Six of the best New Year walks in Kent
PUBLISHED: 17:10 29 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:04 23 November 2016
Enjoy a family stroll on New Year's Day, from coast to woodland, castles to sweeping views
1 ALONG THE COAST
Ramsgate and Broadstairs
WHERE: Ramsgate, East Kent
DISTANCE: 5 miles (8 km): 2.5 hours to walk
TERRAIN: Man-made and coastal sandy paths
One of the best bits of Kentish coastline is the stretch between Ramsgate and Broadstairs. There is a nice circular walk encompassing it that can be downloaded from www.kent.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture. The route starts from the Royal Harbour Marina and runs beside the ocean, along cliff tops and sandy beaches, giving wonderful views of the chalk cliffs, Viking Bay and (on a clear day) the French coastline. Children will love the rock pools in the sandy Louisa Bay and garden lovers will like the King George VI Memorial Park with its Italianate glasshouse.
Where to eat: Get a scrummy box of fish and chips from Star of the Sea on the high street in Broadstairs or head to the Churchill Tavern pub in Ramsgate (churchilltavern.co.uk, 01843 587862, CT11 9JX).
2 ROLLING DOWNLAND
WHERE: Hollingbourne, near Maidstone
DISTANCE: Various lengths
TERRAIN: Grass, stony and dirt tracks with some uphill and downhill
There are many gorgeous places to walk on the Kent Downs (kentdowns.org.uk). One of the best is Hollingbourne, which sits on the North Downs Way and the ancient Pilgrim’s Way that leads to Canterbury. Two historic routes called the Hollingbourne Heritage Trails have been mapped out by the National Trail: go to nationaltrail.co.uk to print or download them. If you want a shorter walk, you can follow footpaths from Hollingbourne station up onto the Downs and walk along the North Downs Way, before looping back to the east end of the village; there are lots of lovely walk routes on the Dirty Habit pub website: elitepubs.com/the_dirtyhabit.
Where to eat: The Dirty Habit pub (01622 880880, ME17 1UW) in Hollingbourne, where ale was once brewed by monks and where tired pilgrims came to put their feet up. The food is tasty, hearty and traditional.
3 ANCIENT WOODLAND
WHERE: Yorkletts, near Whitstable
DISTANCE: Various lengths
TERRAIN: Grass, stony and dirt tracks with some up and down
This 141-hectare woodland was planted to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar and is now managed by the Woodland Trust. It is part of the network of ancient Kentish woodland, known as the Blean and links Blean and Ellenden Woods. There are nautical structures, such as a statue of Nelson and the Trafalgar battle plan marked out in trees, and the southern ridge has wonderful views to the Kent coastline and nearby woods. There is a free car park in the hamlet of Highstreet, off the corner of Plumpudding Lane and Dargate Road. There is a surfaced wheelchair route up to a viewing point, from the car park. For more information go to woodlandtrust.org.uk.
Where to eat: The Anchor Pub & Restaurant (anchor-pub.co.uk, 01795 536471, ME13 7BP) in Faversham is now run by the team from the Dove Inn: expect delicious pub food made with local ingredients.
4 SCULPTURE TRAIL
WHERE: Between Challock and Chilham, near Canterbury
DISTANCE: 4 miles (6.4 km), approx. two hours to walk
TERRAIN: Hard forest tracks and woodland paths
The seven Stour Valley Arts sculpture works in King’s Wood are particularly dramatic on a frosty winter day. There are natural sculptures, such as the coppiced chestnut arches by Richard Harris, and man-made pieces for wildlife: for instance, the Super Kingdom nesting boxes, which are modelled on the imperious palaces of Stalin and Mussolini. King’s is an ancient Forestry Commission wood that is dominated by pine, fir and sweet chestnut trees. There is a nice circular walk that encompasses all the sculptures; maps of the route are available from the main car park (which is on White Hill and signposted from the A28 and the A252) or you can see the trail online at stourvalleyarts.co.uk/art-in-kings-wood/richard-harris
Where to eat: The 600-year old Woolpack Inn (woolpackinnchilham.co.uk, 01227 730351, CT4 8DL) in Chilham village has a cosy bar with inglenook fireplaces where dogs are welcome.
5 SWEEPING VIEWS
WHERE: Toys Hill, near Sevenoaks
DISTANCE: Trails from 0.5 mile (0.80km) to 3 miles (4.8 km)
TERRAIN: Uneven paths, many of which are steep; however there is a way-marked black route for buggies and wheelchairs.
Drink in views over the Kentish Weald from the top of the Toy’s Hill escarpment, which sits 235 metres (771 ft) above sea level. The National Trust land (nationaltrust.org.uk/toys-hill, 01732 750169, TN16 1QG) is a Grade I Site of Special Scientific Interest; its 200 acres of woodland are part of the Lower Greensand Ridge and an important habitat for wildlife. The best views are found from the terrace and well, donated by Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, and the top wildlife haunt is the ‘bat tower’, a former water tower, which is now a hibernaculum, home to bats. The free National Trust car park is close to the Fox & Hounds pub, where you can pick up walk trail leaflets.
Where to eat: The Fox & Hounds Pub in Toy’s Hill (foxhoundstoyshill.co.uk, 01732 750328, TN16 1QG) has log fires and serves tasty traditional pub food.
6 A castle in snow
WHERE: Hever, near Edenbridge
DISTANCE: 2 miles (3.2 km) approximately - 1 hour to walk
TERRAIN: Flat paths, some man-made, some muddy.
Where to eat: In the Moat Restaurant at Hever Castle or at the King Henry VIII Inn in Hever village (01732 862 457, TN8 7NH), which has old oak beams and an open fire.
Do a loop around the immense lake at Hever and then enjoy the sight of the castle and its gardens dusted with frost. Grab a leaflet map from the castle entrance and follow the route around the lake. You will pass the new waterside Japanese Tea House, whose scarlet frame looks stunning in snow, the Loggia with its beautiful water cascade, and the Wishing Tree, where you can cast wishes for the year ahead. If you don’t want to walk that far, there is a Winter Trail around the gardens, whose stonework and old yew topiary look enchanting in frost and snow. Hever Castle and Gardens (hevercastle.co.uk, 01732 865224, TN8 7NG) will be open 27 Dec-1 Jan, from 10.30am-4.00pm. Dogs are welcome in the grounds on leads.
Hever Castle is magical in the snow
The Kent Downs offer fine historic routes of varying lengths