Extensive orchards and 2 fine medieval bridges across the River Medway.
Main Walk: 18¾ km (11.7 miles). Four hours 25 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.
Short Walk, finishing at East Farleigh: 14 km (8.7 miles). Three hours 15 minutes walking time.
Alternative Walk, starting from Wateringbury: 14¾ km (9.2 miles). Three hours 25 minutes walking time.
Explorer 148. East Malling, map reference TQ702569, is in Kent, 6 km W of Maidstone.
3 out of 10 (2 for the Short and Alternative Walks).
East Malling (pronounced Mauling) is the site of a major Horticultural Research Institute, established in 1913 to support local fruit growers. Its research on plant culture led to the widely-adopted modern practice of using carefully selected dwarf rootstocks to produce a compact fruit-laden bush. The success of this venture can be seen as the walk heads south past some extensive orchards: mainly apples but also pears, cherries and plums.
In between the orchards there are stretches through woodland and past sports pitches on the fringes of King's Hill, a residential and business development on the site of the former RAF West Malling airfield. The walk then skirts the village of Wateringbury and descends to the River Medway at Nettlestead, passing a fine parish church and a well-restored medieval manor house.
The rest of the walk mixes sections alongside the river with short excursions into the low hills on either side, with the first of these taking you to a highly-rated pub in West Farleigh for lunch. There are four bridges on this rural stretch of the Medway and those at Teston (pronounced Teestun) and East Farleigh are splendid examples of medieval design and craftmanship, with the latter claiming to be “the Finest Bridge in Southern England”.
The final part of the walk is along a stretch of the Medway revitalized as the Maidstone River Park, into the county town of Maidstone. There are opportunities to explore the shops and eateries in the largely-pedestrianised town centre on the way to one of its three railway stations.
A direct link route between Wateringbury and Bow Bridge is described in both directions. On the Main Walk it provides a morning short cut saving 1½ km, which is worth considering if you miss a train and want to catch up a group which started earlier. In the other direction it functions as the start of an Alternative Walk from Wateringbury station (next to Bow Bridge), initially heading north in order to include the section through Nettlestead.
As the walk route also goes past East Farleigh station on the Medway Valley line (see Transport below), you can cut out the urban section of the walk into and through Maidstone and make a Short Walk finishing there.
Maidstone has three railway stations on two separate lines. East Malling is on the Maidstone East line, with an hourly direct service from Victoria taking around 50-55 minutes. On weekdays there is a half-hourly service back to Victoria from Maidstone East, with the faster trains not calling at East Malling.
Wateringbury, East Farleigh and Maidstone's other two stations are on the Medway Valley branch line (Paddock Wood–Maidstone West–Strood), with an hourly off-peak service on this section of the line. For any of these stations you would need to change at either Tonbridge/Paddock Wood or Strood.
For all walk options the suggested ticket is a return to Maidstone stations, which is valid to East Malling and stations on the Medway Valley line (although you will need to have a ticket routed "Plus High Speed", or buy an upgrade, if you use those trains from Strood).
Maidstone has good bus services. If you want to abandon the walk at lunchtime there is an irregular service (Mon–Sat) through West Farleigh, with the nearest bus stop being on Ewell Lane, about 300m from the pub. There is also a frequent service along the A26 at Wateringbury and Teston.
If driving, there is no car park at East Malling station but parking is available in nearby residential streets after 10.30am Mon–Fri and all day weekends.
Take the train nearest to 09:45 from Victoria to East Malling. For the Short Walk you could take the train an hour later.
For the Alternative Walk take the train nearest to 10:30 from Charing Cross to Wateringbury, changing at Tonbridge or Paddock Wood.
The suggested lunch pub (after 10 km, or 6 km on the Alternative Walk) is the up-market Tickled Trout (01622-814717) in West Farleigh. This refurbished pub has an outdoor patio and beer garden, and serves freshly-prepared seasonal food all day.
Earlier in the walk there are two possible lunch places near Wateringbury station. The Railway pub (01622-812911; closed Mon) opposite the station approach road is a traditional village pub; the Ramblers Rest Café (0333-666 6364) in Medway Wharf Marina serves light lunches.
In Maidstone there are plenty of pubs, cafés and coffee shops tucked away in the streets, alleyways and shopping malls making up its pedestrianised town centre, some with outdoor seating. There are far too many eateries to list in full, but the directions go via two places in the same arcade which might tempt you: the Italian Vesuvius Café (01622-296767) and the French Café Frédéric (01622-297414). A little further on there are branches of Costa Coffee and Patisserie Valerie in Fremlin Walk. The nearest pub to Maidstone East station is a JD Wetherspoons, The Society Rooms (01622-350910). In the station itself there is a small buffet on Platform 1.
