Cowden to Hever walk
A contrast between a remote part of the Weald and three attractive and popular Kent villages
Main Walk: 16½ km (10.3 miles). Four hours 5 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours 30 minutes.
Circular Walk: 19¾ km (12.3 miles). Four hours 55 minutes walking time.
Explorer 147. Cowden station, map reference TQ476417, is in Kent, 6 km SE of Edenbridge.
4 out of 10 (5 for the Circular Walk).
This walk starts from a lonely station and wends its way through remote valleys, woods and tiny settlements in the undulating landscape of the High Weald. It descends into the Eden Valley for refreshment stops in the beautiful villages of Penshurst and Chiddingstone, before ending in Hever. Each of these three villages has an interesting church which is worth visiting, as well as a popular historic house open to the public.
Penshurst Place is a well-preserved medieval manor house with an attractive formal garden, the home of the Sidney family since the 16thC. It is open weekends from mid-February to March, and daily from April to October; admission is £12.50, or £10.50 for the gardens only (2020).
Chiddingstone Castle is a castellated manor house rebuilt in the 19thC, containing an unusual collection of art and curiosities left behind by its late owner, Denys Eyre Bower. The grounds are usually open but currently the house is only open Sundays and a few weekdays from August to October; admission is £9.50 (2020).
Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, was restored in the early 20thC by William Waldorf Astor and features some spectacular gardens. It is open daily from April to October and on some dates in November and December; full-price admission is £18.80, or £15.55 for the gardens only (2020).
The second half of the Main Walk will be familiar to anyone who knows the Hever to Leigh walk (1–19), but the recommended lunch and tea stops are in different villages and the only significant overlap is the section from Chiddingstone to Hever (done here in the reverse direction).
The Wealden soil does not drain well and parts of the walk can be muddy even after moderate amounts of rain.
A longer variation lets you complete a Circular Walk back to Cowden station. This includes some nice views as you descend from Markbeech, but the narrow footpath leading to this village can be both muddy and overgrown.
Two short cuts are described which bypass Penshurst and Chiddingstone, saving 3½ and 1¾ km respectively. Missing out either of these attractive villages is not recommended but they have been included to allow more time to visit one of the historic houses.
An earlier version of this walk included directions from Penshurst and Chiddingstone to their nearest stations (on the Redhill–Tonbridge line); these link sections can now be found in the Leigh and Penshurst walk (#92).
Hever and Cowden are adjacent stations on the Oxted–Uckfield line, which has an off-peak hourly service from London Bridge, taking 45 minutes to Cowden (longer on Sundays, when you have to change at East Croydon and/or Oxted). For all the walk options, buy a return to Cowden.
If you want to finish the walk in Penshurst village, Metrobus 231 & 233 combine to give a regular bus service (Mon–Sat) to Edenbridge in one direction and Tunbridge Wells in the other.
If driving, there is a small free car park “for Railway users only” at Cowden, and a large privately-owned parking area at Hever which costs £2.50 at all times.
Take the train nearest to 10:00 from London Bridge to Cowden.
Unless you are bypassing Penshurst, the suggested lunch place in this village is the refurbished Leicester Arms Hotel (01892-871617), after about 7 km. This up-market establishment has a large garden and serves food until around 2.30pm (4pm Sun).
As an alternative you could detour to the Porcupine Pantry (01892-870307), just outside the main entrance to Penshurst Place and open daily to non-visitors; it has indoor and outdoor seating and serves light lunches and afternoon teas, but might struggle to cope with a large group. There is also a tearoom in the village, but the Fir Tree House (01892-870382) does not open until 2.30pm.
An early lunch option might be the attractive Rock Inn (01892-870296) in the hamlet of Hoath Corner, but check before diverting there as it has limited opening hours on weekdays and might not be serving food. Later in the walk at Chiddingstone the Castle Inn (01892-870371) reopened in April 2017: the food and service are very good and it has a particularly attractive back garden.
The popularity of Hever, Chiddingstone and Penshurst ensures a good choice of tea places on this walk. If you want to break for refreshment in mid-afternoon the suggested tea place is the Tulip Tree (01892-870326) in Chiddingstone. Tucked away in a converted coach house behind the Chiddingstone Stores, this popular tearoom is open daily to 5pm. On the limited days when Chiddingstone Castle is open its equally good Tea Room (01892-870347) is open to non-visitors to 4.15pm.
