Give Chevening a chance

Give Chevening a chance

Of all the walks on this site the one I’ve done the least is probably the Knockholt/Chevening circuit. I’ve not always been wildly effusive about it, even describing the early stages as dull. I was completely wrong it turns out. I strolled the route today and found it superb. The fields on the right of the North Downs Way in the early stages have been left fallow and look to be in a pretty advanced stage of rewilding – the flora is high enough to hide the odd lynx! As I hit Sundridge Hill the instantly recognisable and repetitive song of the yellowhammer burst from the hedgerows like some sort of alien morse code. A huge buzzard (what are they feeding them around here?) eyed me up from above. The views over Chevening House towards Ide Hill were delightful as I cleared the scarp face woodland. Chevening hamlet was as spooky as ever and the following climb back to Knockholt took in a broad vista of the Vale of Holmesdale under a moody sky with plenty of butterflies and wildflowers to admire. A red kite skidded and yawed above in the thermals and I startled a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers which suddenly took off from a fallen tree trunk a couple of metres ahead of me. I think my previous aversion to this walk was to do with the “private” signs around Chevening House, its association with some deeply unpleasant national figures, and the slightly creepy feel of the hamlet – it’s just so quiet, but it’s me, it’s not them – the road noise between points 4 and 5, and having to walk on the road for 100 metres by the farm at point 5. The truth is, there are great views, loads of wildflowers, wonderful trees and nothing much not to like.

As quite often happens in these parts the camera doesn’t capture the walk; slopes are flattened out so the scenery looks blander than it really is.

Cities of mauve spires

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Rosebay willowherb is now in full bloom in glades, on verges, and by railway tracks throughout Kent. One of the factors causing the plant to spread so much in the past 70 odd years was the second world war when clearings were made in woods, aerodromes were built all over the south east and bombs were dropped across the region. Why this should be I don’t know… anyway honey bees love ’em and when you see clusters it’s quite a spectacular sight. One such spectacle is in the clearing in the woods at the top of One Tree HillKeep quiet here and just listen to the hum of the bees. On Sunday we did the ‘hidden valley’ walk from One Tree Hill; I haven’t put it on this site yet, but will do. The walk ends up as another Ightam Mote circular but takes in a fabulous secluded valley behind Wilmots Hill which brings you out at the Mote after passing somewhat sinister-looking accommodation for early 20th century hop pickers. I’ll write up the walk soon… can’t believe I haven’t done it before.

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Deeper into Kent – Wye circular walk

Devil's Kneading Trough

Devil’s Kneading Trough, North Downs Way, near Wye

Here’s another walk accessible by rail but this time a lot further out of town. We (one of my sons and I) really enjoyed this one although one section through farmland wasn’t the most exciting. Wye is a pretty enough village by the Stour river four miles north of Ashford, and 11 miles south of Canterbury. This walk – called Wye Downs –  doesn’t require a car; you can join it from the railway station by crossing the river and heading a quarter of a mile or so up Bridge St until you hit picturesque Church St on your left. Then make for the 12th-century church and you’ll see the path as it passes through the graveyard diagonally, becoming part of the North Downs Way, and heading up on to the escarpment that we’re all so familiar with from the walks on this site – perhaps over-familiar!

The view from the ridge extends out to Dungeness and the South Downs beyond Hastings and there’s a great little mini-Devil’s Dyke up there called, slightly less succinctly, the Devil’s Kneading Trough. We watched a huge buzzard evading the attentions of a pair of rooks and with the breeze in our faces it felt like somewhere much further away and higher. After the four-mile walk we went up to Chilham, a beautiful medieval village nearer Canterbury.

The train down to Wye is a bit laborious, taking about 80 minutes from Bromley South or Orpington. Services run from Victoria and Charing Cross (some via Bromley South, others Orpington and Sevenoaks) on the Ramsgate, Canterbury West, Ashford line.