In contrast there is not much choice at the end of the Short Walk in East Farleigh. The Victory pub (01622-298234) is just a stone's throw from the station, but if you want tea or coffee you will probably have to trek across the river and climb Station Hill to the Bull Inn (01622-726282).
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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.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (18¾ km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
If you are doing the Alternative Walk (from Wateringbury), start at §E.
- From the railway bridge head south on Chapel Street for 150m. Turn right onto a footpath leading into a field and follow the main path back alongside the railway line. Fork left to go along a wooded valley to Well Street. Bear left onto a lane (also Well Street) and head south along it to a T-junction.
Arriving from London, go down steps near the back of Platform 2 and turn left under the railway bridge. Keep right to go uphill on Chapel Street for 150m. Just before Manningham House on the right, turn right onto an enclosed path beside its driveway, signposted as a footpath. At the end go through a wooden kissing gate into a narrow field, with a choice of two footpaths ahead.
- For a slightly more direct route you could take the left-hand path across the field, but its continuation (a narrow fenced path alongside a wood) is slightly awkward. If you take this short cut (saving 200m) turn left at the end of the fenced path and resume the directions at [?].
- For the suggested route, keep ahead along the right-hand side of the field, going past a pylon. In the field corner veer right into a wooded area (an old orchard), staying on the main path and heading NW. The path gradually approaches the railway line and turns half-left to run alongside it.
- At a triangular path junction, where the path ahead goes down a slope, fork left to stay on the same level. The path gradually curves left, following the course of a wooded valley on the right. In 250m keep ahead where the short cut joins from a long fenced path on the left.
- As the path descends you might be able to see East Malling Stream? through the trees on the right, then a series of small ponds. The path leads into a driveway which goes past a few cottages in the hamlet of Well Street.
- At the top of a slope bear left onto a lane (also called Well Street), passing a large orchard on the right and a few more houses. In 350m the lane comes to a T-junction, with Pikey Lane on the right.
- At the T-junction keep ahead onto a footpath. Take one of the permissive paths on the left cutting through Warren Woods Nature Park to a footpath on the other side leading to Kings Hill Sports Park. Keep ahead past sports pitches to an old lane (Teston Road).
- At the T-junction go straight ahead onto a footpath, with more orchards on the right and soon with a wood on the left. There are some rather off-putting “Private Land” notices beside the path but this woodland is in fact part of Warren Woods Nature Park?. In 300m the footpath emerges into the corner of a field, from where there are several possible continuations through the Nature Park.
- For the suggested route, take the grassy path going diagonally across the field. On the far side bear right to continue on a long straight path alongside a line of poplars for 200m. Where you can see some houses about 100m ahead, turn left onto one of the Nature Park's waymarked permissive routes.
- Go through a metal kissing gate and follow the woodland path into a dip and steeply up the other side. Soon after the path levels off there is a picnic area on the right. At an information panel about the Nature Park veer right onto a path just inside the wood (or the public footpath outside it; they merge in 250m).
- At the far end of the wood keep ahead on a broad path between a car park and Kings Hill Sports Park pavilion. Follow the path up a slope and past some football pitches. In a belt of trees it goes past a jumble of vehicle-blocking rocks and comes to a T-junction with an old lane (Teston Road).
- Turn left briefly onto the lane, then take a footpath on the right heading south through Cattering Wood. Continue past orchards and the grounds of Wateringbury Place to the A26 (Tonbridge Road). Cross the main road and go down Love Lane to Mill Oast House.
Turn left onto the lane and go past another set of concrete blocks. Ignore a track with a vehicle barrier on the right but a few metres further on turn right onto a faint path into Cattering Wood, signposted as a public footpath.
You will be heading south through this working wood for 500m. Part of the right of way is on muddy tracks churned up by machinery and there might be diversions where coppicing or tree felling is taking place.
- At a T-junction turn left onto a broad track and follow it round to the right, merging with another one from the left. In 300m another track merges from the left by a large old tree. Keep ahead at a major path crossing, then 50m later fork left to head S where the path splits in front of another large tree.
Follow this path gently downhill for 150m, eventually going past a few wooden posts to leave the wood. Continue along a broad grassy track with a large orchard on your right, soon curving right to skirt around a small wood.
- There is an unofficial short cut through the wood but you would have to negotiate a metal fieldgate at the far end.