The final refreshment place on the Main Walk is in Hever village, where the King HenryⅧ inn (01732-862457) has an attractive garden and is open all day. Hever station is 1½ km away, so allow at least 20 minutes to reach it.
The Circular Walk route passes two more pubs after Hever. The Greyhound (01732-862221) is usually closed in mid-afternoon, but the Kentish Horse (01342-850493) in Markbeech is open all day. It is 1¾ km before the end of the walk, so allow at least 25 minutes to reach Cowden station.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Main Walk (16½ km)
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- From the station, take the minor road up Blowers Hill and turn right to go past Rickwoods Farm. Take a footpath on the left and then veer right at a path crossing to go through a long valley to Birchcope Shaw. Turn left and head north to reach a minor road just outside Chiddingstone Hoath.
- From the single platform (where a plaque commemorates the victims of the Cowden rail crash?) go out through a gap to the left of the booking hall, turn right and take the left-hand of two ways out to a minor road. Go uphill on this road for 100m, then turn right into Wickens Lane, signposted as a public footpath. Continue along this lane for 400m, passing the entrances to Rickwoods House and Rickwoods Farm.
- Shortly after the lane has gone downhill and curved to the left, turn left at a footpath sign to go up a track leading to an isolated house. As you reach its front garden, cross a stile on the right and continue across a field to the right of the house, aiming for a gap in the hedge ahead. Go over a stile here into a large field.
- There are two footpaths ahead but no clear paths on the ground. Do not head for the pair of stiles directly ahead but turn half-right, aiming for another pair further away. After crossing these keep ahead past a footpath marker post at the top of a long curving valley. In the trees on the right-hand side go over a stile onto a woodland path running alongside the valley. At the end another stile takes you back out into the valley.
- Follow a grassy path along the centre of the valley for 500m, heading E. The next turning is easy to miss. About 125m before the valley narrows to a small gap in the trees ahead, veer left towards an isolated oak tree, beside which there is an inconspicuous stile on the tree boundary. Go over this and follow a woodland path down a slope and across a stream on wooden planks.
- On the other side turn left, ignoring a path off to the right. In 40m fork right at a path junction to climb through the trees, heading N. Keep ahead where the path levels out and a wider path joins from the right. The woodland path ends at a gate where you go out into a field. Continue in much the same direction near its right-hand edge to the top corner.
- In this potentially muddy area go through a metal kissing gate a little way to the left of a fieldgate onto a narrow path through some trees. This soon comes out into a field where you go along its right-hand edge, soon ignoring another footpath off to the right. Continue alongside the hedge for 200m to the field corner and go through another kissing gate onto a minor road just outside Chiddingstone Hoath.
- Continue towards Hoath Corner, optionally detouring into the hamlet to visit the Rock Inn. Skirt round the edge of Puckden Wood to Oakenden Farm and continue past Harden Vineyard to reach Salmans Manor.
- Cross the road carefully and continue on the footpath opposite, with a wooden fence and an abandoned driveway on your right. After climbing gently for 100m, fork left to come out of the trees onto a large field on a plateau.
Head N on a grassy strip across the middle of the field for 300m. At a track junction on the far side turn right to reach a road.
If you want to detour to the Rock Inn in Hoath Corner, follow the alternative route in [?].
- Turn right briefly onto the road. In 60m turn left onto a broad track (there is a stile if the metal fieldgate is locked). The track is at the top of a large sandstone outcrop, with a steep drop beyond the trees on your left. After slowly descending the track emerges from the trees and continues with a wire fence on the left. At the end go over a stile on the right.
Route via the Rock Inn (+350m)
- Turn left onto the road. Follow it downhill into a dark cutting between rocks and tree roots, taking care as there is no pavement. As you emerge into the hamlet of Hoath Corner there is an impressive sandstone outcrop in a depression on the left. Follow the road round to the right at a junction to find the Rock Inn on the right-hand side.
- From the pub, return to the road junction and keep left. Bear left at a public footpath sign onto the driveway in front of some houses and continue on a broad grassy path going downhill between fences, veering left at the bottom into Puckden Wood.
- Follow the path through this open-access wood. Shortly after it bends left fork right to climb gently through the trees. At the top leave the wood via a stile and continue along a broad grassy strip between wire fences. At the far end go through a small metal gate and then over a stile.
