7 great ways to spend summer in Kent

PUBLISHED: 16:11 05 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 05 August 2020

Leeds Castle's grounds and garden opened back up at the end of June

Leeds Castle's grounds and garden opened back up at the end of June

Manu Palomeque

Your foreign holiday may be on hold, but there is a plethora of inspirational ways to enjoy days out right here in our home county | Words: Emma Ward - Photos: Manu Palomeque

1) Family first

One of the most welcome changes to our previous regime has been the loosening of rules around meeting family members and friends.

While we must still be careful and adhere to social distancing measures, we can now spend a happy few hours in the company of people who make us smile. Such a simple pleasure that none of us will ever take for granted again.

Kent is blessed with many stunning locations that offer lots of open space in inspirational surroundings. Check out Pegwell Bay Country Park, part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve to enjoy far-reaching views and walking routes that teem with nature.

Pegwell Bay

Or pack up a picnic and head for Lullingstone Country Park near Eynsford to spend time surrounded by ancient trees, spectacular wildflowers and tranquil, flowing water.

Always look online before travelling to check the latest status with regard to opening hours and available facilities.

Parking may be limited and you will most likely need to take your own food and drink.

Most importantly, please take all your litter home with you wherever you stop off and enjoy refreshments this summer. Other people live here and should not have to pick up after you.

Lullingstone

2) Back to nature

Getting back to nature is on lots of people’s priority list this summer, after months spent confined to barracks, seeing the same walls and walking around the same local streets and paths.

Combine a summer outing to immerse yourself in the natural world with a new resolve to get active and regain some of your pre-lockdown fitness. While gyms are now open again, you may not feel comfortable returning just yet, but you don’t have to make complex fitness plans.

Credit Josh CarterCredit Josh Carter

Start off lightly with a series of planned walks, runs or bike rides taking in some of the most beautiful countryside areas that Kent has to offer.

A great place to combine nature with fitness is Bedgebury Pinetum with its miles of tree-lined walking and cycling routes. As with other places, parking may be limited, so you might wish to check beforehand what the expected visitor numbers are going to be and time your trip accordingly.

Take snacks if you are planning to stay for a while, although take-away food and drinks should be available from the on-site café. Respect other visitors and maintain social distancing at all times. Take your rubbish home.

Bedgebury Pinetum

3) Foodie fun

Many of Kent’s cafés, pubs and restaurants opened fully to the public once more on 4 July, with others following suit in the next couple of weeks once they had Covid-proofed their premises and trained up staff in the new ways of interacting with customers.

While it’s wonderful to be able to go out socially again and meet up with friends and family to chat over a drink and a meal that someone else has cooked for a change (and they’ll clear up after you too!), not everyone is quite ready to embrace the idea yet.

However, in the meantime, you can still support your favourite eateries by buying take-away snacks and meals from them and spread the word about what they are able to offer via social media and amongst your friends.

The last review editor Sarah Sturt did before lockdown was of The Three Mariners at Oare, Kent Life's 2019 Pub of the YearThe last review editor Sarah Sturt did before lockdown was of The Three Mariners at Oare, Kent Life's 2019 Pub of the Year

Perhaps you could round off a lovely day out by grabbing something easy from a local café or restaurant to take back home for an easy dinner?

Many of our favourites in Kent quickly adapted to offering takeaway and delivery services, meaning you could still enjoy restaurant-quality food in the comfort of your own home. The majority will continue to run these services.

Alternatively, why not embrace your inner chef and see what you can whip up at home using locally-sourced ingredients?

Apparently we have all been baking banana bread, sponge cakes and biscuits like never before in recent weeks, so turn your baking passion into an idea for a fun day out, browsing for local ingredients.

Instead of looking through your store cupboard for the umpteenth time, check out some independent food outlets or farm shops to see what you can find that will inspire a new recipe.

Kenbt Life Pub of the Year 2019, The Three Mariners at Oare, re-opened on the weekendof 4-5 July with full safety measures in placeKenbt Life Pub of the Year 2019, The Three Mariners at Oare, re-opened on the weekendof 4-5 July with full safety measures in place

4) King or Queen for a day

Kent has long been given the royal seal of approval, as multiple monarchs and royalty have either visited or made the county their home. Follow in their footsteps with a regally themed day out.