- On the far side go straight across some wooden planking to continue along a broad grassy path between a low wire fence and a tall hedge, heading S again with orchards on both sides and views of the Medway Valley ahead on the left. At the end of the hedge continue on an enclosed path with a chainlink fence on the right, behind which a belt of trees shields the extensive grounds of Wateringbury Place.
At the end of this long straight path go between wooden barriers and continue along a driveway past houses to the A26 (Tonbridge Road), where there is a Local History Society plaque about PLUTO? on the garden wall.
If you want to abandon the walk there are frequent buses to Maidstone along this road.
- Cross the main road carefully and take the minor road opposite (Love Lane), which soon drops downhill. At the bottom of the dip it crosses a stream (coming from a waterfall in the garden on the right) in a culvert and comes to a cluster of converted oast houses. The main route continues along the lane while the short cut route takes a signposted Restricted Byway off to the left.
If you are doing the full Main Walk (via Nettlestead), go to §F.
- At the old mill turn sharp left onto a byway heading east along the side of a small valley to the B2015 (Bow Road). Turn right and follow the road downhill. Just past the entrance to Wateringbury station turn left and cross the river on Bow Bridge, joining the Medway Valley Walk (MVW).
- For the short cut (omitting Nettlestead) turn sharp left onto the byway, a path which curves round to the right above a picturesque valley dotted with trees. At the end follow the path down to the left and climb up a lane on the other side of the valley to the B2015 (Bow Road).
- Turn right onto the road and follow it downhill, crossing over at the zebra crossing along the way. At the bottom of the slope go past the entrance to Wateringbury station and turn left into the minor road (Bow Hill) opposite The Railway pub.
- Go over the level crossing and past the entrance to Bow Bridge Marina, joining the Medway Valley Walk? (MVW). Continue across the river on Bow Bridge, passing the entrance to Medway Wharf Marina (and its Ramblers Rest Café) on the right.
Continue the directions at §G.
- Go out through the station car park and turn right onto the B2015. In 350m turn left onto a byway and follow it to Love Lane.
- Go out through the small station car park and turn right onto the B2015. Go uphill on this road for 350m, crossing over to the left-hand side at the zebra crossing. Just before Leney Road on the right, turn left into a lane signposted as a Restricted Byway, down a slope and across a stream.
- The lane curves round to the right and continues as a hedge-lined path above a small orchard in a picturesque valley. At the end the path bends left in front of a cluster of converted oast houses and leads into a minor road (Love Lane).
- Go up Love Lane to the mill pond and turn left onto a footpath heading south to the B2015 at Nettlestead. Take the path opposite through the churchyard and join a footpath going down across the railway to the river. Turn left onto the riverside path, joining the Medway Valley Walk (MVW). In 800m cross the river on Bow Bridge.
- Follow Love Lane up a slope and round to the right to come to an old mill pond. Veer left uphill, passing a blue plaque? on the gateway to the first house on the left. At the top of the slope the lane straightens out, heading S with views across fields on the left to the Medway Valley.
- In 300m go through a couple of gates by the last group of houses onto a footpath which zig-zags right and left, then continues along the left-hand edge of some large farm fields for a further 300m. In the bottom corner of the last field go past metal vehicle barriers and bear right past a second set onto an enclosed path, with a housing estate behind garden fences on the left.
- Continue past Nettlestead's recreation ground and more houses to reach the B2015. Cross the road carefully and take the unmarked path directly opposite, which curves to the right and leads into the north-western corner of a churchyard. Go past the church tower and turn left to come to the west door of St Mary the Virgin?, which is worth visiting if open.
- Continue on the path heading away from the door, which turns left on the edge of the churchyard and leads to an exit in its south-eastern corner. Go down a few steps, through a stone archway and follow a woodland path downhill, with glimpses of Nettlestead Place? and its gardens through the trees on the right.
- At the bottom cross the railway tracks and turn left onto the riverside path, joining the Medway Valley Walk? (MVW) and heading N. In 500m the path crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge and the final 300m is on a driveway between a caravan park and boats moored on the river.
- Go past a wooden fieldgate and take either of two tarmac driveways past the (closed) Riverside Restaurant. At the top of the slope turn right to go …
- Follow the MVW on the south side of the river as far as Tutsham Hall: across water meadows, along the bottom edge of Waregrave's Wood and up across a field. At Tutsham Hall take a footpath heading east across fields and through a belt of trees. Veer right to reach the pub on the B2010 in West Farleigh.
