Six of the best Spring walks
PUBLISHED: 10:38 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:38 17 March 2014
Where to enjoy bluebells, cherry blossom and even wild orchids in Kent
1 Nature reserve
WHERE: Ranscombe Farm Reserve, Medway.
The car park is on the A228, just south of junction 2 on the M2. Come off at junction 2, turn right to Cuxton and the reserve in on the right after 200 yards. The nearest satnav postcode is ME2 1LA but it isn’t accurate!
WHAT: This 560-acre gem on the slopes of the North Downs is Plantlife’s largest English nature reserve. Walk here in April and May to see bluebells and some wonderful wild orchids, such as the Early Purple Orchid. You can download walks on the Plantlife website (go to ‘Explore Ranscombe’).
WHERE TO EAT: There are lots of places to eat in Rochester, such as Topes (topesrestaurant.com, 01634 845270, ME1 1JY).
● Further information: plantlife.org.uk/nature_reserves/ranscombe_farm, 01634 292062.
2 National Trust gem
WHERE: Sissinghurst Castle Estate, near Cranbrook TN17 2AB
WHAT: The traditional coppice woodland in the Sissinghurst Estate is a sea of scented English bluebells in April and May. There is a mapped three-mile walk on the National Trust website, which take one and a half hours and passes through a bluebell wood and the surrounding fields.
The main garden at Sissinghurst is also wonderful at this time of year, with a fine show of spring flowers, especially in the Orchard and the Nuttery.
WHERE TO EAT: In the much-improved Granary restaurant at Sissinghurst Castle, which now serves seasonal, tasty food prepared with produce from the garden’s organic vegetable plot.
● Further information: nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle, 01580 710700
3 Cherry orchards
WHERE: Lenham village, between Ashford and Maidstone.
WHAT: In April the pride of Kent bursts into bloom – our glorious cherry trees are coated in snowy white blossom. Go to the Kent Downs website for a map of some of Kent’s best cherry orchards. They include Sheldwich on the edge of the Downs, Stockbury, high on the Downs, and Lenham, Milstead and Lynsted, which are now all community orchards.
Walk along the North Downs Way from Lenham village, past the chalk cliffs and on to Rayners Hill; then turn off to the flower-rich Cherry Downs chalk grassland; the cherry orchard and nut platt are behind a privet hedge.
WHERE TO EAT: The Dog & Bear in Lenham (shepherdneame.co.uk/pubs/lenham/dog-bear-hotel, 01622 858219, ME17 2PG).
● Further information: kentdowns.org.uk/uploads/documents/Discoveringourorchards.pdf
4 Ancient woodland
WHERE: Spuckles Wood, nr Faversham. Take the A251 from Faversham towards Ashford and just beyond Leaveland, turn right (signposted Stalisfield). There are two lay-bys where cars can be parked beside Thornycroft Lane right on the edge of the wood and within 70 yards of the reserve entrance.
WHAT: This 32-acre ancient woodland grows on a chalk escarpment and provides a haven for butterflies, birds and wild flowers. Come spring, you can enjoy blossom, violets, orchids (such as the Early Purple Orchid), wood anemones and bluebells. Both Spuckles Wood and Kennelling Wood beside it contain many rare flowers – for this reason sadly dogs are not allowed in.
WHERE TO EAT: The Plough Inn in Stalisfield Green (theploughinnstalisfield.co.uk, 01795 890256, ME13 0HY).
● Further information: kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/spuckles-kennelling-woods-wilderness-down, 01622 662012.
5 View to a thrill
WHERE: Emmetts Garden, near Sevenoaks TN14 6BA
This five-acre hillside National Trust garden has a dreamy display of bluebells in April and May, as well as a colourful show of azaleas and rhododendrons and views of the Kentish Weald and Ide Hill. Walk routes are available from the National Trust office. If you want to walk further you can grab your OS map and do a longer stroll that takes in the beautiful bluebell woods around Ide Hill, including Scords Wood.
WHERE TO EAT: In the Stable Tearooms at Emmetts for light lunches and cakes or The Woodman in Ide Hill (thewoodman-idehill.co.uk, 01732 750296, TN14 6BU) for traditional English pub food and South African dishes.
● Further information: nationaltrust.org.uk/emmetts-garden, 01732 750367
6 Downland valley
WHERE: Queendown Warren, nr Sittingbourne.
From junction 4 of the M2, take the A278 to Gillingham.Turn right to Wigmore at the roundabout and then right to Bredhurst. After going over the M2 turn left. After 1¼ miles turn right towards Hartlip. The small parking area is indicated at the junction after one mile.
WHAT: This downland valley nature reserve is a lovely spot to walk in late April and May. It boasts a cheering show of cowslips in spring, especially on the West Bank. Ten species of orchid also thrive here, including Early Purple Orchids, in the Potters Wood area of the reserve.
WHERE TO EAT: The Three Tuns pub in Lower Halstow (thethreetunsrestaurant.co.uk , 01795 842840, ME9 7DY).
● Further information: kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/queendown-warren, 01622 662012