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Kent walk: 7 miles along the Aylesford Rail Trail

Aylesford  Credit: @whatkristielearns
Aylesford Credit: @whatkristielearns

All aboard! This month you’re invited to explore the Aylesford Rail Trail Walk, a delightful seven-mile route that will take you on a journey through history and natural wonders. Lace up those boots, wrap up warm, and get ready to discover enchanting Aylesford and its surrounding landscapes

The setting:

Aylesford, with its charming village atmosphere, offers the perfect starting point for this memorable walk. As November brings a touch of frost to the air, the Aylesford Rail Trail Walk presents a picturesque scene, with the foliage adorning the riverbanks along the River Medway. The trail follows the path of a disused railway line, offering ramblers a unique blend of history and nature. As you set off on this autumn adventure, prepare to be captivated by the tranquility and charm that Aylesford, and its surrounding landscape, has to offer…

The route:

● Start your journey by turning left out of Aylesford train station and then take the next road on your left (Mill Hill). Cross over the train tracks and continue straight ahead, crossing over Friars Way. When you reach the river, turn right along the riverside footpath, keeping the River Medway on your left-hand side.

● At the end of the footpath, cross over the 14th-century old bridge spanning the River Medway. After the bridge, turn right and then left across the village square and up Mount Pleasant. Follow this road to the end, taking extra care as there is no pavement and the one-way road brings traffic towards you.

● Just before you reach the main road, take the footpath on your left alongside a stream. Follow the path with the stream on your right until you reach an open field, then turn left uphill.

● Continue along this path as it turns right and passes through a small woodland (shaw) and a kissing gate. Keep going straight with the woodland on your right. Follow this path towards the houses and into the village of Eccles along Mackenders Way, passing the vines on your right. At the end of Mackenders Way, with the junction of Bull Lane, turn right and follow this for 500 meters.

● At the end of Bull Lane, cross over Pilgrims Way and after 30 meters, turn right up the bridleway directly to the left of the cottage. Take care crossing this busy road as there is no pavement. Follow this path for 1.5 km to its end (which gets quite steep for the last section).

● Once up the short flight of steps at the end of the bridleway, turn right and follow this path downhill. You are now on the North Downs Way, which you will follow for just under 2 km. Take care here alongside the busy roads.

● You will come to a North Downs Way sign on your right towards Kit's Coty House. Follow this, taking care on the steep steps as you go. After 300 meters, you will see a gap in the hedge with Kit's Coty directly in front of you. Continue on the North Downs Way to the road junction at the bottom of the hill.

● Cross diagonally over the road, continuing along the North Downs Way. (There is an option to detour to Little Kit's Coty Neolithic monument here. Head down Rochester Road, and after 200 meters, you will see a sign on the left to the monument. Take care as there is no pavement along Rochester Road).

● Continue along the North Downs Way for 500 meters until you reach a junction with the A229 main road (Blue Bell Hill). When you reach this point, turn right and then go over the stile to take the next footpath on your right, across an open field towards woodland. You now leave the North Downs Way.

● Follow the path crossing through the woodland. Turn left after the kissing gate, taking you across the field towards another kissing gate. Go through this and straight on to a third kissing gate at the bottom of the field, across a small stream. Follow the path towards the farmhouses past the pond on your right. Follow the path (which turns into a driveway) around to the right between the houses.

● Follow this for 400 meters, then take the footpath on your left across a stream and then into Cobtree Manor golf course. Follow the public footpath in a straight line across the fairway, heading for a gap in the woodland. Watch out for flying golf balls! Enter the woodland and go straight ahead up the short steep path. You are now in Cobtree Manor Park.

● Follow the path around to the right, which takes you through stunning woodland on the way to the main entrance to the park and car park.

● Turn right along the main road. After 1 km, you will come to a junction where you need to turn right towards Aylesford village. Turn left at the mini-roundabout and then just after the traffic lights, turn left across the old bridge. Turn right after the bridge to follow the riverside path once again back to Aylesford train station.

Steps, stats and stiles:

Get ready for this impressive 7.1-mile (11.5km) route, estimated to take approximately 4 hours to complete. This picturesque trail includes uphill sections and muddy paths, so walkers should ensure sturdy footwear for a comfortable hike. Along the way, you'll encounter one stile, two flights of steps, and several gates. Exercise caution when crossing one train line during your journey.

Parking:

With its start and end position located right beside Aylesford station, this month’s walk is ideal for walkers looking to leave the car at home for the day, as it’s easily accessible via train. For those travelling by car, there are several parking options available near the train station or within the village itself. Please note that parking availability may vary during busy weekends, so early arrival is recommended to secure a spot.

Perfectly-placed refuel spot:

Worked up an appetite? The Farm House in West Malling makes for a wonderful choice for a meal after your late autumn walk in Aylesford. Located just 4 miles away (a short 10 minute car journey) in picturesque West Malling, this charming pub offers a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after your outdoor adventure! With its delectable menu featuring a range of delicious dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, indulge in a hearty feast that will satisfy your appetite. Once you’re feeling satisfied, and those feet are feeling well rested once more, take some time to explore the quaint streets of West Malling, a delightful village with its own unique charm and character.

To find out more about The Farm House, or to browse their menu, visit: elitepubs.com/venue/the-farm-house/

Make a day of it:

After a rewarding walk through the picturesque landscapes surrounding Aylesford, why not extend your day with a visit to Kent Life, a short, 4 minute car journey away? Nearby Kent Life offers the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the region's rich heritage and rural charm. This family-friendly attraction showcases a working farm, historic buildings, and interactive exhibits, making it an ideal destination to explore with the family. Discover the fascinating history of Kent's agricultural past, meet friendly farm animals, and enjoy a range of seasonal activities and events. A visit to Kent Life is bound to add a delightful touch to your day, creating lasting memories of your autumn adventure in Aylesford!

Route followed:

For this month’s walk we followed the ‘Aylesford Rail Trail’ route produced by Explore Kent: explorekent.org/activities/aylesford-rail-trail-walk/



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