- Just past the entrance to the marina go over a stile on the left by a MVW signpost. Go across a patch of grass and through a metal gate into water meadows. Follow a faint grassy path heading E across these meadows (possibly partitioned with fencing) towards a line of trees 250m away.
- In the trees go through a partly-concealed metal kissing gate and continue across another meadow, slightly to the left and gradually approaching a boundary fence on the left. A small plank footbridge gets you across a boggy section and the path continues alongside the fence. Another stile and then a section of boardwalk takes you into Waregrave's Wood, close to the river on your left.
- Follow the woodland path along its bottom edge, negotiating one or two streams along the way. At the end leave the wood through a gate and go up a small slope into a large field. Follow a faint grassy path curving gently up to the right, passing a footpath marker post by an isolated tree and with increasingly fine views of the river valley as you climb.
- On the far side of the field go through a metal side gate and straight across a parking area in front of a barn conversion. Continue on a tarmac driveway between wooden fences, going over a small rise towards a cluster of farm buildings. Follow it past some cottages and then the ivied Tutsham Hall? on the right. Opposite this farmhouse the MVW continues over a stile in the fence on the left.
- For the full walk follow the drive round to the right in front of a large barn, leaving the MVW. At the end of the buildings turn left onto a long straight grassy path between fences, signposted as a footpath. Continue through a gate and in much the same direction across two fields. As the ground ahead drops away you will be able to see the exit from the second field, a metal gate in the tree boundary.
- Go through this gate and along a short grassy path towards a pair of metal gates. Go through the right-hand gate and up a slope into a field, with a striking Queen Anne house ahead on your right. If there is no clear path aim for the tall hedge to the left of this house, behind which is the beer garden of the suggested lunch pub.
- In front of the hedge a broad grassy path coming up the field from the left is the continuation of the walk to East Farleigh, but to break for lunch veer right onto the path and go out through a gate in the boundary wall onto a lane (Lower Road). The Tickled Trout is the first building on the left, while the small crescent-shaped patch of grass opposite Smiths Hall? makes a convenient picnic spot.
Take the footpath heading north-west from the B2010 and continue along a lane to the B2163. Cross the river on Teston Bridge and turn right onto the riverside path. Follow it for 3 km, past Barming Bridge and on to East Farleigh. Unless you decide to stay on the towpath for the start of the next section, go out onto Farleigh Lane between the station and the medieval bridge.
- If finishing here, trains to Tonbridge leave from this side; cross the tracks for trains to Maidstone and Strood.
- Turn right out of the pub and retrace your steps through the gate and down the grassy path away from Smiths Hall. Follow this clear path across two fields, going through a metal kissing gate in the tree boundary between them. At the bottom of the second field go through a side gate and keep ahead on a lane, rejoining the MVW.
- Follow the lane round a right-hand bend to a T-junction with the B2163, with the river not far off to the left. To avoid a bit of road walking cross the road carefully, go up a few steps and turn sharp left in front of a gate onto a permissive path parallel to the road.
Follow this short woodland path out to the road in front of the medieval Teston Bridge?, with a fine view of Barham Court? ahead on your right, 400m away. Cross the narrow road bridge carefully, using the refuges when necessary to avoid the traffic.
As before, if you want to abandon the walk there are buses to Maidstone along the A26 up ahead.
- On the far side go over a stile on the right onto a broad strip of grassland dotted with trees, the start of a long linear area designated as the Maidstone River Park?. On this long stretch there are occasional gates to negotiate and wooden footbridges to take you across side streams. Eventually you cross a track at Barming Bridge?.
Continue alongside the river on the signposted Medway Towpath?. In 750m you can see East Farleigh church directly ahead on the far bank. The river curves round to the left past caravan sites and a raised footbridge takes you across the entrance to a small marina as you approach the medieval East Farleigh Bridge?.
- You could simply remain on the towpath, which continues under a low arch in the bridge and passes the refurbished East Farleigh Lock?. There are gardens sloping down to the river on the opposite bank, then a long stretch of woodland before the main route rejoins from a byway on the left. If you take this short cut (saving 200m) resume the directions at [?] in §I.
- For the suggested route, leave the towpath 60m before the bridge, where there is a gap in the fence with a large sign advertising a nearby pub. Go up a few steps and follow a series of FOOTPATH► signs to go out between converted buildings to a road (Farleigh Lane), with a level crossing on the left between the two platforms of East Farleigh station.
Finishing at East Farleigh Station
- The most convenient refreshment place is The Victory pub, just 50m up the road on the left. The Bull Inn is 350m away on the other side of the river, opposite the church at the top of Station Hill.
