A lovely walk without any steep inclines through quiet woods and meadows with a great variety of trees and birdlife. The route starts at the medieval church of St Peter, last resting place of Anne Boleyn’s dad and right by the entrance to Hever Castle (her childhood home). This first part of the route is on the Eden Valley Path which you eventually leave at Hill Hoath. Just before Hill Hoath there is a really fun section of path between tall green sandstone boulders, a hidden Wealden rocky outcrop. There’s a short stretch of the walk for a few hundred metres on Uckfield Lane late on (be sure to notice the footpath on the right to get you off it) so take care, but the final stretches are really pleasant and cut through fields (some with sheep in, which shouldn’t worry you unless you’ve watched this hilarious film). At the end of the walk a large historic pub, the inevitably named Henry VIII, beckons you in for Shepherd Neame beer and some decent food. Like the Romney St walk on this site you won’t see many other walkers, especially once you leave the Eden Valley path. One for spring, summer, early autumn – appallingly muddy bits from December to April.
Access: Hever station is 50 minutes on the London Bridge to Uckfield route via East Croydon. Trains run hourly. By car, the best way from south east London is to drive through Biggin Hill, Brasted, Ide Hill then past Bough Beech reservoir (an excellent side excursion).
Covered on Ordnance Survey Explorer 147 map
The walk (2.5hrs/4.5 miles/6km)
Start: Hever Station or Hever Castle car park by Henry VIII pub (if starting at the station, follow the Eden Valley Path to the church just outside the entrance to Hever Castle – about a mile)
Point 1 (start)-2: 1.3km. Walk through the churchyard on the Eden Valley Path and exit by a gate then across a little bridge over a stream (lots of flying bugs here!). Follow the path through woods, parallel with a lane with a glimpse of Hever’s lake to your left before turning away, going through more woodland and over another bridge that goes over a track
Point 2-3: 1km. When you reach the second of two houses (a white house called something ‘Bothy’) look for the Eden Valley Path angling off diagonally from the foot of the driveway (see picture).
Soon you’ll pass a field with alpacas in it. Then pass a lovely, small meadow with incredibly tall pine trees, cross a lane, over a stile or two, then walk by a larger, attractive field with woods to your right. Watch out for birds here like blackcap, treecreeper, goldcrests, coal tits and nuthatches; I saw all of these in the space of two minutes here in May 2016. Soon the path becomes enclosed by woods, crosses a stream after a couple of right-angle bends and goes uphill on steps, then across a firebreak, then continue straight on at a path junction (ie, don’t turn right, but continue east or left). Soon you’ll pass a large ancient yew tree on the right. The trail then becomes a ‘holloway’, an old track enclosed by trees used since time immemorial for driving flocks along. It passes between large sandstone rocks for a few metres. It’s all quite atmospheric.
Just after emerging from the sandstone holloway section (this is Hill Hoath, near Chiddingstone) turn right at a path ‘crossroads’ and pass through a kissing gate, slightly uphill, to the left of a long strip of meadow used for crosscountry eventing (horses basically), and head off on it south west (blue waymark – don’t overshoot and go past Hill Hoath Farm), thus leaving the Eden Valley Path (coordinates of path off to right for Google maps: 51.181024, 0.140555.).
Point 3-4: 750m. Follow the path heading south passing a gated opening between low trees to the right and enjoy the views. This is a quiet stretch and my favourite part of the walk, with meadows and woods around and very few people. Enter Stock Wood, an atmospheric piece of woodland which is being managed as a nature reserve.
Point 4-5 1.5km. A long section but a good one. Walk through Stock Wood, ignoring paths off to the right and left (so plough straight on, don’t deviate – in the summer the first bit of this section looks like a dead end, but isn’t) emerge, pass some young pines, and enter more woods. Emerge and follow the same path past large meadows. All very quiet here. Lovely. Enter more woods, come out, another meadow, past rhododendrons then into more woods (Newtye Hurst Wood). Continue all the way to where the path emerges from trees at an intersection of country lanes (coordinates for Google maps: 51.167602, 0.117005.)
Point 5-6: 1km. Turn right down the quiet lane a few hundred yards to Wilderness Farm. Turn left on the lane opposite the farmhouse, then right again on the busier Uckfield Lane. Sorry but this bit of the walk is rubbish but has to be done. Carefully continue down this lane trying not to get really angry with the wallies who drive past pedestrians too fast. Ignore the road off to the right you soon come across and follow Uckfield Lane for a hundred metres or so until you hit a marked footpath on the right (keep an eye out for it though, it’s easy to miss). Google map coordinates for this footpath are 51.174284, 0.109335). If you miss it, don’t worry, just continue down the lane to Greyhound pub and take the footpath to the right there.
Point 6-7: 1km. Follow this footpath (you’ll see the steeple of St Peter’s ahead) through several fields, above a hidden stream, through a little light woodland, past sheep, across a lane back to the delightful church and the Henry VIII pub.
Choice fact: Anne Boleyn’s dad (Elizabeth I’s grandfather) is buried at St Peter’s church (inside the church in a big tomb) with other members of the Boleyn family. Read more about the church here at this very attractive website by Natalie Grueninger which covers a lot of places in England connected with the Tudors.
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