List of walks in date order, with links
Date Walk Distance
10 July 2010 Medway Valley Walk, Maidstone to Rochester 21.9 km (13.7 miles)
20 June 2010 Medway Valley Walk, Tonbridge to Maidstone 26.7 km (16.7 miles)
31 May 2010 Len Valley Walk, Maidstone to Lenham 22.4 km (14.0 miles)
27 February 2010 Eden Valley Walk, Edenbridge to Tonbridge 22.8 km (14.2 miles)
Plan The plan for walking across Kent using river valley walks -

The plan for walking across Kent using river valley walks

Walking the Tandridge Border Path recently I was reminded of the existence of the Eden Valley Walk, which provided convenient access to and from Edenbridge and its railway stations. On the map, the Eden Valley Walk looked like a very attractive walk, passing near Chiddingstone and through Penshurst. However, is only 15 miles long in total, so I looked for a way of using it as part of a longer path through Kent. I found it is possible to walk right across Kent using river valley walks:

Eventually I intend to write this up as a long distance path called the 'Kent Valleys Way'.

I have already completed the Stour Valley Walk (a beautiful walk, well recommended), but that leaves me three good days walking to complete the transit of Kent. I'm looking forward to walking in the county again - I didn't manage to do any walking in it last year.

Stour Valley Walk waymark


27 February 2010: Eden Valley Walk, Edenbridge to Tonbridge

22.8 km (14.2 miles)

Edenbridge church
Edenbridge church

I could have taken the train to either Edenbridge station or Edenbridge Town station, but ended up going to Edenbridge station as the departure time was more convenient. The road from the station into the centre of Edenbridge is dead straight, as it follows the course of an old Roman road which ran from London to Lewes.

River Eden
River Eden, near Skinners Farm, Edenbridge

I had walked the section of the Eden Valley Walk from Cernes Farm to Edenbridge High Street when walking the Tandridge Border Path (using it as an access route to and from the Border Path), so I picked up the route of walk again where it headed east from the High Street and through the churchyard.

Ruins of old oast house, Lydens Farm

From the churchyard the route went through a small modern estate and then over the railway to Uckfield on bridge carrying a track giving access to some allotments. Near Skinners Farm I wasted some time looking for a trig point, marked on the OS 1:25 000 map at TQ 458 464. I could find no trace of it, nor is it marked on the OS 1:50 000 map.

The route then takes a loop back on itself, through fields, to cross the railway again (this time via a rather decayed looking brick arch under-bridge) near Delaware Farm.

Hever, village hall

At Lydens Farm are the ruins of an old oast house. The farm has some smart converted barns, but is otherwise rather mucky and in the farmyard itself one of the waymarks points in the wrong direction – a combination that caused me some delay.

The route then loops again to cross the railway for the third time and last time at a road bridge near Hever Station, before settling down to head steadily eastwards towards Tonbridge.

Brass in Hever church (William Todd, 1585)

Hever itself has a large pub (the King Henry VIII), ‘under new management’, and an interesting church. The church (St Peter’s) contains a number of brasses, and the tomb of Sir Thomas Bullen, father of Anne Boleyn and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth the First.

Bridleway cut through rock, approaching Hill Hoath

Hever castle is close by, but not visible from the path. The Hever Castle website notes that ‘in 1903, William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination in restoring the Castle, building the Tudor Village and creating the gardens and lake’. The path through the estate is fenced both sides.

The route then goes through the hamlet of Hill Hoath, just south of Chiddingstone and on to skirt round the top of a hill at Wat Stock. This offered beautiful views over the Eden Valley. BT had draped a 25 mm diameter cable along the length of the track around the hill, presumably with the intention of burying it at some time. The hilltop itself was covered in poly-tunnels.

View over Eden Valley, near Wat Stock

From there the path then dropped down into Penshurst, cutting through the park around Penshurst Place (the seat of the Sidney family) to reach Penshurst church. The park was full of sheep with lambs that were at least several weeks old. The church has an interesting setting, but the interior had a rather cold feel to it. It was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1864.

