We decided to finish our Easter holidays with an uber-walk! Most of the routes I have blogged about are between 18-25km. However this time, Marc and I decided to take on two walks at once and cover around 40km in one day. We only decided this on the train on the way to Bearsted! I’ll split the walk into two posts, in case some of you plan to follow the official sections of the route. The first half of our day covered the walk from Bearsted and Detling over to Lenham. This was a pretty good work out with plenty of ups-and-downs as the path veers from the top of the Downs and the Pilgrims way.
The North Downs Way Detling to Lenham Map
Stage 8: Detling to Lenham – the basics
How to get there: Bearsted (start), Lenham (end)
Elevation gain: 475m
The walk starts with the link from Bearsted station up to Detling. Bearsted is a pleasant village to visit, but it is not particularly nice to walk through as a pedestrian. In most places there is a pavement on one side of the road, but it keeps switching sides, so we had to cross the (very busy) road several times just to leave the village. Cars really zoom past, so be careful here! Once you are out of the village, turn right along a winding road that takes you over the A20 and up a hill to Detling. Keep going right to the top of the hill and then turn right onto the Pilgrims way. After you leave the village past the cricket club, turn left and head to the top of the Downs.
This little climb is quickly rewarded with amazing views. The route goes along the top of the Downs and is covered in yellow flowers. In fact, now I think about it, we saw various yellow flowers all through the walk. It must be a yellow flower time of year!!
Once you reach White Horse Wood, the path drops down some incredibly steep steps. Each step is so big that I found it easier to stride or jump down! Our guide says it is possible to avoid this drop (and the following climb back up) by taking a detour through White Horse Wood. But we both need stronger legs for when we move to Canada, so we took the more energetic route!
We *did* take the next detour though! You can turn off the North Downs way to visit the ruins of Thurnham Castle. The path up to the castle is pretty steep. So if you try to reach it when it is muddy, it is probably better to follow the detour route through White Horse Wood! The castle itself is a ruin, but you can see some of the walls made of Flint. Apparently this site was originally used as a Roman watch tower, then re-developed by the Saxons and then occupied until the 15th Century, when it was abandoned. I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know any of this history before the walk. The site has quite a few signs with information about the castle, so that is my source!
As the way back to the North Downs way is so steep, we improvised our own way back, by walking down a road to Thurnham Castle’s car park. From there is was easy to rejoin the official path. There was a steep grassy hill on one side of us, and our route was marked off with a single line of barbed wire. Although there were no sheep in the surrounding fields, the barbed wire was pretty covered in wool, so maybe the sheep already made their escape!? Or maybe this wire is more of a scratching post, than a barrier to sheep!?
Once you’ve taken in the pretty views, the path leads you into Civiley Wood. This wooded walk leads up and down lots of steps. Next to the steps there are some more stunning patches of bluebells. First we climbed 62 steps up (my book says there were 63, so I may have missed one!) There are some nice views through the trees, down to the rest of Kent. You walk a little way further into the wood before you climb down for 52 steps… Only to re-climb for another 52 steps after that!
My legs were feeling pretty happy (well, warm) after all those steps. It is worth it to walk around such lovely woodland. I have already written two blue-bell-filled posts about the North Downs way, so I’ve tried to keep my flowery photos to a minimum this time!
Soon the path leaves the pretty blue flowers and you descend down a hill called Cat’s mount. You don’t have to go too low before you climb back up the hill into a small patch of woodland along the top of the hill.
Just as we got to the top of the hill, I could hear a chorus of squeals and there was a bit of a pungent smell. I sneaked through the trees just in time to see lots of piggies running over for their feeding time. These porkers have the best possible position at the top of the world and they looked pretty happy to get their snouts into the troughs! I probably took too long watching pigs and then being distracted by bluebells, so I had to run quite a long way to catch up with Marc. He hadn’t stopped for piggies or flowers!
The walk continues along the top of the downs above bright green grassland for a while. There are gorgeous views the whole way when it is clear! We could even see over to Leed’s Castle. For our walk the sun kept going behind the clouds, but whenever it came out it really made all the green fields shine! The landscape looks a little more drab when the sky is grey.
There is another possible detour off into the Huckling Estate, but we decided to stay on the main route. You go through a small section of a pretty wood that was full of amazing trees, before emerging back out into grassland, heading slowly down towards Hollingbourne.
I assume this isn’t normal, but the hill next to Hollingborne seemed to be full of smashed decorated Easter eggs! We must have arrived right after some sort of Easter activity because the ground was littered with egg shells and the remains of boiled eggs! We picked up an few of them to see the patterns – lots of them were really well painted! I wonder what kind of egg-smashing game they play here!?
Hollingborne is a very pretty village. They have an excellent name for the local pub – the Dirty Habit(!) But it was still slightly too early for us to stop at a pub, so we kept going along an easy pathway past lots of yellow rapefields. Just like the previous walk, the yellow flowers of the rapeseed plants are only just getting started, so my hayfever wasn’t too bad. I don’t think I’d be able to walk past these fields without sneezing in summer!!
Once you leave the village, the route joins the pilgrims way along with a National Cycle Network path. But even with so many possible routes, it was still not busy! We saw three motorbikes and a couple of dog walkers, so maybe we started too late in the morning? Or maybe this is always a quiet walkway?
Anyway, the last few kilometres if this section are really relaxing. The path is flat. Well, you can see the Downs to the left, but the path doesn’t take you up and down again. The road is pretty straight, so I don’t think it would be possible to get lost. You can just walk along, listen to the birds sing and look at the wildflowers growing at the edge of the path. We passed one large farm with a whole row of cherry blossom trees. And then found some lovely interesting daffodils planted by a pilgrim’s rest bench.
This is Brother Percival sitting on the pilgrim’s rest bench. Our guide said he is enjoying the view, but it looked more like he was sleeping to me. He might have been tired after walking up and down all the hills in this section of the walk! There is another picnic bench just behind his statue, so we stopped there for lunch.
After you’ve met Brother Percival, it’s only another 2km over to Lenham and the end of this section. You’ll pass a large complex of the Marley works. But other than that, the path stays flat and the views remain rural, with lots of yellow flowers! Lenham is on the same trainline as the first stop in Bearsted. So for once (for Londoners) it was quicker to get home than to start the walk!!
We kept going onto the next part of the walk. You can follow on here.