Bekesbourne Circular 17.2 km (10.7 miles)
Sturry Circular 13.5km (8.4 miles)
Bekesbourne to Sturry 12km (7.6 miles)
Diversion to Ickham Adds 1.3km (0.8 miles
2 out of 10: almost no hills
Landranger 179, Explorer 150
Starting and finishing at a station just beyond Canterbury, this is a beautiful walk through a quiet corner of Kent, taking in a series of ancient villages, each with a similarly ancient pub and church. The village of Wickhambreaux in particular is so quintessentially English that it might be a film set.
The terrain is most flat, with only a few gentle hills, but there are still some good views just after Stodmarsh. There walk has a variety of landscapes, from woods to arable fields, and from a farm growing strawberries in polytunnels to fields with grazing cattle.
There are good displays of bluebells in late April and early May in the woods before and after Fordwich, and in late March and early April you can also see some wood anemones here.
Some of these woodland stretches are on bridleways that can become very muddy and churned up in winter, but the walk also has many dry sections on quiet tarmac lanes and tracks.
On the original map-led version of this walk there is an awkward 300 metre walk on a busy road near the start of this walk. In this version, it has been given a slightly different start which eliminates this problem.
The main walk starts and ends at Bekesbourne station, but there are several advantages to starting the walk at Sturry station, not least its faster connections to London if you use the high speed train out of St Pancras – see Transport below - and the fact that it has tea options right at the end of the walk (not true for Bekesbourne). Since there is no particular reason if starting from here to visit Bekesbourne, this option takes a direct route to Littlebourne, making a Sturry Circular walk of 13.5km (8.4 miles).
It is also possible to start in Bekesbourne and finish in Sturry, reducing the walk to 12km (7.6 miles).
Directions are also given for a short diversion off the walk route to a pub in Ickham (see Lunch below). This adds 1.3km (0.8 miles) to the walk.
Bekesbourne is the stop beyond Canterbury East on the railway line from Faversham to Dover, and is served by hourly trains, taking 1 hour 40 minutes.
Sturry is the stop beyond Canterbury West on the line from Ashford to Ramsgate, and is served by hourly trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge, taking 1hr 48 minutes.
However, you can also reach Sturry in 1hr 16 minutes by taking a high speed train out of St Pancras International, changing at Ashford. The same trick, alas, does not work for Bekesbourne.
If you want to start in Bekesbourne and finish in Sturry, a day return to one should be accepted from the other, as both are one stop beyond Canterbury and both served by Southeastern.
To get the best choice of lunch options, it is probably best to take the first train after 9am from either Charing Cross or Victoria, but if you are on the high speed train out of St Pancras the first train after 10am would be sufficient, unless you plan to have lunch in Stodmarsh, when a train an hour earlier would be better.
You are spoilt for choice on this walk, which passes a succession of wonderful old pubs.
The first you come to is The Anchor Inn, 2 Bekesbourne Lane, Littlebourne (01227 721 207), which is 3.1km (2 miles) into the main walk, and 5km (3.1 miles) into the Sturry Circular walk, but which at time of writing has a rather shabby exterior (possibly not reflected in its food offering: I confess I have not tried this pub).
Better if you can to push on to the wonderful Rose Inn in Wickhambreaux (01227 721 763 www.theroseinnwickhambreaux.co.uk ) which is located right on its picturesque village green, and has some outside tables. Situated 5km (3.1 miles) into the main walk or 6.4km (4 miles) into the Sturry Circular walk, it serves food all afternoon (until 9pm) Monday to Saturday and until 4pm on Sundays (with drinks served till 10.30pm). It is a small and popular pub, however, and so it is well worth ringing to book.
A nearby (and somewhat larger) alternative, just off the walk route on a diversion that adds 1.3km (0.8 miles) to the walk length – see special directions at the end of the main walk text – is the Duke William in Ickham (01227 721 308), another pretty and ancient village. This is a large and recently-refurbished gastro pub, whose size makes it perhaps more suitable for groups than the other pubs on this walk, with a garden overlooking the fields. It is (3.1 miles) into the main walk and 6.4km (4 miles) into the Sturry Circular.
Last but not least, the charming Red Lion in Stodmarsh (01227 721 339 www.theredlionstodmarsh.com ) is an isolated pub in an extremely tranquil spot, which describes itself as “a quirky country drinking and eating house”, and which has a high quality menu of basic (and not overpriced) favourites, as well as a pleasant garden full of chirping birds. It is 7.2km (4.5 miles) into the main walk and 8.7km (5.4 miles) into the Sturry Circular.
The best picnic spots are probably on the green at Wickhambreaux (there is a nice bench) or in the churchyard at Stodmarsh.
Whether or not you are finishing the walk in Sturry, the Fordwich Arms, King Street, Fordwich (01227 710 444) makes an excellent spot for tea by virtue of its rear balcony and garden overlooking the tranquil River Stour. While it serves tea in proper pots, however, it does not do food between 2.30pm and 6pm, so you are forced back onto the usual salty bar snacks. It is 10.9km (6.8 miles) into the main walk, or 12.6km (7.8 miles) into the Sturry Circular.
If you want a pudding with your tea, the George and Dragon, 100 metres down the road from the Fordwich Arms, might be a better option. It serves food all afternoon and has a pleasant garden.
Near the end of the Bekesbourne Circular Woolton Farm had a coffee shop in 2013, open 10-5pm Thursday to Sunday from March to October. But it does not seem to be currently mentioned on the farm's website (which also does not have a contact number) and so may no longer be open.
Otherwise, as trains from Bekesbourne station are only hourly and the station has only the most basic shelter, with nowhere in the adjoining fields to rest, it is a good idea to time your arrival at Bekesbourne station carefully. From the Woolton Farm Coffee Shop (if it still exists) allow 20 minutes to get to the station, while from Fordwich it takes 1 hour 45 minutes.
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The maps below, which show the route, aren't in the PDF.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk