Two weeks ago I walked at Downe in snow (see pictures below) – a reminder that villages near the leading edge of the North Downs (Ide Hill is another) are just enough metres higher than SE London to convert rain into snow. Since then there have been signs of spring; no sightings of ridiculously early bluebells so far, unlike this time last year, but a milder feel despite Doris rushing through. This past weekend a drizzly Knole Park walk was hugely enjoyable. Although the park was surprisingly busy there was a lovely wild atmosphere about the place and the removal of scaffolding from the side of Knole House restores the Tudor integrity of that fantastic structure. Busy green woodpeckers and flitting small mixed groups of finches provided the evidence that change is in the air. No owls though, even as dusk came on.
The weather forecasters were spot on: sunny Good Friday, dreary Saturday, all over the place Sunday and Monday (with a dose of tropical storm bringing down branches and fences on Sunday night). A lot of the paths returned to peak mud status and the magnolias at Emmetts, usually so beautiful at this time of year, were looking a bit windblown and fed up. Looking at the pictures I put up below, on my previous post, I realise they must have been taken in mid-April last year – certainly the tulips at Emmetts were some way off flowering this weekend. So apologies to anyone I mis-sold on that! In the meantime, above are some pictures from Sunday and Monday at Knole and Ide Hill.
That seemed to happen very quickly. A dreamy, misty, surprisingly warm autumn has suddenly snapped into winter with a blast of Arctic air. Truth to tell, the past 10 days have become increasingly turbulent, with high winds stripping the trees of much of their leaves… all those beautiful greens, oranges and reds were too good to last. I know; this happens every year, but somehow it all seems somewhat abrupt each time, in the same way as you feel plunged into darkness when the clocks go back.
So … up for a winter walk? Of the routes on this site, the least affected by mud are usually the Shoreham circular, Shoreham/Otford circular, Shoreham to Eynsford and Downe Circular. You’ll still need boots, but the woodland walks at One Tree Hill and Ide Hill are truly squelchathons come December, although they remain great to do if you have the right footwear (and attitude!). Also excellent are Knole Park and Lullingstone Country park (where you can do a variety of walks arriving at and leaving from Eynsford station, but can also explore on the Shoreham to Eynsford walk). The latter two are great for huge skies and spectacular late afternoon sunlight. Just take a look at winter sun shining on Knole House (pictured).
I’ll soon be adding some more winter pictures on the site and maybe my routes around Knole and Lullingstone (nearly mud-free). So stick around.
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.