10,000 Kentish Steps… Get your steps in while you walk
Miles of dramatic coastline, idyllic countryside, gentle rolling hills, and marshland bristling with wildlife makes up the diverse and eclectic landscape of Kent: the formula for a walker’s paradise and an easy way to hit 10,000 steps for optimum health.
Kent’s earliest visitors entered the county on foot via the land bridge, which until about 6,000 years ago connected England to the continent. Some 5,000 years later, Emperor Claudius arrived to colonise Britain and with him brought an infrastructure of communications that relied on walking. His legacy of Roman roads still remain today including Watling Street (most of which is now the A2), a straight road between Dover and London. Since then, Kent’s varied terrain has been conquered by millions of avid explorers on foot. From the Europeans of old that planted up our famous hops, Flemish weavers who grew the wool trade with their grazing sheep and the Hugenots who drained the flat land between Canterbury and Sandwich to grow fruit and vegetables – right up to us, the walkers of the 21st century.
It is because of our enterprising predecessors and the agricultural revolution they enabled that walkers in Kent can today enjoy a multitude of benefits. From the springy turf that came about from grazing sheep to make walking such a pleasure to the long distance footpaths allowing walkers to take in an infinite array of spectacular sights and sounds. One of the most celebrated of these is the 141-mile North Downs Way, which when combined with the Pilgrim’s Way, can be extended westwards all the way to Winchester. The Greensand Way follows another geological feature: the outcrop of greensand south of the downs that ends in Ham Street, south of Ashford. The Wealdway traverses the beautiful Weald of Kent with a starting point in Gravesend, and the Saxon Shore Way follows our glorious coastline for 140 miles.
Aside from these well-known trails, an endless number of other walks and routes are scrawled across our landscape, and with such awe-inspiring scenery there is no better way to take it in than on foot. Below are just some of insideKENT’s favourite walks, a selection that aims to cover as much of Kent’s unique geological traits and landmarks that define its character as a county.
Walking for Charity
100 Miles in March for Mind
Research by outdoor retailer GO Outdoors in partnership with mental health charity, Mind, has revealed that it was the pandemic that got the nation on its feet with 75% of us walking outdoors more because of Covid-19, as it helped their physical and mental health. Prior to this, the majority (55%) of people only saw walking as a means of getting from place to place. An annual campaign held by Mind this month is 100 Miles in March. Join thousands of incredible Mind supporters in taking on 100 miles throughout March. You can complete your miles however you like. Run, walk, or a bit of both! The important thing is getting out and moving for better mental health.
Why take part? A message from Mind: “Last year, 100 Miles in March raised £315,000. This helped us provide vital information and support, including Mind’s Infoline, which answers over 36,000 calls from people needing our help. This year – as we all face the cost of living crisis – we hope to be able to support people more than ever.” Find out more by visiting: www.mind.org.uk.
Walk all over Cancer with Cancer Research UK
Join thousands of supporters walking 10,000 steps every day in March to raise money for life-saving research with Cancer Research’s campaign Walk All Over Cancer. Get your friends and family involved and walk for charity as a team, or take on the challenge yourself this month. With the opportunity to join your Just Giving page to your Fitbit app, you can also share your progress with your supporters too.
Why take part? A message from Cancer Research UK: “Thanks to your support, we can continue to fund life-saving research. Our goal is for three in four people to survive their cancer by 2034 and every step we take towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.” Find out more by visiting: www.cancerresearchuk.org
A Seaside Stroll at Samphire Hoe
A prime and perfect example of Kent’s Heritage Coast’s glorious landscape is Samphire Hoe (www.samphirehoe.com), which also showcases the county’s commitment to the preservation of wildlife and biodiversity. Created by Eurotunnel and managed with The White Cliffs County Partnership in 1997, the time of the construction of the Channel Tunnel, Samphire Hoe is now a vast and extraordinary nature reserve. Home to a plethora of flora and fauna, it is one of the few places for short, easy-going routes which allow walkers the opportunity to appreciate the dramatic scenes of the White Cliffs. Samphire Hoe is wheelchair and pushchair friendly, with a recommended ‘access for all’ way around the Hoe. The route follows the front path, signposted ‘West shore via the Hoe’ passing through the chicane. The full circuit is two kilometres long and the section through the Hoe is tarmac. The sea wall is smooth concrete with two ramps giving access to and from the middle terrace providing good sea views. The average gradient is 1:15 with some steeper sections and occasional cross slopes maximum 1:25. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead. Refresh yourself with a hot drink from the tea kiosk, which is open every weekend.
