A Kent Walks Near London jazz gig!

Come along and enjoy top quality live jazz, Monday 6 March 8.20pm

If big band jazz is your thing, or even if it isn’t, come along to Sundridge Park WMC at 134 Burnt Ash Lane, BR1 5AF today. I will be playing in the saxophone section and announcing tunes. It’s £10 to get in and the band starts at 8.30pm and finishes at 10.30 with a short break. There’s no need to book (you can’t anyway!) but there’s a decent bar at hand and lots of seating in a large room with good acoustics. The music we play is by arrangers and composers such as Thad Jones, Bob Florence, Gil Evans, Kenny Wheeler and Mike Gibbs, the sort of material performed by the Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie bands etc. What else can you do on a bleak Monday night that’ll be as uplifting? Don’t answer that!

A popular stroll

A popular stroll

The original Shoreham circular walk has been overall the most popular hike at KWNL since I started the site in 2015. I walked it this weekend for the first time in many months but found it very quiet! But its popularity is no accident. Obviously the village itself is a major draw (but please park away from it and try not to drive through it if not arriving by train), but with the River Darent and its side streams, great little gardens, hillsides and views, the route is all in all a real winner with not a dull moment. It was nice to see the Mount Vineyard and The Crown pub open again. I guess the George will be back with us in the summer. I took the detour from Mill Lane around the vineyard and behind the churchyard, a stretch of path I really love. Meenfield Wood bluebells on the ridge above the village were beginning to show nicely.

It might as well be spring…

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The curious title of this blog comes from a gorgeous song written in the late 1940s. Here’s Sarah Vaughan’s fantastic version (What. A. Voice #theydontmakemlikethatanymore etc etc).

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, today was the nicest day of the year so far. Misty, warmish, fantastic light… and a rare sunset with an orange sun descending behind thin cloud with such clarity and without glare – you could stare right at it without any risk to your eyes. Our walk today was at One Tree Hill. It was lovely for aforementioned reasons but, man oh man, the mud. Yep, it’s still way too early for dry paths and the slop was suckingly powerful. My tip would be Knole Park for best mud avoidance at this time of year, or Lullingstone.

But nothing could take away from that mild late winter sunshine and sense of the countryside waking up. Glorious.

Pictures above are from Wilmot Hill along from One Tree Hill, today, March 11 and there’s one from Ide Hill last week and a sleet shower heading towards Bough Beech reservoir from, I suppose, Edenbridge.

An Eynsford walk in the rain and cold

Dreadful Saturday weather-wise today, but, undaunted, we – my younger son and I – decided to venture out to familiar pastures. We went to Eynsford village and did a circular walk from the riverside diagonally uphill across fields to Eagle Heights, enjoying lovely, rain-swept views across the railway viaduct down the valley towards Sevenoaks. Passing the bird of prey centre (and being lucky enough to see a vast raptor wheeling in the murk above, pursued – at a distance – by two gulls) we strode on, entering Lullingstone park, turning around its central hill (the one topped by pines and cedar of Lebanon trees) and returning the way we came to Eynsford. It’s now 9.30pm – the pre-Match of the Day hour – and I’ve still not entirely warmed up; a really raw afternoon. I’ll write up the walk soon; it’ll make another good one for train users being easy to adapt to start from and return to Eynford station. Some of it covers the same ground as the Shoreham-Eynsford walk on this site.

Summer’s lease

Bit of Shakespeare there… and I prefer the phrase to ‘Indian summer’, I never knew what that meant. Two great weekends in a row prolonging that mournful ‘end of summer’ feeling, which hangs in the mild, limpid air. On September 20 we did the Downe circular walk on Saturday and on Sunday traipsed around a few miles of the Ashdown Forest. In between, I nipped up to East Mersea, near Colchester, to play saxophone at a really good wedding – now that’s an interesting, quiet part of the world (until the band cranked it up, anyway). Back in Kent/East Sussex today we enjoyed perfect temperatures, just a gentle breeze. Near King’s Standing in the Ashdown Forest we watched kestrels, and heard stonechats and goldcrests. There were many dense webs among the heather, which would have made for a good photo, but yours truly forgot the camera. Still, with the iPhone here are a couple of shots… Back to work, and rain tomorrow. But (updating on September 27) another great weekend followed and, after a sojourn in sunny Loughborough, we made it out to Otford late on Sunday in incredibly clear conditions. Could it be three great weekends in a row? Suddenly a high pressure area is sitting over us so I suspect another brilliant walking country weekend is in store… Another update (October 4): amid glorious sunshine we did the Ide Hill walk, marvelling at the hazy late afternoon light, lending the countryside a mystical, timeless glow. Well, it helped me get over the rugby…

View of Kent Weald, near Ide Hill

Hazy sunshine on October 3 overlooking the Weald from the Ide Hill circular walk point 2

Otford path

On the lower Darent Valley path near Otford, September 27


Downe circular, mid-September

Ashdown Forest

Gill’s Lap, Ashdown Forest, September 20

Knole Park tips

Knole Park tips

Knole, in Sevenoaks, is wonderful in all seasons and weathers, though hardly an undiscovered gem. And it’s the best option for a mud-free(ish) walk in winter. If you are driving there from south east London for a walk (rather than to visit the National Trust Tudor house), park the car in St Julian Road for free access and enter one of the many gates. The best gate, from the walk point of view and ease of plonking your motor somewhere, is at the junction of St Julian Rd and Fawke Wood Rd, by the little pond. Once in the park it’s about a mile and a bit to Knole House. I recommend going ‘off-piste’ on one of the smaller paths around the edge of the park (go in the gate and fork right, for example). You’ll always eventually come out somewhere where it’s open and you can get your bearings from a distant sight of Knole’s high chimneys. There’s a rarely visited conifer plantation close to this gate which is really rather atmospheric – if you like birds watch out for goldcrests at this point. If you are going by train, you can enter Knole from Sevenoaks High St, after a 15-minute walk from the station. Above is a picture taken just to the south of Knole House in the late afternoon of February 17.

A bucolic welcome to you

A bucolic welcome to you

Sometimes you just need to get out of the city. Even in good ol’ south east London, with its verdant parks and Victoriana, the urge to swan around in ancient landscapes, free of the roar of traffic, does sometimes come to us all of a weekend. The good news is that there are beautiful fields, woods and villages to walk in just 30 minutes out of town by car or train.

Whether you’ve moved to south east London for work purposes or whether you are from these parts and just haven’t felt the urge to shift your butt into the woods and fields, my aim with this site is, without wishing to be rude, to tell you where to go. I want to share with you the great places you can walk in without much planning and without dedicating too much time to it. Many of the routes are great to take children on, too.