Syndale Valley Walk
- Credit: Archant
Set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, explore the land where Pimms was born, where a 2,000 year old yew tree stands and sample some of Kent’s best produce along the way, on this truly foodie walk.
Location: Newham – ME9 0LL
Distance: 11 miles (17.7 km)
Time: 4.5 hours
OS Explorer Map: 149
Terrain: Country lanes and woodland tracks.
Among the unspoilt and picturesque scenery, the Syndale Valley’s farming, food and rural traditions are the cornerstones of community life. Running through the mid Kent Downs the chalk valley remains one of the few timeless landscapes in this busy corner of Kent.
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Not without its own share of historic highlights and notoriety, your walk begins in the ancient settlement of Newnham, occupied since at least the 12th century. James Pimm – creator of one of Britain’s best-loved summer drinks Pimms, was born here. The Revd. Granville Wheler proved the existence of electric current in 1725 at Otterden Place – just one of the grand homes that pepper your path as you make your way through ancient woods, working farmland and historic grazing pastures.
Many of the woods on your route are still hunted by wildfowlers who sell their game to local butchers and restaurants, while others support the rural craft of coppicing - common in this area.
Traditional coppicing of sweet chestnut shoots for fence stakes extends the life of the trees and floods the woodland floor with light in spring and summer, promoting an abundance of flowers and food for wildlife. As you pass back into sweeping open fields you may see kestrels and other birds of prey.
The village of Eastling then comes into view. Its pub, renowned for serving local produce and a centre for village life, used to host celebrations at the end of another ancient tradition, the St Andrew’s Day squirrel hunt. You will also pass the village church of St Mary’s with its massive yew tree, not only older than the church, but older than Christianity itself, having lived for more than 2,000 years.
The tower of the medieval church is thought to pre-date the Norman Conquest. The most fertile parts of this area are put to work producing cereals, while many hundreds of acres remain undisturbed woodland – home to badgers, blue jays and other wildlife.
The next stretch of agricultural land brings you to Derbies Court, where the 16th- century manor house is part of a working farm. Then it’s on to Stalisfield Green and its picturesque pub. The Plough is a 15thcentury Wealden Hall house that provides a fantastic place to enjoy food from the area, an open fire in winter and fine views in summer. If you decide to call at Otterden Place, cross the cattle grid and go through the gate next to the clock tower. Otherwise, walk on to Snoad Farm, with its free-range pigs and chicken. The Murrays, who farm here, sell excellent meat reared on the farm. Then make your way into the village of Doddington, where you will find SW Doughty’s, a family butcher renowned for selling excellent local meat. The nearby Chequers Inn has awards for its real ale or you might be tempted to visit the tearoom at Doddington Place Gardens. The fragrant woods at Doddington take you back to Newnham and The George Inn, whose impressive menu extends a hearty welcome to weary walkers.
For more information on this walk and for more great ideas on days out in the great Kentish countryside visit www.explorekent.org