- Trains to Tonbridge leave from Platform 1, on the right. For trains to Maidstone and Strood from Platform 2, cross the tracks and turn left (or use the footbridge).
- Go over the level crossing and turn right onto a footpath opposite The Victory pub. Follow it past The Oast and then fork right onto a footpath heading north-east. At the end take the byway on the right to return to the riverside path. Continue along the towpath to a new pedestrian footbridge by the Lockmeadow Entertainment Centre in Maidstone.
- Go over the level crossing and continue briefly up the right-hand side of Farleigh Lane. Opposite The Victory pub turn right through a wooden swing gate in the hedge onto a narrow and potentially muddy footpath.
This rather awkward path gradually drops back towards the railway line, then a short flight of steps takes you up to an easier path alongside the stone wall of a house (The Oast). At the end of the property follow the path round to the left and up to a path junction, marked by a telegraph pole with footpath waymarkers.
- Up ahead on the left is a triangular area with trestle tables belonging to Little Fant Farm, where refreshments are available in a Tea Barn on summer Sundays.
- To continue the walk fork right at the junction onto the driveway to a house, passing it on your left. Go through a side gate and continue along an unsurfaced track between hedges, climbing gently. In 150m a footpath merges from the left and the track levels off, with views across the Medway Valley as it heads NE directly towards Maidstone.
- In 500m you pass the first of some substantial properties on the left. In a further 200m, just before the track leads out onto a residential street at a bend, turn right onto a track signposted as a Restricted Byway and follow it all the way downhill. At the bottom go under a railway bridge and turn left, rejoining the Medway Towpath.
- Bydews Wood is across the river at first, but the area gradually becomes more built up on both sides. In 800m you pass a girder footbridge connecting two of Maidstone's suburbs at Lower Fant. In the next 1 km an old industrial area has been revitalised with a succession of new riverside apartment blocks, reminiscent of London's Docklands.
- Eventually you pass the Lockmeadow Entertainment Centre on the left and come to an elegant new footbridge across the river, Lockmeadow Millennium Bridge?. There is a large metal sculpture The Stag? on the left and a fine view across the river to All Saints Church? and the Archbishop's Palace?.
Unless you want to head directly to Maidstone West station (off to the left) cross to the other bank, go past the Archbishop's Palace and up the High Street. Take any route heading north through the town centre, eventually crossing Brenchley Gardens to their north-eastern corner to reach Maidstone East station.
To Maidstone East Station (1¼ km)
- Start by crossing the river on the footbridge and continue along the other bank, past the Archbishop's Palace and a mooring point for pleasure cruisers. In front of St Peter's Bridge take the path sloping up to traffic lights on the busy main road (Bishops Way).
- Cross Bishops Way and go up the High Street for 250m, passing a 19thC Russian Cannon?. Opposite the Town Hall? go through an archway into Market Buildings, passing an Italian café and a French bistro/pâtisserie in the Corn Exchange arcade on the right.
- At the end of the arcade turn right briefly into Earl Street by the Hazlitt Theatre, then turn left into another alley leading to Fremlin Walk. Turn left into this shopping mall, which has some refreshment places with outdoor seating at the far end.
- To complete the walk take an exit from the mall on the north side which comes out in front of Maidstone Museum?. Go past the right-hand side of the building and up a patch of grassland containing a memorial stone to the Battle of Maidstone?.
Make your way across Brenchley Gardens? to its top right-hand corner, with the station ahead. There is a side entrance directly onto Platform 1 (for trains to London) through a gap in the brick wall behind the small parking area. To reach other platforms enter via the ticket hall.
- If you want to return on the Medway Valley line there is a signposted walkway across the river on the railway bridge to Maidstone Barracks station.
To Maidstone West Station (½ km)
- To head for this station without going into the town centre, continue along the riverside path past the Law Courts. Follow the path round to the left in front of St Peter's Bridge to join the main road (Broadway). Keep ahead at traffic lights and in 100m turn left by the War Memorial into Station Approach.
The station entrance is on the right. Through trains to Strood leave from Platform 1, across the footbridge. Trains from Platform 2 (on this side) could be departing in either direction, to Tonbridge or Strood.
The station with direct services to Victoria is on the far side of the town centre, across the river. If instead you want to head immediately to the nearest station on the Medway Valley branch line, follow the directions in [?].
Any route through the mainly-pedestrianised town centre will take you past many possible refreshment places, only a few of which are mentioned here. If you are tempted down alleyways and into shopping malls you can follow street signs to Maidstone East Station (or the Museum) to get back on track.
» Last updated: October 12, 2020