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…
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.
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.
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.
An amazing weekend for getting outside, to local parks and beyond to the nearby Kent countryside. Just eight days after snow and hail showers, we were bathed in warm sunshine with the Kent countryside in full bloom. On Saturday we tried what turned out to be an excellent new walk between Chiddingstone and Penshurst done from the Ordnance Survey map then nipped round the Ide Hill circular on Sunday as temperatures hit 26C. Emmetts‘ azaleas and tulips were looking great. I hope regular visitors to this site managed to get outside. Pictures above.
I’ve added two new circular walks, a bit further than the others from south-east London, at Hever (walk 9) and a few miles to the east, Chiddingstone/Penshurst (walk 10). They are both possible on public transport from south London: trains from East Croydon run to Hever and Penshurst, but unfortunately neither station is en route; being 1.5 miles from the start in the case of Hever and two miles from the walk for Chiddingstone/Penshurst. Both are lovely and quiet; Hever has more woods and sandstone outcrop, whereas Chidd/Pens is more meadowy and crosses the river Eden twice. Each has a small section on roads where you have to be careful. The bit on the road at Penshurst on the Chiddingstone walk is particularly bad so don’t do it with younger kids. Both walks use the Eden Valley Path for the first half. Hever, Chiddingstone and Penshurst are all Tudor villages with great houses linked with Henry VIII, the Boleyns and others so these walks, or parts of, are particularly good for youngsters studying that period at school. Both have great pubs: the Henry VIII at Hever and the Castle Inn at Chiddingstone.
Here’s a reminder of the historical connections of the walks on this site and a map of their locations.
Devil’s Kneading Trough, North Downs Way, near Wye
Here’s another walk accessible by rail but this time a lot further out of town. We (one of my sons and I) really enjoyed this one although one section through farmland wasn’t the most exciting. Wye is a pretty enough village by the Stour river four miles north of Ashford, and 11 miles south of Canterbury. This walk – called Wye Downs – doesn’t require a car; you can join it from the railway station by crossing the river and heading a quarter of a mile or so up Bridge St until you hit picturesque Church St on your left. Then make for the 12th-century church and you’ll see the path as it passes through the graveyard diagonally, becoming part of the North Downs Way, and heading up on to the escarpment that we’re all so familiar with from the walks on this site – perhaps over-familiar!
The view from the ridge extends out to Dungeness and the South Downs beyond Hastings and there’s a great little mini-Devil’s Dyke up there called, slightly less succinctly, the Devil’s Kneading Trough. We watched a huge buzzard evading the attentions of a pair of rooks and with the breeze in our faces it felt like somewhere much further away and higher. After the four-mile walk we went up to Chilham, a beautiful medieval village nearer Canterbury.
The train down to Wye is a bit laborious, taking about 80 minutes from Bromley South or Orpington. Services run from Victoria and Charing Cross (some via Bromley South, others Orpington and Sevenoaks) on the Ramsgate, Canterbury West, Ashford line.