A Countryside Stride in Bishopsbourne
Kent is awash with idyllic little villages complete with ancient churches, village greens, manor houses and cricket pavilions. One such village that embodies all the charm of nostalgic village life against the backdrop of beautiful countryside is Bishopsbourne, which is located within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. When walking in Bishopsbourne, we recommend you park up at Tadpole Tearooms, Wogans Farm Shop and Gilda Bakery, which also back onto a pretty vineyard. Whether you get refreshments before or after your walk, they are sure to be delicious. An area dotted with fine stately homes, either walk southwards to glimpse the imposing Charlton Park, or towards the village of Bridge to spy the beautiful Bourne Park, a Queen Anne style country house, and onto what is left of yet another grand country home, Bridge Place. Just one wing of the original building, it is now home to The Pig Hotel and walkers can stop by for coffee or something stronger at the bar. On warmer days, sit outside and admire the grounds complete with lofty trees, grass lawns, a stream and well-kept vegetable gardens.
Country House Heritage Walks with the National Trust
Weardale Circular Walk from Chartwell
This beautiful circular walk links Churchill’s country home of Chartwell and Emmetts Garden; passing through the woodland areas of Toys Hill and Hosey Common, as well as the pretty hamlet of French Street. This walk starts at Chartwell, a home that Churchill loved. Here Churchill was famously the politician and statesman that led Britain to victory in World War II, but at Chartwell he was also a husband, father, writer, painter and garden planner. It remained important to him until his death in 1965. The hillside gardens that can be seen on this walk reflect his love of landscape and nature.
As well as this home and grounds that capture the spirit of Britain’s great statesman, this walk will take you through French Street. A tiny hamlet tucked in the folds of narrow wooded hills, French Street has the appearance of one of the most out-of-the-way spots in Kent – suddenly appearing round the bend from the woods. The footpath will lead walkers on to Toys Hill, through dense beachwoods. Another National Trust property, it comprises 200 acres of woodland which once surrounded a house named Weardale Manor. These woods were tragically devastated in the Great Storm of 1987, but much work has been done to restore those losses since that fateful night.
A circular walk that loops back to Chartwell, before reaching your starting point you will pass through pretty Housey Common and Emmetts Garden. A charming Edwardian estate that was owned by Frederic Lubbock, becoming both a plantsman’s passion and a much-loved family home, Emmetts Garden was laid out in the late 19th century and was influenced by William Robinson. It contains many exotic and rare trees and shrubs from across the world. Standing on one of the highest spots in Kent, Emmetts Garden offers panoramic views over the unspoilt Weald as you pass through. Explore the rose and rock gardens, take in the views and enjoy shows of spring flowers, blossoms, bluebells and shrubs.
A step-by-step guide to this route can be found via The National Trust at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/kent/chartwell/weardale-circular-walk-from-chartwell
Igtham Mote to Knole Park
Follow this circular walk from Ightham Mote through the Kentish countryside along the Greensand Way, passing through areas of outstanding natural beauty to Knole Park before returning to Ightham Mote via the Duchess Walk, Godden Green and Broadhoath Wood. Starting at Ightham Mote, you will really get a sense of being secluded in nature before even stepping out thanks to the Kent Valley that conceals this perfectly preserved medieval moated manor house. Emerging from the natural landscape almost 700 years ago, Ightham Mote is built from Kentish ragstone and great Wealden oaks. In the tranquil gardens there are streams and lakes fed by natural springs, an orchard, flower borders and a cutting garden. The wider estate offers secret glades and countryside views, which you will pass through on your walk.