- Go along a fenced path on the edge of a field, heading SE. In the corner go over a stile, down a few steps and turn left onto a track. In 100m keep right at the entrance to “Skipreed”, soon coming out into the top of a large open area.
- Follow the enclosed tree-lined path down between two large fields. At the bottom cross a stile and continue through a wood. In 100m follow the path briefly round to the right, but almost immediately turn left by a low wooden marker post onto a narrow path through a belt of trees to a stile.
Go over the stile and keep ahead along the edge of Harden Vineyard?. After passing the vines go through a metal kissing gate into a small fenced-off field and leave it through a similar gate in the far corner. Bear left on the other side to go across a small enclosure and through a wooden kissing gate into a field. Turn right and go along its right-hand edge.
You might be able to glimpse Penshurst Place ahead, 2 km away.
- Near the bottom corner, go through a kissing gate and down a small flight of steps. Turn right onto a tree-lined track, which in 100m comes to a fieldgate. Go through a wooden side gate onto a tarmac lane at a bend by the buildings of Salmans Manor.
If you are taking the short cut omitting Penshurst, go to §F.
- Take the path heading east which goes across the River Eden to The Warren. Continue on a track towards Penshurst, then on the B2188 into the village.
- For the route via Penshurst turn right onto the lane and follow it briefly as it curves left. Where there is a “Private Road” sign ahead, turn right onto a wide track with a bridleway marker, heading SE. In 100m this comes to a tall hedge, where you turn left through a metal kissing gate.
- Follow a fenced path around two edges of a large field to another kissing gate in the opposite corner. Continue along a path to a footbridge, crossing over the River Eden?. Turn half-right to go across a patch of grass towards a small metal gate (not the fieldgate to its left).
- Go through the gate and up the left-hand edge of a large field, which leads into a concrete lane by some cottages. Go all the way along this lane, in 600m coming out onto the B2188 by a school on the outskirts of Penshurst.
- Turn left and follow the road into the village, passing some attractive old buildings (note the horseshoe-shaped doorway? in the garage). In 200m keep right at the junction with the B2176 to come to the Leicester Arms Hotel on the right.
A short detour up the lane to the left would give you a fine view of a large mill pond opposite a particularly attractive oast-house conversion.
- Briefly head east along the B2176 and turn left through Leicester Square into the churchyard. Join the Eden Valley Walk (EVW), going past the west front of Penshurst Place and diagonally across the grass to the B2176. Turn back towards the village for a short distance, then turn right and follow the old coach road to Wat Stock.
For the suggested route out of Penshurst, turn right out of the pub to briefly head E on the B2176. Just before the road turns right, a short flight of steps on the left leads up to the picturesque houses in Leicester Square?.
If you want to visit Penshurst Place or have lunch in its café, follow the directions below.
Detour to Penshurst Place (+1 km)
- Go past Leicester Square and through the archway onto the access road to Penshurst Place. At the end of the brick wall surrounding the gardens veer left across the large car park to find the Porcupine Pantry 200m away, next to the visitor entrance. Return the same way to the B2176 by Leicester Square.
If you are doing the full walk via Chiddingstone, go to §G.
- Cross the minor road and take the footpath heading north through a wood. On the other side, keep left to reach the hamlet of Hill Hoath.
- Cross the road (slightly to the right) and go over a stile onto an attractive woodland path. In 400m leave the wood through a gate and continue on a grassy tree-lined path, coming to a fork in 50m.
- For the short cut omitting Chiddingstone keep ahead, staying on the EVW. In a further 200m veer left towards some new buildings and pass to the right of them.
- Bear right in front of some stables onto a lane, going past a few cottages in the hamlet of Hill Hoath. At a junction with a lane coming up from Chiddingstone (the full walk route), turn left.
Continue the directions at §I.
- Take the lane heading north. Turn left at Wat Stock onto the Eden Valley Walk (EVW).
- For the short cut omitting Penshurst, turn left onto the lane to head N, soon passing a large mill pond opposite a particularly attractive oast-house conversion. At the top of a long slope keep left, avoiding the entrance to Abbotsmerry Barn.
- The lane (now unsurfaced) continues between hedges, then enters a wooded area. After passing a pond it swings right and left and goes past some cottages. Turn left at a T-junction in front of some derelict farm buildings at Wat Stock, joining the full walk route and also the Eden Valley Walk? (EVW).