Penshurst churchyard
Exit from Penshurst churchyard

Penshurst is located just above the confluence of the Eden and the Medway. From Penshurst, the path climbs over a spur to drop down to meet the Medway. Near Well Place Farm the path passes a large, very odd looking oak tree, that looks as if it has too many branches.

Oak tree
Oak tree near Well Place Farm

Just before meeting the Medway there was a small red notice warning that the path ahead might be flooded if Tonbridge’s flood defences had been activated.

The path crosses to the east bank of the Medway by means of a road bridge just south of Leigh. From here onwards, there is a complex of canalised sections of river and lakes. Approaching the A 21 is Haysden Lake, large enough to sail on. This had over-spilled its banks and the path around it was flooded to a depth that made it impassable.

Haysden Lake
Flooded footpath, edge of Haysden Lake

Fortunately I met a local man walking his dog who was able to guide me around the flooding, by walking under the railway where it crossed the Medway on a bridge, and then over the dam of the flood defences, near to the flood gates across the Medway. I could then rejoin the route of the Eden Valley Walk – a diversion of only half a kilometre or so. I did however take the time to walk back towards the lake, along 'Straight Mile', just to be able to say I’d done the complete path, except where it was actually under water.

Tonbridge Castle
Tonbridge Castle from River Medway

From then on it was a simple walk along the river and then through an area of playing fields (where a rugby match had attracted a largish crowd) to reach Tonbridge Castle. The castle is in the centre of the town, close to the river. There is a tourist information office in the castle grounds and I called in to see if they had guides for the Medway Valley Walk and the Len Valley Walk, but they didn’t (though the staff were very helpful in looking for them).

From the Castle it was a short walk down the high street to Tonbridge Station for a train home. The weather was dry, but a bit chilly and mainly overcast. The forecast for Sunday was for very heavy rain, and given the flooding I had come across, I was glad I hadn’t delayed the walk.

Eden Valley Walk waymark



31 May 2010: Len Valley Walk, Maidstone to Lenham

22.4 km (14.0 miles)

Duck and ducklings
Duck and ducklings, on embankment along the Medway

The bank holiday gave me an extra day for walking, and the railway was operating a Saturday timetable, so I decided to do another section of the Kent Valleys project.

I had been doing some research into the route of the Len Valley Walk. The Maidstone Tourist Office didn’t have a copy of the guidebook referenced on the Long Distance Walkers Association website and I could find nothing definitive about the route on the internet, other than a few clues in passing references and a few photographs linked the Len Valley Walk on Geograph. However, the Downswood Parish Council website said that the ‘Spires shops’ were selling the guidebook. Further research showed that Downswood was the name of a newly created parish council covering a newish housing estate on the outskirts of Maidstone, bordered by the River Len on its north side, and the ‘Spires shops’ were a small parade of shops on Deringwood Drive.

Archbishops’ Palace
Archbishops’ Palace, Maidstone

My plan was therefore to take the train to Maidstone East station, and walk upstream along the east bank of the Medway until I found its confluence with the Len. I would then follow the Len as best I could as far as Downswood, where I’d call into one of the Spires shops to buy the guidebook, and then follow the guidebook to reach Lenham and the end of the Len Valley Walk.

Len in Maidstone
Len approaching Gabriel’s Hill, Maidstone

My first difficulty was that there is no obvious outlet from the Len into the Medway. It had clearly been culverted. I therefore found the first section of the Len clearly marked on the map, a large rectangular pool alongside Palace Avenue (the palace being one of the many old palaces of the Archbishops of Canterbury), and traced the Len back towards the Medway from there. It was in fact all open (though rather hidden), except for a short length underneath the embankment along the Medway. Hidden beneath the main A 229 road bridge were the remains of the old medieval bridge to the Archbishops’ Palace.

Sainsbury’s supermarket
Len underneath Sainsbury’s supermarket

I was then able to trace the Len to Gabriel’s Hill (a street) where it disappeared underground. However, I found it again underneath Sainsbury’s supermarket, just beyond the bus station (to get to it, follow the supermarket service ramp down to what was ground level). I then found an unmarked path diving down alongside Wat Tyler Way (the A 249) to reach the Len just beyond Sainsbury’s car park. Judging from the remains of a path disappearing westwards, there had once been a riverside walk underneath the car park and the supermarket.