Going on to pass along some of the Greensand Way, take in some utterly spectacular countryside views across the Weald. Named after the sandstone ridge, which crosses Hampshire, Surrey and Kent – The Greensand Way is one of a series of ridges running west to east. As well as this you will pass the main entrance to Knole House before going on to the Duchess Walk. Sitting proudly within Kent’s last medieval deer park, take in the scale and magnificence of this 600-year-old estate which passed through royalty to the Sackville family, who still live here today. A circular walk, you will see some rural elements that make up an adored part of Kent’s identity before finding yourself back at Ightham Mote, including enchanting fruit orchards and charming hopper huts.
A step-by-step guide to this route can be found via The National Trust at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/kent/ightham-mote/circular-walk-from-ightham-mote-to-knole
A Hilltop Hike to Wye Crown
A wonderful way to see the Wye Downs is via a short hill climb from the small town of Wye to the iconic Wye Crown. A chalk crown carved into the hillside, this landmark dates back to when Wye was home to a thriving agricultural college. Keen to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, the college’s principal came up with the brilliant idea of carving a crown into the hillside above the village. It took 35 students four days to complete over the spring and 7,000 barrow loads of soil and turf was removed.
Today it is still a spectacle to behold and can be seen close up by hikers. Start in the village itself, in which a clearly marked footpath at the bottom of the hill can be found, taking you past the old greenhouses and labs of the agricultural college. Before doing this, we recommend you take some time to admire the beautiful carvings and architecture of the college itself, once a thriving hub to generations of young people in the industry. The footpath itself leads through fields and pretty woodlands before you reach the top and in spring and summer the flower-clad grasslands burst into life with bees and butterflies. When at the crown, admire the hard work it must have taken to make this commemoration, as well as the far stretching views that reach all the way to neighbouring Sussex and out to sea.
Two Riverside Rambles that start and finish at a Shepherd Neame Pub
The Three Mariners, Oare
Nestled by the winding creek, a stone’s throw from a Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve, this perfect pub offers crackling fires under oak beams and is dog friendly, child friendly – in fact, just friendly, full stop! The Pub Walk here offers two routes, a three-mile walk, which takes one and a half hours and a five-mile walk, which takes just over two hours. Heading from The Three Mariners and back, the easy outing will require walking boots.
To download the Pub Walk map visit: www.thethreemarinersoare.co.uk
The Boathouse, Yalding and Bush, Blackbird and Thrush, East Peckham
Enjoy riverside views alongside your drinking and dining experience in the Kentish village of Yalding with The Boathouse, or enjoy your beer at peak condition and wholesome country pub food at the Bush, Blackbird and Thrush. The Pub Walk between these two popular pubs can start at either venue and is a six-mile saunter taking around two and a half hours. It will take you along the banks of the River Medway and through farmland for the perfect meander at this time of the year.
To download the walk map, visit: www.snea.me/boathouse-pub-walk
Wanders with all the Family
Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst
Home to a world-leading collection of conifers and containing over 12,000 specimen trees, Bedgebury Pinetum’s trees and landscape create a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and picnics in the rolling hills and valleys of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A place for all, Bedgebury is inspiring for tree lovers looking to learn about tree species of international conservation importance and see them up close, as well as families who love walking together, thanks to its miles of trails. As well as walks, enjoy climbing, jumping, sliding and swinging on the Play Trail or explore the canopy on a Go Ape tree top adventure or tree top challenge. The Bedgebury café at the visitor centre has wonderful views of the pinetum and is set beside one of many lakes.
Find Bedgebury’s walking trail map by visiting: www.forestryengland.uk/bedgebury
Mote Park, Maidstone
Since medieval times, Mote Park has been the site of glorious parkland which has seen visitors pursue leisure activities within its grounds for almost 900 years. With a host of revered former owners, including the Royal Family no less, the park is now looked after by the council and an amazing team of volunteers. Spanning over 450 acres, Mote Park is now a freely accessible space for the public to enjoy and is an ideal location for the whole family. The park includes natural features such as grassland, woodland rivers and a lake, and is also home to plenty of outdoor pursuit opportunities and historical features such as Mote House and the walled garden. The vast numbers of mature trees create a beautiful, tranquil landscape offering cool shade in the summer and glorious colour in autumn. This, along with a plethora of activities, make it a wonderful place to visit all year round. Mote Park is great for both walking and cycling with lots of paths and trails to follow throughout the park.