- Cross the minor road and take the footpath heading north through a wood. On the other side, leave the EVW by forking right onto a footpath which leads over a small hill into Chiddingstone's main street. Turn left into the village.
- For the route via Chiddingstone leave the EVW by forking right onto a narrow path, as indicated by a sign on a tree to your right. In 200m veer right through a new wooden kissing gate into a large field. Do not take the path straight ahead but immediately turn left onto a broad path going up the field edge.
- Follow the path uphill and round to the right, passing an isolated tree in the field. On the far side continue on a path between hedges, which leads down to a street. Turn left into Chiddingstone?, where in 30m you could make a short detour to see the Chiding Stone?.
Detour to the Chiding Stone (+250m)
You will now be following the Walk 1–19 route (in reverse) through Chiddingstone to Hever.
- Turn left onto a signposted path to the Chiding Stone, where there is an information panel. Either return the same way or (if a gate in the wooden fence on your left is unlocked) cut through the village's Community Garden and continue between the Village Hall and Primary School to the street.
- Either skirt around Chiddingstone Castle on the road, or (if open) cut through its grounds. On the other side head south on the lane and rejoin the EVW at Hill Hoath.
At the right-hand bend a pedestrian gate in the wall ahead leads into the grounds of Chiddingstone Castle. An estate notice beside the path states that there is no right of way through the grounds but nonetheless welcomes visitors, so you could take the route in [?] if they are open (there is an Honesty Box for donations).
The grounds are not very large but include a tearoom, an attractive fishing lake and some pleasant woodland paths beyond the lawn at the back of the house.
Route along public roads
- Continue along the road for 500m, with views of the castle beyond the lake. At a crossroads turn left onto a lane, soon passing the main entrance to the castle (the exit for the alternative route).
Route via castle grounds
- Go through the gate and follow the path as it curves round, crosses an arm of the lake on a footbridge and goes up to the house. To go directly to the Tea Room without visiting the house and its collections, turn left and go round to the back of the house to find the gift shop and tearoom in the far corner.
- After exploring the grounds, return to the front of the house. Go past its entrance on your left and follow the driveway as it curves gently round to the right past the car park. It leads out to a lane where you turn sharp left, almost doubling back.
- Stay on the lane as it heads S for 700m, passing some private exits from the castle grounds. As you enter the hamlet of Hill Hoath fork right at a junction onto a short Private Road signposted as a public bridleway, rejoining the EVW.
- Head west on the EVW all the way to Hever.
- Go along the lane, passing an attractive low-lying house Withers? on the right. Pass to the right of a metal fieldgate to continue on an earth track heading W, taking care as you cross the first of several rides laid out with horse jumps. At the top of a small rise the bridleway goes through a sandstone rock cutting, then descends. Shortly before the end of a field on your left, fork right onto a footpath which crosses more horse rides.
- The woodland path soon goes down a flight of steps and across a stream on a footbridge. Continue on a narrow (and potentially muddy) fenced path as it zig-zags right and left. At the end go straight across a lane onto the continuation of the footpath, usually with alpacas and other farm animals in the fields on your right.
- The path eventually passes a cottage and comes out onto a driveway where it meets a private road. Cross over the road on your right and follow a short path round to the left past some bushes, emerging onto a broad grassy verge alongside the driveway.
Shortly after a right-hand bend the right of way continues along a woodland path to the right of the drive, later crossing it on a wooden footbridge, but at the time of writing the bridge had collapsed and walkers were being directed along the drive. After the two routes rejoin the path turns left in front of the grounds of Hever Castle to go alongside them.
Through the trees you can sometimes glimpse events taking place in the grounds, but there is no view of the castle or its ornamental gardens from the public footpath.
- The path eventually crosses a stream and goes up a slope to enter a churchyard. Go past St Peter's church? and out through its lychgate to Hever Road, with the King HenryⅧ inn opposite.
Detour to Hever Castle (+1 km)
This section continues to follow the Walk 1–19 route (in reverse).
If you want to visit Hever Castle, follow the directions below.
- Turn right onto the road and bear right to go through a gateway to the entrance kiosks. The moated castle and its formal gardens are some 400m further on. Afterwards, return to the road by the pub.
If you are doing a Circular Walk back to Cowden station, go to §K.