Nature Reserve
River Len Nature Reserve, Maidstone

However, the riverside walk heading upstream is still there, and follows the Len through a small and rather wonderful oasis of wildness in the middle of Maidstone. Formally this is the River Len Nature Reserve, but it seems to be benefiting from benign neglect, and the absence of information boards telling you what to think about it all was refreshing. The Yellow Flag was at its peak.

Lake in Mote Park

The river walk emerged onto Square Hill Road, where I took to the streets again to walk to Mote Park, where the Len feeds a large ornamental lake. However, just inside the park gates opposite Mote Avenue I found an unsigned path leading north and downwards. Being curious, I followed this and it turned out to be the end of another (unsigned) path along the Len. The path emerged further up Square Hill Road, onto the access road to Sunningdale Court, a large block of flats. I had therefore wasted some time, but profitably.

View back to North Downs, before reaching Leeds

I retraced my steps along the Len back to Mote Park, reflecting that Maidstone seemed to be very good at hiding its attractions, and then followed the Len through the park, past the ornamental lake and Mote House (once a Cheshire Home, now being turned into retirement flats by the look of it) to emerge onto Willington Street and the outskirts of Downswood (the name does not appear on OS maps). I followed the path along the Len as far as a footpath leading south and uphill to Deringwood Drive. Turning left (instinct rather than knowledge) I found the Spires shops. One was a convenience store, and it was open. I said I’d read that they stocked the Len Valley Guide, and the person serving (looking only slightly surprised) found a copy after rummaging in a cardboard box behind the counter.

Leeds church
Leeds church

I could now follow the official route to the end of the walk. However, the guide showed a simpler route through Maidstone than the one I’d taken, missing out the river walk I’d found. I was therefore glad I hadn’t had the guide for that section, as I felt my route was the more interesting one, and I had enjoyed looking for it.

Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle

Generally the guide showed a route similar to the one I’d reconstructed from clues on the internet, but I hadn’t got it entirely right. Having now walked the route in the guidebook, I’d say that, with the exception of the section through Maidstone itself, it had picked the best option for the route. The guidebook does not contain any detailed route descriptions. It relies on showing the route on strips of OS 1:25 000 mapping, which is ideal. Most of the text in the book is historical background and about what there is to see along the way.

Broomfield village sign

The Len Valley Way is reasonably well waymarked, and the waymarking and the guidebook proved adequate for navigation, although the section between Green Hill and Old Mill Road, through Caring, is thoroughly confusing, not helped by Kent County Council’s erratic approach to waymarking rights of way. I had to retrace my steps a couple of time on this section before establishing the right route. Thereafter wayfinding was straightforward.

View over North Downs, after leaving Broomfield

I stopped for a late lunchtime pint in Leeds, at the George Inn. Shepherd Neame Master Brew – not my favourite beer. As there was no one else in the garden (it was a dull day), I also took the opportunity to eat the sandwiches I had brought with me.

Pig, Spion Kop Farm

After lunch I went to look at Leeds church. It has an extraordinarily massive tower (Norman I think), out of all proportion to the rest of the church. The door seemed locked (or at least I couldn’t open it) so I didn’t get to see inside.

Fairbourne Mill
Fairbourne Mill

The Walk then passes Battle Hall, marked on the map as of historical interest. However, I was in a hurry to see Leeds Castle, so failed to notice it, which I regret. The walk through the grounds of Leeds Castle was enjoyable, with excellent views over the lake to the castle itself. The path is on the wrong side of the lake for visitors to the castle, so I had it to almost to myself.

Len near source
Final crossing of the Len. near its source

From Leeds the Walk passes Broomfield church (with a well dedicated to St Margaret), then takes a pleasant route across country to Water Lane, a byway. Along the lane the map shows watercress beds, though I could see nothing from the road. From there the walk goes by way of Waterlane Farm, Spion Kop Farm and Pollhill to Fairbourne Mill. Fairbourne Mill is an interesting collection of buildings – a converted oast house, an old watermill (without its wheel) and various industrial sheds. I got a very disapproving look from a lady working in the garden of the oast house when I went to look at the mill race for the old mill.

