Kent walk: The Wealdway
- Credit: Archant
This walk is the best way to take in the majestic beauty of the Weald of Kent, linking the North Downs Way at Trottiscliffe with the South Downs Way near to Eastbourne
Location: Gordon Promenade, Gravesend, DA12 2BS
Distance: 82 miles (131.97km) linear
Time: Allow at least a weekend to walk the whole route
OS Explorer Maps: 163, 148, 136, 147, 135 and 123
Terrain: Chalk downlands, river valleys, woodland and farmland
Public transport: For public transport directions from your home address to Gravesend, please visit kentconnected.org.
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Parking: Pay & Display parking available at Milton Place
Refreshments & facilities: Pubs, Inns, restaurants along the way plus a range of accommodation
The Wealdway is undoubtedly the best way to take in the majestic beauty of the Weald of Kent, linking the picturesque North Downs Way at Trottiscliffe with the South Downs Way near to Eastbourne. Although it passes through some bustling towns along the way, this is mostly a secluded walk and is perfect for some post festive peace and quiet. The walk can be completed in sections as well as a whole if you prefer to tackle the route in smaller parts. Pass through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and through precious grasslands, carefully preserved areas of chalk grassland, home to rare and unique wildlife. Arm yourself with a map and get ready for some exploring!
Head off from Gravesend promenade, with its fascinating historical defences that have been a feature of the lower Thames and Thames Estuary since the Iron Age. This starting point is shared with the Saxon Shore Way but you’ll be heading inland towards the Cobham Estate, an area of archaeological importance with a lost mediaeval manor, flint scatters and the remains of second World War camp being discovered in the area.
Stroll through Harvel and revel in the delights of the wonderful landscape found around Trosley Country Park. The hamlet of Harvel retains much of its traditional charm and has just 250 residents. As you continue through the pretty areas of Mid Kent, you will pass through picturesque villages such as Ryarsh which has a splendid pub worthy of stopping by for refreshments, and Platt, home to a delightful village church that stands on a hill overlooking the village centre
Nearing Tonbridge you will pass Dunks Green and walk through the beautiful Medway Valley, its wintery charm making this the perfect time of year to take this walk. Follow the banks of the River Medway into Tonbridge, home to Tonbridge Castle, wonderful historic buildings and the church where members of Jane Austen’s family are buried. With plenty of amenities in this small town, it’s well worth taking a break here before continuing.
Continue your walk towards Southborough, a town in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is home to the delightful Southborough Pond and has a thriving community steeped in industrial and sporting heritage.
From here you will head through the enchanting Wealden landscape, passing through Ashurst which has an unusual Wealden church, St Martin of Tour’s built in the 10th century. There were once two watermills here but the only evidence remaining is of a weir on the river.
You are now heading towards the half way point and it’s worth noting that there is a good selection of accommodation in this area including inns and bed and breakfasts. Why not stay at the tempting Dorset Arms Cottages in Withyham which are just a short walk away from the pub. You can stay in a room in a cottage or rent out the whole cottage if you are with a group.
From here you will head over the border into Sussex and Ashdown Forest, which was originally a deer hunting forest. It has affectionate connections with Winnie the Pooh with two walks available that take in the main Pooh sites.
Pass the bustling village of Maresfield which was until 1926 a largely agricultural village with substantial development taking place in the 1990s. Continue ahead to Uckfield, a town sitting upon the River Uck in the Wealden district of East Sussex. The most historical elements are Church Street, which was situated near the original historical development, and Bridge Cottage, thought to date from around 1436. Restoration was completed on the cottage in 2015.
From here, you will be heading towards the coast. Pass through Blackboys near the main route to Hastings. Discover the unique and beautiful East Sussex landscape, including Framfield which came into existence in the 9th century following Saxon invasion. Nowadays it is a community focussed village complete with two inns.
Head through several Wealden villages dotted amongst the East Sussex landscape, each one adding its own distinctive character to the walk. You will follow Cuckmere River for a large part of the route. Set in the Cuckmere Valley, this section passes through flower rich grassland owned by the National Trust. Enjoy stunning views out to sea as you walk alongside this fast flowing river.
As you head towards Beachy Head, you will join a particularly stunning part of the South Downs Way, taking in some outstanding cliff top sights as you head towards Eastbourne. Be sure to capture some photographs of this wonderful landscape which boasts great views of the sea and the chalky white cliffs of Beachy Head. Along the walk there are some cafes to stop at for a slice of cake and cuppa.
Your final stop is Eastbourne, where you can be sure of a seaside welcome. With a wonderful seaside walk into the town along the promenade, you will soon find everything you need, whether it’s a place to stay, a train ride home or the fantastic shopping facilities. There is enough in Eastbourne to give you the excuse to stay another night!
This is the walk for you if you fancy a new year challenge or a peek at what’s over the border. It’s also for you if you want to explore the best parts of the Wealden landscape. It’s a walk that should definitely be on your 2019 list!
To find out about other walks and events in Kent including marvellous Maidstone trails, please visit the Explore Kent website www.explorekent.org. Follow @explorekent on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share your adventures with us!