The Garden of England is an obvious choice for long, lazy countryside walks, not least due to its rolling fields and rising woodland, its smattering of National Trust sites and being one of the epicentres of fruit-growing and hop gardens: so the question is, which parts of it should you visit? We’ve compiled five of our favourite weekend walks through Kent, each unique in what it can offer, but all as equally rewarding as each other. After this guide, all that’ll be left to do is break in those boots and brush up those map reading skills, and your autumnal strolls are set.
Wildlife walk: Knole woodland
A gentle amble around one of the oldest parks and grounds in Kent can only be made more captivating by the abundance of furry friends you’ll find on your way. Be charmed by Knole House, with its 400+ years of history, then hitch up those boots and make your way around the one thousand-acre park and woodland, where the changing landscapes are punctuated by deer. Ideal for families, this walk is relatively easy and can be completed in a couple of hours – perhaps longer if you stop for a picnic.
Beautiful views: the North Downs Way
With fields stretching out as far as the eye can see, the North Downs Way is a popular trail for locals and Londoners alike – Knockholt and Farnborough stations are under an hour away from the capital. The inspirational 153-mile trail was originally one of the longest pilgrimages in the UK, but nowadays locals dive in and out of different sections: the Kent Downs is an Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty, and boasts some phenomenal viewpoints. In the heart of the Kent Downs in Wye, you’ll find Devil’s Kneading Trough, a bowl-shaped expanse of land that showcases some of the most beautiful views of the area.
Village pubs along the way: High Weald Landscape Trail
Not for the faint-hearted, this 95-mile trail stretches out between Horsham in West Sussex and ends in Rye, on the Kent border. This marvellously scenic route dips in and out of counties, affording you ever-changing views and terrains. Enjoy the changing colours of the season as you hike a much shorter seven-mile loop from Rolvenden and back, before finally treating yourself to a hearty Sunday lunch at The Bull. A traditional country pub serving British classics, this hot spot in Benenden (a village east of Royal Tunbridge Wells) is ideal for a mid-afternoon respite, especially when paired with a crisp cider in the Secret Garden.
End where you begin: Circular walk from historic Chartwell
Sometimes it can be fun going round in circles, as this popular trail proves. This circular walk will showcase the historic building and gardens of Chartwell House – Winston Churchill’s former home. Let your senses be heightened along the rose walk, take in the sights of Churchill’s kitchen gardens, then meander slowly around the lakes, looking out for signs of life above and below water. If you can tear yourself away and begin the route itself, you’ll pass through the woodland areas of Toys Hill and Hosey Common, before reaching Emmetts Garden, a National Trust site consisting of beautifully maintained gardens and year-round features.
Old sites and woodland frolics: Ightham Mote’s circular walk to Oldbury Hill
Round and round we go, this time from Ightham Mote, a 14th-century moated manor house close to Sevenoaks. A quintessentially British and stunningly historic building, it makes as good as starting place as any before you hike northbound up to Styants Wood. Along the way, you’ll have panoramic views of Kent’s fine countryside, as well as passing an old stone quarry (which incidentally, supplied the stone for Ightham Mote itself). You’ll reach the apex of your walk on Oldbury Hill close to Styants Bottom, before heading east then south to complete to loop through the woods.