The joy of bad weather walks

The weekend has started abysmally, with heavy rain, low temperatures and general murk. Great for walking! Yes, there’s a real frisson in donning hat, gloves and coat and striding off on a ridge amid horizontal precipitation. Failure to remember hat or gloves, however, is detrimental to the cause. Some places take on a whole new atmosphere of wilderness when you walk in poor conditions. Knole Park suddenly seems like a Scottish glen, the Ashdown Forest becomes Dartmoor, Lullingstone the Cheviot hills (bit of a stretch that). Anyway, whatever, my point is that waiting for perfect conditions is just not good form if you want to enjoy the local countryside. I can see from my exalted position as webmaster that the number of views on this website fall dramatically as the clouds gather. So don’t delay, ignore the moisture, get out there. I’ll be watching.

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Ide Hil walk, Ram Pump Pond

Ide Hil walk, Ram Pump Pond

A great walk on a grey day is my latest offering here… Eynsford/Lullingstone (4 miles; 90 mins). It’s mostly mud-free, has two good pubs waiting for you, and up on the hill by Eagle Heights you’ll feel the elements alright. It’s also a great choice of walk if car-less; it starts from Eynsford station.

I won’t bother with a picture; grey, rainy days aren’t very photogenic. They’re all about feeling it.

A few hours later… went to Knole Park in awful conditions, but got an OK shot with the iphone
– had to brighten it a bit so a bit pixelly but still…

Stag at Knole

Stag at Knole, November 2016 (Point 1 on the Knole Walk)

A frosty, clear, winter’s day at last

For only the second time this winter we’ve had a beautiful sharp day with the temperature struggling to get above zero. If there have been any others, they’ve been during the week, which doesn’t count! Saturday (16 Jan) was a superb walking day, particularly towards dusk, and there were loads of people walking around Eynsford and Shoreham. Sunday was cloudier and with patches of snow and ice. Looking at the state of some of the paths I recalled that someone who had recently done the walk between the two villages described it as ‘buggyable’. Well, that’s commendable, however state of the art and all-terrain their buggy is.

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Autumn becomes winter

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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 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.