Main walk: 17.3km (10.7 miles)
a) Shorter start from Cuxton Subtract 2.3km (1.4 miles)
b) Shorter ending from lunch pub Subtract 5.6km (3.5 miles)
c) Linking to Snodland to Sole Street 16.6km (10.3 miles) or 14.3km (8.9 miles)
d) Extension to Snodland to Sole Street 18.7km (11.6 miles)
5 out of 10: some hill climbs, one a bit strenuous
Landranger 178, Explorer 148
This is an exploration of the very pretty and little known area of the North Downs just to the east of the Medway Towns. The morning is nicely contrasted, with a mix of open views and woodland, then a longer wooded ridge which has extensive bluebell woods in late April or early May. You then cross open fields and downs to the village of Luddesdown, which is surrounded by an organic farm, which is rich in wild flowers in spring and summer - particularly poppies in early June. Afterwards there is one more lovely ridge crossing to bring you to lunch in Henley Street. In the afternoon, a loop of the walk takes you up to the pretty village of Cobham, where you can stop at The Leather Bottle, a pub that features (briefly) in Charles Dicken's Pickwick Papers.
a) Shorter start from Cuxton. This option cuts 2.3km (1.5 miles) off the main route, making a total walk of 15km/9.3 miles. You miss out some fine downland sections and views on the main walk, but your compensation is a lovely climb up a hill with fine views of the Medway Valley (and nice wildflowers in May). You then follow a wooded ridge to merge with the main walk route.
b) Ending the walk just after lunch. Sole Street station is just 0.9km/0.6 miles from the lunch pub, the Cock Inn, and so it is possible to end the walk here, making a walk of 11.7km/7.3 miles (or 9.4km/5.9 miles if combined with option a).
c) & d) Alternative start or finish to Snodland to Sole Street walk. The morning of these walk directions can be used as an alternative start to Time Out Country Walks Volume 2 Walk 17 Snodland to Sole Street. Or its afternoon can be used to extend that walk: see the main walk document (DOWNLOAD WALK button above) for details.
Cuxton is on the Medway Valley line, with trains every half an hour Monday to Saturday, hourly on Sunday. The quickest way to get there from London (total journey time 45 minutes) is to take Southeastern High Speed trains from St Pancras to Strood, changing there for the short hop to Cuxton.
A slower (1hr 25 mins) but cheaper option (ie avoiding the high speed supplement and also being able to buy tickets from London Transport zone boundaries if you have a season ticket) is to take a train to Strood from Charing Cross or London Bridge.
Trains back are from Sole Street to Victoria and take 45 minutes. A day return to Rochester will cover you for both routes - apart from the short hop from Strood to Cuxton, but it would be a hard-hearted ticket inspector that charged you for this small section, given that you already have a ticket for a stop beyond Strood (ie Rochester).
Get a train that arrives at Cuxton at around 10.30am in order to get to lunch in time, except if doing the shorter start when a train arriving at 11am would be fine.
|Lunch and Tea||
The Cock Inn, Henley Street, 01474 814705 www.cockluddesdowne.com, 10.8km/6.7 miles into the walk, or 8.5km/5.3 miles if using the shorter start, is a very cosy and characterful pub (you could spend all afternoon just admiring all the pictures and bric-a-brac with which it is decorated) which basic meals - chilli con carne, sausage and chips, scampi and chips, pies, burgers - from 12pm till 3pm only (no food in the evenings). It has some outside tables both front and back.
An nearby alternative, reachable by a 450 metre diversion off the main walk route (see directions in the text) and 10km/6.2 miles into the walk by the main start or 7.7km (4.8 miles) by the shorter start, is the Golden Lion, Luddesdown Road, 01474 815644 www.thegoldenlionpub.co.uk which is a traditional pub with a reasonably varied menu, served 12-3pm Monday to Saturday and 12-4pm on Sunday. It is also open all afternoon for drinks.
On option b) Shorter ending from the lunch pub, the Railway Inn, 01474 814375 www.railwayinnsolestreet.co.uk by Sole Street station is also a lunch option, 1km after the Cock Inn, serving food 12-9pm Monday to Saturday and 12 to 6pm on Sundays.
On the main walk, if can hold back the gastric juices, it is also not impossible to carry on another 3.8km (2.4 miles) beyond the Cock Inn and have lunch at the Leather Bottle in Cobham, 01474 814327, a pub that featured in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and which serves food all afternoon.
For tea the most atmospheric choice is the Leather Bottle in Cobham, which has both a pleasant garden and a characterful interior. It serves a formal afternoon tea in its restaurant (the room facing the road): food is served here until 9pm but I am not sure how late they do the teas. Cobham also has two other pubs - the Ship Inn and the Darnley Arms: the latter, just up the road from the Leather Bottle does tea (in proper teapots) and cake for just £3.50.
The Cock Inn, passed a second time on the afternoon loop, also makes a very cosy tea stop. It now has a mini tea making machine on its bar, an innovation other pubs might copy. Alternatively, at the end of the walk, the Railway Inn by Sole Street station is open all afternoon and seems very popular with locals.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
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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