National Trust winter walks
Take a walk on the Kentish side by exploring the National Trust's wider estates that remain open to the public throughout winter
National Trust winter walks
Take a walk on the Kentish side by exploring the National Trust’s wider estates that remain open to the public throughout winter
For so many of us, the start of a new calendar year brings thoughts of how to make improvements in body, mind and soul. However, before rushing to the gym to book personal trainer appointments and expensive classes, it might be worth stepping back to consider different ways to help shift the excess Christmas weight.
For it is possible to drop the pounds while enjoying the lovely surroundings on offer right on our own Kentish doorstep.
While many of the county’s formal houses and gardens close their doors for the winter, there are still many places where the January gym crowd can go for a seasonal walk, then reward their efforts with a warming bowl of soup or cup of tea.
There are several wider estates attached to local National Trust properties that are open to the public throughout the winter months. From Sir Winston Churchill’s rural paradise at Chartwell near Sevenoaks to the medieval moated manor house of nearby Ightham Mote, visitors can enjoy strolls across woodland, farmland and open countryside, with some spectacular views.
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At Chartwell, visitors can explore the estate countryside all year round; however parts of the formal gardens, restaurant and gift shop will also stay open every day in January (except Mondays and Tuesdays).
This provides visitors with an attractive combination of learning how the garden is tended during the winter to protect the plants and reduce frost damage, before taking a longer wander in the woodlands and rounding the visit off with a meal in the restaurant or a look round the shop.
At Ightham Mote, a similar experience awaits, with year-round access to the wider estate and some extensive views towards the manor house and its cluster of outbuildings.
While the restaurant remains closed at this 14th-century National Trust property in January, there are several benches and places to stop for a drink from the thermos flask and a home-brought snack on the way round the estate.
Thermos flasks are also welcome at Scotney Castle near Tunbridge Wells, where again the estate is available all month to explore during a winter ramble.
Views of the Victorian country house can be seen from various points around the wider estate, along with glimpses of the meticulously tended garden, which was the brainchild of Mrs Edward Hussey, whose family donated the estate to the National Trust more than years ago.
If the lure of the sea is stronger than any man-built houses or landscaped gardens this winter, Kent also offers dramatic coastal walks along the world famous White Cliffs of Dover with its neighbouring Victorian landmark, South Foreland Lighthouse.
As iconic a destination as they come, the White Cliffs of Dover are a fascinating place for wildlife lovers, plus the bracing sea air will blow away any lingering cobwebs in preparation for facing the challenges in store during 2011.
A visitor centre is also open all year round providing local information, a coffee shop and gift shop.
Kent also boasts mile after mile of beautiful National Trust countryside. From the dense woodland of the Kentish Weald to the Neolithic burial chambers at Coldrum Longbarrow, there are plenty of options for a winter walk.
Brave souls willing to face the wintery conditions and wrap up warm for a rural hike will be rewarded with refreshing breezes and striking scenery as they explore some of the county’s most beautiful spots this January.
While the National Trust may well be biased in this opinion, it is hard to think of a better way to get 2011 underway than spending some time in the great outdoors over the coming weeks.
1 January: New Year’s Day walk and brunch, 10.30am-1pm. �15. Booking essential. Tel: 01732 868381.
16 and 30 January: Woodland walk and winter warmer, 10.30am-1pm, �18. Booking essential. Tel: 01732 868381.
1 January: Brunch and trek, 10am-1pm, �22.50, includes full English breakfast. Booking essential. Tel: 01732 811314.
2 and 3 January: Brunch and trek. 10am-1pm, �17.50, includes full English breakfast. Booking essential. Tel: 01732 811314.
3 January: New Year estate ramble.10.30am-12.30pm, �5. Booking essential. Tel: 01892 893868.