Walk: Charles Dickens route in Higham
PUBLISHED: 10:43 05 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 05 June 2017
This walk is packed full of Kentish delight and charm. Taking in the landscape that inspired the opening to Charles Dickens Great Expectations you can expect plenty of pretty wilderness on this walk
Location: Higham, ME3 7JQ
Distance: 6.6 miles (10.62 km) Circular
Time: Allow 2-3 hours at a moderate pace
OS Explorer maps: 163
Terrain: A mix of hard surfaces and pathways. Can be uneven and muddy in places
Public transport: For public transport directions to Higham from your home address, please visit kentconnected.org. Higham railway station is at the start of your walk
Parking: Park at Higham railway station
Refreshments & facilities: Sir John Falstaff pub on the walking route serves a good range of food and ales
Starting from the railway station in Higham (it is thought that Charles Dickens would not have considered living at Gads Hill had Higham not had a railway station) your walk will take you through the pretty village of Higham, fields, farmland and past two interesting churches!
Setting off from Higham Station where Charles Dickens would often ride or walk to meet his visitors to Gads Hill, you will soon enter vast farmland with lovely views across Medway and the marshy landscape that inspired Dickens work.
From the entrance road to Higham Railway Station, turn right and cross the railway bridge. Take the footpath on the right which leads over open fields. Follow the path until you reach a track, (The Landway.) then turn right and head uphill past White House Farm. Take care as this is a private farm track and vehicles may be in use.
Dickens purchased Gads Hill place to mark his achievements. As a young child he told his father he wanted to one day own Gads Hill place, his father told him if he worked hard enough one day he might be able to.
Shortly after the farm, take the path bearing right across the field with St John’s Church in front of you. Upon reaching the field edge, turn left alongside allotments and then right along Hermitage Road. Dickens would walk through this same landscape on a daily basis. He had a brisk walking pace of 4 miles per hour and would walk an average of six miles a day. This area of the landscape is well preserved and landmarks on this walk would still be recognised by Dickens today.
After passing the church, turn left on to Forge Lane where you will find Higham Library on your right, next door to the Gardeners Arms. It is well worth a peep into this tiny library to find out more about Dickens and the local landscape. As you enter the library you will see a large scale map of Higham to the left of the door. The map is dated 1864 so the streets, buildings and landmarks of Dickens’ day are recorded.
St John’s Church built in 1862 is open daily and contains some beautiful post war stained glass. This church is at the centre of the community and also houses a wonderful organ and a host of bells.
Leaving the Library, continue down Forge Lane to the end of the road and turn left. You will now be approaching the Sir John Falstaff pub on your left. This is a good place to stop for a well-earned drink or some tasty food before continuing on your walk. The pub is opposite to Gads Hill, home of Charles Dickens and now a school. When Dickens purchased his home, he had lunch at Sir John Falstaff celebrating his new position as a Kentish freeholder.
Immediately after The Sir John Falstaff Inn, take Telegraph Hill, and follow up and down hill to the end of the road then turn right along Hermitage Road. To visit the Larkin monument, turn right into The Larches, then take the wooden gate at the top of the cul-de-sac. From The Larches continue along Hermitage Road and enjoy the great views to either side.
Look for a gap in the hedge and take the footpath on your left just before Mill Barn. You can see the base of the old windmill on your right. Follow the well-defined path straight and cross the road to take the restricted byway. Heading through pleasant open countryside, there is ample opportunity to look out for wildlife and some pretty summer wildflowers growing in the grass verges.
Follow the track straight ahead to another road. Turn right towards Lillechurch and take the footpath opposite the farm entrance. Enjoy the easy walking along these pretty little country lanes.
Head across the field passing through kissing gates, when you reach the road, take the track opposite through Oakleigh Nursery & Farm.
When the track splits, take the left hand fork with St Mary’s church spire directly in front of you. This church is no longer used for regular worship and is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust, it is often open to look around and is very pretty inside. Lying on the edge of marshland much loved by Dickens, the church contains some unique medieval woodwork and a nice peaceful open space inside.
After leaving St Mary’s Church, head down Church Street. In Dickens era this would have been bustling with smithies and pubs, nowadays it is very tranquil. Shortly after the Black Cottages, take the footpath on the left and follow the track across the field. At the end, turn right into Bull Lane and pass a row of quaint Kentish cottages on your right, then turn left on to Church Street/Chequers Street.
Continue along Chequers Street, a small country lane with more great views and photographic opportunities. Continue following the road and you’ll shortly arrive back in Higham. This part of Higham was once home to five pubs all of which are now closed which gives you an idea of how busy this part of Kent once was.
Explore this walk and discover the hidden heritage of this beautiful area, much loved by Dickens. You can almost imagine him walking alongside you as you make your way through the contrasting landscapes of this walk; it is a must for any Dickens fan!
The annual weekend long Dickens festival takes place on June 9-11th 2017 in the heart of historic Rochester which is a short drive away from Higham. Costumed Dickens characters line the High Street performing street acts, side stalls packed with Victorian intrigue, a bustling fun fair in the castle gardens and a wonderful atmosphere all make for a wonderful celebration of Dickensian delight.
For other literary walks in Kent and information on the Battle of Medway celebrations and the Dickens Festival, please visit the Explore Kent website www.explorekent.org. Follow @explorekent on Twitter and Facebook and share your experiences with us!