Important: This is a lovely walk but I have to emphasise there is a 600-700 metre stretch on a road (when you reach Penshurst Place) with no pavement. It could be dangerous if you don’t pay attention because cars come down this road – a magnet for terrible driving – at 40-50mph, so take care and best not to take children with you because of this short section (how Penshurst Park hasn’t organised a path within its grounds extending parallel up the road is beyond me).
Distance from SE London: 50 minutes’ drive from Sydenham
Meadows, meadows, meadows. And two enormous Tudor homes. And the River Eden. And a funny piece of sandstone. Some woodland, but lots of nice hedgerows, quiet lanes and interesting views. There are Weald vistas back to the Greensand Ridge and Ide Hill to the north. Nice cup of tea at Chiddingstone and the superb Castle Inn. The start of the walk is at Chiddingstone, an authentic tudor hamlet entirely owned by the National Trust, with a great pub: the Castle Inn (newly opened as of 6 April 2017). Can easily combine this walk with the neighbouring Hever circular walk to make a nine-mile, five-hour monster. No steep bits. One of my favourites.
See Ordnance Survey GPX map here or AllTrails version here (enables you to check position in real time)
Closest rail is Penshurst station, which is on the route from London Victoria to Tonbridge via East Croydon and Redhill (it’s about 30 minutes from East Croydon). The next closest is Hever station is on the London Bridge to Uckfield route via East Croydon. But neither station are close enough to the walk I’m afraid unless you want to turn it into an epic. Penshurst station is nowhere near Penshurst but is actually at Chiddingstone Causeway, which isn’t very near Chiddingstone. Confused? The best thing to do is take the train to Penshurst, Leigh (next station and a bigger village) or Hildenborough (first stop after Sevenoaks) and get a cab to Chiddingstone or Penshurst (you can pick the walk up there).
By bus: New Enterprise 232, Chiddingstone to Edenbridge connects Hever, Penshurst (and Penshurst station) and Chiddingstone but is infrequent.
By car: the best way from south-east London is to drive via Keston, Biggin Hill, Brasted, Ide Hill then past Bough Beech reservoir (an excellent side excursion) to Chiddingstone. One hour’s drive from Peckham, Nunhead, East Dulwich, Herne Hill.
Pub: the Castle Inn at Chiddingstone is in a wonderful Tudor building; it has a decent beer garden, excellent food and a very drinkable local ale called Larkins.
Covered on Ordnance Survey Explorer 147 map
The walk (2.5hrs/4.5 miles/6km)
START: Park at Chiddingstone by the church. Note two footpaths; one marked ‘Chiding-Stone’ and the other ‘sports fields’. Start by having a quick peep at the Chiding Stone, just 100 yards down the eponymous path. It’s a lump of sandstone apparently used in ancient times as a seat of judgement, from where locals could be ‘chided’. Geddit? True, allegedly. Retrace your steps then take the other path by the sports field.
Point 1 (start)-2: 800m. Take the sports/recreation ground footpath that emerges from attractive trees into a field. Go downhill and follow the path to the left as it enters the edge of woods (called The Slips) and joins the Eden Valley Path (EVP), ignoring the path off to the right (this is also the EVP on its merry way to Hever) and also the one 90-degree left across the field.
Point 2-3: 1km. Follow the EVP slightly uphill through woods. Note swampy, pondy terrain to left. Soon you’ll see tall pines on the right beyond deciduous trees. Marsh tits are often seen here. After a few minutes you reach a lane. Turn right.
Point 3-4: 50m. Very soon turn left off the lane, following the EVP on a public bridleway (Google map coordinates 51.174669, 0.149316). Pass through a small meadow. Note more pondy stuff on left amid the trees. Join a narrow lane/track which is still the EVP bridlepath.
Point 4-5 2km. Keep on down the EVP bridlepath turning to the left past a pond and Wat Stock farm buildings; as the bridleway bends left approaching farm buildings ignore the big path off to right, keep straight on between the buildings although for a minute it looks as though you are heading for a dead end. Very soon you’ll see that just beyond the buildings the path bends right, becoming a stony track with trees to the right screening (soon) polytunnels; to the left fine views over Eden valley water meadows and a lovely old farmhouse in the mid distance. You are still on the EVP by the way. Eventually you’ll be walking on a low ridge line among trees and hedges with poly-tunnels on your right and a nice view ahead and to the left. This is a long stretch. The path gradually descends to join a very quiet lane.
Point 5-6: 800m. Continue on the quiet country lane with drainage ditches either side, going over the river Eden on a bridge, passing among trees and water meadows (beautiful) until you hit a busier B road. You’ve arrived at Penshurst (turn right for pubs and teas; turn left to continue walk) and will now leave the good old EVP. Part one of the walk is over, the return feels a little shorter and is quite different in nature.
Point 6-7: 600m. CAUTION: the stretch of road you must walk up to join the next footpath is potentially dangerous – there are no pavements and cars tend to come down it too quickly. Turn left on this busier stretch of road slightly uphill with magnificent Penshurst Place initially ahead of you (on your right as you walk). Take care. Keep going up the road for a few hundred metres (it’s not far); then look for the signed footpath up steps on the left, just past a house, which will take you back to Chiddingstone.
Point 7-8: 1km. Turn left just past the house on the marked footpath up steps. Soon, lovely views to left and right open out as you walk past fields and a barn and descend through potentially muddy bluebell woods (lime, sycamore, beech and oak) to the river Eden. My favourite part of the walk. The bit when you reach the Eden river is lovely and secluded.
Point 8-9: 1.5km. Cross the little humpback concrete bridge over the Eden and walk across fields, admiring the three oaks in the centre of one field. The path goes to the left of the three oaks to a stile next to a gate. Follow the yellow waymarker and turn sharp right along the clear path along the northern edge of this large field with trees on your right. If at any point you can’t see the path clearly in the grass, don’t worry: just look for the yellow waymarkers on the gates up ahead and you’ll see which way to go. Climb over one more stile to the right to enter a smaller field and soon you’ll come out on a lane. Turn right on lane (Google coordinates 51.181230, 0.155957)
Point 9-Chiddingstone: 1km. After 20m or so on the lane turn left on footpath through fields. Walk through two fields (the second in June full of yellow rapeseed – I think – and humming bees – I’m sure!) you’ll soon join on to the path you headed down at the start of the walk (51.181717, 0.147194). Turn right back up this path and return to Chiddingstone. Turn left and have a good look at the Tudor houses; the friendly cafe (shuts at 5pm) is in the courtyard. Walk a bit further and take a peek at Chiddingstone Castle.
Notable birds seen on walk: bullfinch, yellowhammer, kingfisher, buzzard, kestrel, cuckoo, marsh tit
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The pub at Chiddingstone, the Castle Inn, has an excellent beer garden and good food.
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