Chalk cross
Cross cut into the chalk, approaching Lenham

Just beyond Fairbourne Mill Kent County Council’s waymarking is more than usually capricious – they have simply ignored two of the three paths radiating from the Mill. The opposite stile on the path I wanted was hidden behind a trailer abandoned in the field, making it doubly difficult to pick the right route. However, having pick the right path, I reached Runham Lane where the Walk turns north to cross the M 20 and then the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (formally, High Speed 1). The route then turns east again, through Bolderwood farm to reach Ham Lane. Between Ham Lane and Headcorn Road the Walk crosses the Len for the last time, now just a trickle, and only a few meters from its source. It also crosses the watershed between the Len and the Stour (in a field full of buttercups and speedwell), and the River Stour itself, close to its source.

Shop, Lenham

The route of the Walk doesn’t go directly into Lenham, but runs alongside the railway for a few hundred metres, to join the Stour Valley Walk. The Len Valley Walk is then coincident with the Stour Valley Walk for the last half kilometre into Lenham. This section gives views of a large cross cut into the chalk as a war memorial.

Lenham itself is pretty village, with a couple of pubs. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop, as there was a train due in 15 minutes, and the station is on the other side of the village to the end point of the Walks.

All things considered a very good walk and I particularly enjoyed my exploration of Maidstone. Walking in Kent does though make you appreciate the excellent way in which Sussex manages and maintains its rights of way. A matter of money and usage I suppose.

Len Valley Walk waymark

Yellow Flag


20 June 2010: Medway Valley Walk, Tonbridge to Maidstone

26.7 km (16.7 miles)

Town Lock
Town Lock, Tonbridge

I had other things to do on Saturday, so chose to walk on Sunday. As there were no engineering works to disrupt my journey, I decided to finish off the Kent valleys project by walking from Tonbridge to Maidstone, following the Medway Valley Walk. I therefore took the train to Tonbridge Station and walked the short way to the start of the Medway Valley Walk, at the bridge over the Medway next to the castle, where the Eden Valley Walk ends.

Fish and canoe bypass
Eldridge's Lock, fish and canoe bypass

The first section of the Medway Valley Walk is coincident with the Weald Way, to a little beyond East Lock (south of Barnes Street). I have walked the Weald Way and I remembered this section as being pleasant, but a bit dull. Re-walking it, I still think it’s a bit dull. The weather didn’t help – for summer, the day started very cold, and I thought I might need to put a thin fleece on. However, at East Lock the towpath switches to south bank of the Medway, and the countryside becomes more interesting.

Weir at Sluice Weir Lock

At Ford Green Bridge, I stopped to chat with the occupant of a moored boat, who complained that he’d wanted to go to Five Oak Green (less than two kilometres to the south) the night before (it has a pub), but couldn’t find it because he didn’t have a map. And when I said I was walking to Maidstone, he said that it was no distance at all. He had rhubarb growing in pots on the boat.

Twyford Bridge
Twyford Bridge, Yalding

The banks of the river were often lined with fisherman, and canoes were frequent, together with the occasional pleasure craft. The lock south of East Peckham seemed a popular place to practice some mild white water canoeing at the bottom of a spillway. There has obviously been considerable recent investment in the river, with new fish and canoe bypasses around locks.

Just beyond East Peckham, underneath the A 228, someone had built a hearth and the fire was still going, with a couple of old chairs nearby.

Greensand ridge
Gap through the greensand ridge, approaching Nettlestead

At Yalding (or rather, just outside Yalding) is Twyford Bridge, formerly the site of a double ford over both the Medway and Teise rivers. The bridge itself is medieval, and rather fine. The river is shallow under the bridge, and boats use a cut-off canal to bypass it. At the junction of river and canal is the Anchor Inn, where I decided to stop for a pint. Not really a walker’s pub, but OK. They had a pump labelled Hepworth English Summer Ale (from Horsham), but disappointingly it was off so I had to make do with Courage Best.

Twyford Bridge is at the start of the gap made by the Medway through the greensand ridge, and the Greensand Way and the Medway Valley Walk are coincident for the short distance along the canal.

