairly spectacular viewing, I noticed on the Downe Circular walk today. The buttercups in the meadows next to Down House are superb right now, as are the hawthorns forming the hedges of the three fields on the second half of the walk. A strangely murky day which eventually turned into a downpour. Quite fun really.