- Continue to follow the EVW, initially along a road and then south-west on a track. At a T-junction, keep ahead on Hever Lane. After crossing the railway bridge, turn right into a driveway and continue on a path which drops down to Hever station.
- Stay on Hever Road as it turns sharply right by the pub, and follow it for 450m to a T-junction. Turn right, then in 50m turn left through a new wooden kissing gate onto a surfaced path. Follow this enclosed path for 500m, towards the end going between the attractive Chippens Bank House? and its ornamental lake.
- The path eventually comes out onto a minor road at a junction. You could turn right for Hever station (as indicated by the road sign) but the suggested route is to keep ahead on the road towards Cowden village. Go over the railway bridge (with the station visible on your right), then in 40m turn right into a driveway, still following the EVW.
- Go through a wooden fieldgate across the drive and keep right by the entrance to the last house. As you approach the station fork right onto a path down the slope. This leads directly onto Platform 1, for trains to London.
- Take the footpath heading south from the pub, leaving the EVW. Go across a lane and continue on the footpath opposite, but turn right before Meechlands Farm onto a footpath leading to Uckfield Lane. Head north along the road for a short distance, then turn sharp left onto a footpath which goes under the railway and heads south through Oak Wood to Bramsell's Farm. Turn left onto Cowden Pound Road to reach Markbeech.
- On the bend in Hever Road by the King HenryⅧ inn, leave the EVW by taking the driveway heading S, signposted as a footpath. After passing Hever Primary School continue on a path which leads to a minor road at a bend. Bear left onto the road for 50m, then veer right up the continuation of the footpath, through a kissing gate into a large field.
- Continue to head S, keeping fairly close to the left-hand edge of the field. The right of way is through the trees ahead near the corner of the field, but the path here can be awkward and you could veer a little way to the right where there is a wide gap. In the next field, aim for the left-hand end of the hedge opposite, where it meets some trees. Go over a stile here and turn right to head W, with the hedge on your right.
- The path later goes gently downhill between fences and comes out onto a road (Uckfield Lane) by the Greyhound pub. Turn right and go along the road for 125m, then turn sharp left by a house “Wedgwood” onto a signposted footpath.
- In 350m the footpath goes under a high brick railway bridge and swings left on the other side. Follow it through Oak Wood for 800m, climbing steadily and heading S.
- After going alongside a more open area on the left for about 125m, and where the main path veers down to the right, fork left onto a narrow path with a ◄FOOTPATH signpost. This path goes past paddocks and later alongside the grounds of a house before reaching a road.
- Turn left and go along the road into Markbeech (or Mark Beech, according to the road sign). The Kentish Horse pub is on the right at the crossroads ahead, but just before you pass the church there is a signposted footpath on the right, to the left of a broad track.
- Take the footpath heading south-west from the churchyard, which goes downhill along field edges and through a strip of woodland. This goes alongside the railway to a road just past Cowden station. Go under the railway bridge and turn left for the station entrance.
- From the pub, make your way onto the driveway leading to its car park and go through a gate into the churchyard. Go past the left-hand side of Holy Trinity church and keep ahead on a faint grassy path towards a metal gate in the hedge.
- Leave the churchyard via the gate and bear left onto a faint grassy path towards the left-hand side of a wide gap 125m away. Bear left there to go halfway down the side of a large field, with views of Ashdown Forest ahead and a wood on your left.
- At the end of the wood go over a stile on the left into the adjacent field and continue in your previous direction on the other side of a hedge, all the way down to the bottom corner. Go over a stile onto a woodland path, curving round to the left. Shortly after passing the picturesque Hole Cottage? in a clearing on the right, fork left in front of a large beech tree in the centre of a three-way junction.
- Continue along the woodland path, now with a stream down on your right. Ignore a path down to a footbridge over this stream, but fork right at the next path junction, with a post containing two footpath markers. The path goes gently downhill for 500m, now with the railway (which has emerged from a tunnel) in a cutting on your left.
After passing Cowden station, the path goes up to a stile which you go over onto a road. Turn left to go under the railway bridge and left again into the station's access road. If the booking hall is locked you can go past it to get onto the single platform (where a plaque commemorates the victims of the Cowden rail crash?).
The platform is used by trains in both directions, so be careful not to take an Uckfield-bound train by mistake. These are scheduled to go through seven minutes before the London train, which is going from left to right.
» Last updated: October 14, 2020