Nettlestead Church
Church at Nettlestead

A couple of kilometres beyond Yalding I diverted to look at the church at Nettlestead, and Nettlestead Place, marked as a place of historical interest on the map. I was also hoping for a bench to eat my sandwiches on (eventually, I used the bench in the church porch, as there wasn’t one in the churchyard).

Bow Bridge, Wateringbury
Bow Bridge, Wateringbury

Nettlestead Place is a medieval house, refurbished and enlarged in the 1920s. I couldn’t see much of it from the path, but it looked attractive. The church was worth the detour. It has wonderfully big windows in Perpendicular style, some with the original fifteenth century stained glass.

View over Medway Valley, near Tutsham Hall

A kilometre beyond Nettlestead, the Medway Valley Walk crosses the river at Bow Bridge (Wateringbury) and leaves the banks of the Medway for about two kilometres, to run along the side of the valley, giving fine views over the surrounding countryside.

Teston Bridge
Teston Bridge

The Walk rejoins the Medway at Teston Bridge, another medieval bridge, though the central arch was enlarged in the eighteenth century. From Teston Bridge into Maidstone the Walk runs through Maidstone Millennium River Park, opened in 2001. It occupies the thin strip of land between the river and the railway. It not overly tidied up, and was being grazed in places by some fine chocolate coloured bullocks. One of the best Millennium projects I’ve come across.

Bullocks, Maidstone Millennium River Park

At East Farleigh there is another medieval bridge and a lock, and a further two kilometres on, the first signs of built-up Maidstone appear – endless newly constructed riverside flats. Once in the centre of Maidstone, the Walk crosses the river by way of Lockmeadow Millennium Bridge, an elaborately engineered, curved ‘statement’ footbridge. It was then only a short walk to where the Len joins the Medway and the start of the Len Valley Walk – though there is nothing to be seen from the riverside.

From the confluence with the Len, I walked through the town to get a train from Maidstone East Station. The weather had improved steadily all day, and was now reasonably warm.

A good walk, though the first few kilometres out of Tonbridge are a bit dull. I’m tempted, if I have the time, to complete the Medway Valley Walk to Rochester.

All Saints Church
All Saints Church from Lockmeadow Millennium Bridge
Medway Valley Walk waymark

Dog Rose


10 July 2010: Medway Valley Walk, Maidstone to Rochester

21.9 km (13.7 miles)

Barge, approaching Allington Lock

Having followed the Medway Valley Walk from Tonbridge to Maidstone to complete my project to walk across Kent using river valley walks, I decided I’d complete the Medway Valley Walk by walking from Maidstone to Rochester. I therefore took the train to Maidstone East Station, and walked down to the riverbank using the footpath that runs alongside the railway.

Allington Sluice
Allington Sluice (lock to left)

The river path to Allington was wide and even. There were a lot of pleasure boats on the river, many decorated with pennants and flags, so there may have been some sort of event going on. Nearing Allington there is a glimpse of Allington Castle, which the map records as ‘(restored)’. The castle was restored in the early 20th century by Sir Martin Conway, who seems to have led an extraordinarily various life. Approaching Allington Lock, the riverbank was lined with large moored-up barges. Before reaching the lock the path passes the Malta Inn. It wasn’t yet open when I reached it just before 11:00, but already there were queues of people waiting for it to open.

Bridge over Medway, Aylesford

Below Allington Lock, the Medway becomes tidal. The Medway Valley Walk follows a footpath over the Allington Lock and associated sluice. Unfortunately this footpath was fenced off, with a notice saying it was closed until the end of July 'due to unforeseen circumstances'. Worse, not only was the river crossing closed, but so too was the footpath along the east bank of the river. Either the Environment Agency had decided it couldn’t be bother to advice walkers of an alternative route, or the notice of a diversionary route had been removed.

Shrine to Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Simon Stock

Looking at the map, my only option appeared to be to follow a lane up to a road (Forstal Road) that crossed the M 20, and then walk along it until a footpath between industrial sheds would allow me to get back to the east bank of the river. The road was unpleasant, but has a footway. Once on the riverbank, I found that one of the reasons for routing the Medway Valley Walk on the west side of the river after Allington Lock was simply the poor state of the footpath on the east side, which was overgrown (requiring me to stoop frequently) and crumbling into the river in places.