Leeds Castle near Maidstone has stood for 900 years and was once a home of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The castle’s grounds and garden opened back up at the end of June, with visitors required to book a visiting slot in advance online to help control numbers.

Other royal connections are found at Canterbury Cathedral, where several monarchs are buried, including Henry IV and his wife Joan of Navarre. The cathedral is also the final resting place of Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed by followers of Henry II in the cathedral in 1170.

Leeds Castle

The cathedral reopened to visitors and for services of worship on 4-5 July, with a range of new safety measures in place, including one-way routes, enhanced cleaning regimes, hand-sanitiser stations, distanced seating, additional signage and floor markings, and PPE for staff, volunteers and Constables as appropriate.

Other changes include the introduction of pre-booked tickets, plus free entry for children and reduced charges for adults until September.

If you prefer your royalty a little less dramatic than that offered by Canterbury, spend a day in Royal Tunbridge Wells, the elegant Kentish town that had a new name bestowed upon it by Edward VII in 1909, in recognition of the esteem in which it was held by his mother, Queen Victoria.

Royal Tunbridge Wells.  The Pantiles.

5) Tour de Kent?

Cycle fans can breathe a sigh of relief as their world expands once more beyond the realms of ‘essential journeys’ and local exercise. Kent has long been a favourite haunt for cyclists, thanks to its picturesque cycling routes, plentiful countryside tracks and relatively flat terrain.

A popular route to cycle is the 27-mile Viking Coastal Trail that takes you past the sandy beaches and chalk cliffs around Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate.

Always take an emergency repair kit and food and drink to enable you to stay out for longer and enjoy the summer breeze on your face as you whizz by.

Other beautiful spots for a cycle ride include Bewl Water and the towpaths along the 28-mile Hythe and Royal Military Canal.

Enjoy a bike ride along the Crab & Winkle Way between Canterbury and the harbour in WhitstableEnjoy a bike ride along the Crab & Winkle Way between Canterbury and the harbour in Whitstable

6) Flower power

For many people, summer means an abundance of floral colour bursting out of gardens, borders and hedgerows across the UK.

In Kent, many beautiful gardens and parks are open once again for people to enjoy a socially distanced stroll among the summer flowers.

The castle and accommodation sites, as well as the garden and grounds at Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home near Edenbridge, are now all open again. Tickets for a specific date and time slot to see the garden must be booked in advance online.

Hever Castle

And after so many events have been cancelled due to Covid-19, Hever is delighted to be hosting the first craft event in the south east this year, taking place from 10 to 13 September.

Near neighbour Penshurst Place and Gardens is open to the public once more, also on a pre-booked ticket basis and with 500 acres of glorious parkland to explore.

A popular film location, scenes from 2019 movie Mary Queen of Scots were shot here, as was BBC Two’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, broadcast in 2015.

P1030550

7) Socially-distanced seaside

Having seen the scenes on news channels showing crowded beaches, you may not feel like rubbing shoulders with too many people at once while social distancing is still in place.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy spending some time by the sea this month. If you choose your visiting time carefully, you can avoid the crowds, especially if you pick less popular destinations.

One activity you can do at some beaches in Kent is fossil hunting, finding fascinating evidence of life from around 600 million years ago in among the pebbles and shingle that line the seashore.

Herne Bay Breakwaters

Two excellent fossil-hunting spots are Herne Bay and our cover star Kingsgate Bay. Take something to dig with, such as a gardening trowel, to help you unearth noteworthy stones that have settled underneath others.

Avoid searching too close to the cliffs, or taking stones from there, as this can contribute to coastal erosion. If you find anything unusual or especially large, a local museum might be interested in helping you to identify your discovery.

As with all beauty spots, be a responsible visitor to our beautiful Kent coast and bear in mind the words of the much-quoted phrase by Aliyyah Eniath: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”

Kingsgate Bay at sunrise.

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