The Virgin
The Virgin, Rosary Way

However, I managed to reach the next village along the river, Aylesford, without incident, and being both hot and irritated I decided to stop off for a pint of shandy. There is a pub on the route of the Medway Valley Walk – the Chequers Inn. However, I walked in to find it both empty and decorated with white hangings. The landlord then turned up to say they were closed for his daughter’s wedding. When I asked about alternatives, he recommended the Bush, a little way back into the village. He warned me against the Little Gem – ‘a dirty hole’. I walked past the Little Gem on the way to the Bush. It looked picturesque, though rather run down, but was in any case closed. The Bush was fine – a friendly traditional boozer.

Sewage works
Sewage works

Having had a pint of shandy, I walked up to the church, which overlooks the village and the river. A Victorian restoration, decorated for the wedding. I found a bench in the churchyard and settled down to eat my sandwiches, hoping that I’d be finished by the time the wedding started – and I finished just as the guests started to arrive. The spot seemed to be favoured by swifts, which hawked past in large numbers.

North Downs
View of North Downs from near Burham Church

Leaving Aylesford, the Walk follows High Street, crossing a short tunnel, which I guess linked an old sand pit with a wharf on the river. Where the road turns north, there were signs for ‘The Friars’. The signs said ‘Visitors welcome’, so out of curiosity I diverted to have a look what there was to see. The Friars turned out to be a priory, restored in 1949, and occupied by a community of Carmelite friars. It’s an extraordinary site, a mixture of restored medieval and 1950s and 60s ‘modern’. The centrepiece is a shrine to Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Simon Stock. In the heat, with an intensely blue sky, it felt like being in Italy or Spain. The shrine was decorated with large ceramics, and there was ‘Rosary Way’, with ceramic stations at intervals, illustrating scenes from the life of the Virgin. There was a small trough on the wall at the beginning of the Rosary Way for holy water, carefully labelled as unfit to drink.

Monument to the Battle of the Medway, 43 AD

After the Friars, I continued on the route of the Walk, which passes through a large sewage works, with sand and gravel pits to the east and a large industrial site to the west (paper mills according to the map). The Walk then skirts a zone of derelict industrial land, bordered by farmland. Occasionally there temporary signs saying ‘JCF 10 June 2010’, clearly waymarking for a charity walk.

I’d stopped to photograph a funnel spider’s web when I was passed by a walker, and we got into to conversation. She was doing the charity walk, and as we were going the same way, we walked together as far as Wouldham. My new walking companion proved to be very good company, and knowledgeable about the area and its birdlife.

Newt fence
Newt fence

Beyond Burham Church, the Walk follows a loop in the Medway to pass a monument to the Battle of the Medway in 43 AD – an early battle in the Roman invasion of England.

At the end of the loop, my companion showed me an alternative route that followed the river for a little longer, across a site intended for development but now rich in wild flowers. Along the edge of the site was a strange low (300 mm) green metal fence with a lip. This was a newt fence – the idea is that Great Crested Newts could climb the fence one way, but not get back into the site, so clearing it for development.

View south-west from School Farm, Wouldham

From the loop in the river, the Walk followed a lane into Wouldham. Wouldham is another small village with three pubs in it. We stopped for a shandy in the second of the three pubs (I can’t remember its name), and then said out goodbyes, as my route now headed up School Lane to join the North Downs Way.

Bridges over the Medway
High Speed 1 and M 20 Bridges over the Medway

Once on top of the downs, the Walk follows the North Downs Way until it passes under the M 20, having first crossed the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (High Speed 1). On the way I made a short diversion through Shoulder of Mutton Wood (not named on the OS map) to see the tumulus, a large Bronze Age burial mound. The wood is owned by the Woodland Trust.

Beyond the M 20, the Walk takes a suburban path though the outskirts of Borstal to drop down to the river again. It then more or less follows the river bank as far as Rochester Bridge (Carrying the A 2 and the railway), where it ends, joining the Saxon Shore Way.

From Rochester Bridge I followed the high street into Rochester (an ancient and interesting town, though everything shuts at 5 o’clock) and then on to the station for a train home.

A very interesting walk on a very hot day.

Approaching Rochester
Approaching Rochester

Great Bindweed