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Hollingbourne Meadows

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Hollingbourne Circular via Thurnham walk

Views from the North Downs ridge on the way out, returning across farm fields and finishing with a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle

Hollingbourne Circular, via Thurnham
Length

Main Walk: 22½ km (14.0 miles). Five hours 55 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 10½ hours.

Short Walk, omitting Thurnham: 15½ km (9.6 miles). Three hours 55 minutes walking time.

Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle: 17 km (10.6 miles). Four hours 30 minutes walking time.

OS Map

Explorer 148. Hollingbourne, map reference TQ833551, is in Kent, 8 km E of Maidstone.

Toughness

8 out of 10 (6 for the Curtailed Walk, 4 for the Short Walk).

Features

This walk is in three roughly equal parts, with pubs at the end of each leg. The first two legs are in the form of a Figure-of-8, alternating sections across low-lying farm fields with undulating stretches along the North Downs escarpment, while the third leg is quite different.

The first leg starts across vast farm fields before climbing onto the North Downs Way (NDW), where it goes through a mix of woods and open downland. This is a short but fairly strenuous little section, as the walk has to get across a succession of sunken lanes and hollows in the hillside. The walk leaves the NDW to make a circuit around a small country park containing some medieval castle ruins, then drops steeply down the wooded hillside to the first of the possible lunch pubs in the small village of Thurnham.

The second leg loops back towards Hollingbourne in similar fashion. A fairly flat stretch through parkland, field edges and paddocks is followed by another downland section, with a short detour off the NDW taking you through the southern edge of the Hucking Estate (explored more fully in this walk's companion: see below). The walk slants down the open hillside to a second lunch pub in Upper Street, one of the three settlements which make up Hollingbourne village.

The third leg is a contrasting section on the other side of the village. After going through the deceptively peaceful Hollingbourne Meadows you have to suffer the constant roar of motorway traffic, high-speed trains thundering past and a dreary stretch alongside the busy A20. This dismal link route is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.

Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £26 (2019), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.

Additional Notes

The loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle is also in the Hollingbourne Circular via Hucking walk (#253). There used to be just one Hollingbourne Circular walk, with the Thurnham loop being its Long Walk option. The closure of the lunch pub on the route through the Hucking Estate led to this “via Thurnham” walk, and the pub's reopening after two years the revival of a separate “via Hucking” walk.

This walk was further revised in 2019 to offer more varied outward and return routes between Hollingbourne and Thurnham. The two walks now overlap more than before and could be considered as variations of a single walk again.

Walk Options

The crossover nature of the walk route means that you can easily cut out one of the loops to make a shorter and less strenuous walk.

The Short Walk omits the morning loop out to Thurnham, cutting out the hilliest stretch of the NDW. This option is very similar to Walk #253a, the main difference being a slightly longer route onto the North Downs from Broad Street.

The Curtailed Walk omits the afternoon loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle, which you could replace with an extended stroll around Hollingbourne Meadows.

Some minor variations are also possible. A couple of short cuts are mentioned just before the lunch pub in Thurnham, and there are several places around Hollingbourne where you could break off and head straight for the station.

Transport

There is an hourly off-peak service from London Victoria to Hollingbourne (on the London–Maidstone–Ashford line), taking about 1 hour 5 minutes (slightly longer on Sundays).

If driving, there is a small free car park at the station.

There is a regular bus service to Maidstone along the A20 (Stagecoach 10X), but only an infrequent service (Nu-Venture 13 Mon–Fri, Arriva 13 Sat) from Hollingbourne church through Eyhorne Street.

Suggested Train

Take the train nearest to 09:30 from Victoria to Hollingbourne.

Train Times

Timetables

Lunch

The first pub on the Main Walk (after 7 km) is the Black Horse (01622-737185) in Thurnham. This large free house has a patio garden at the back and serves a good selection of à la carte and regular pub meals. It is the most convenient place on the Curtailed Walk and worth considering on the Main Walk as the next pub is nearly two hours further on.

The suggested place on the Short Walk (after 7½ km; 14½ km on the longer walks) is the Dirty Habit (01622-880880) in Upper Street (Hollingbourne). This up-market pub has a quiet patio area at the back and serves excellent though rather pricey food to 2.30pm weekdays, all day at weekends.

As a final option, a short detour down the A20 before entering the grounds of Leeds Castle would take you to the Park Gate Inn (01622-880985), a Vintage Inns pub. This “country pub & dining” establishment normally serves food all day and has a large (though not quiet) beer garden.

Tea

About ten minutes before Hollingbourne station there are two pubs in Eyhorne Street. The Windmill (01622-889000) is an up-market pub/restaurant, while the Sugar Loaves (01622-880220) is a more traditional village pub. Both have back gardens away from the street.

There are several places inside the grounds of Leeds Castle but prominent notices state that walkers are not entitled to stray from the public footpaths. You should not attempt to visit the cafés or use the seating provided for castle visitors, but on quiet days the staff are unlikely to object if you pause for refreshments at one of the seasonal kiosks along the way.

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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Oct-19

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Walk Directions  

The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

Hollingbourne Circular, via Thurnham

Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).

Walk Map: Hollingbourne Circular, via Thurnham Walk Map

Walk Options

Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.

  1. Main Walk (22½ km)
  1. Short Walk, omitting Thurnham (15½ km)
  2. Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle (17 km)

Walk Directions

Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.

  1. Hollingbourne Station to Broad Street (1¾ km)
  2. Leave the station on a new pathway from Platform 2, back alongside the tracks. Continue on a footpath along the edge of a field. In the corner cross a stream in the tree boundary and follow this little-used footpath northwards across large farm fields to the hamlet of Broad Street.

    Arriving from London on Platform 2, do not cross the footbridge to the main station exit but go through a gate by this bridge onto a new “public wayside path” going back alongside the tracks. Where this new path ends at a former crossing point (closed by Network Rail in 2019) continue in much the same direction near the field edge, ignoring a footpath across the field.

    When last checked the farmland you will be crossing for the rest of this section looked very neglected and the field paths had not been marked out.

    In the field corner go into the tree boundary, across a ditch on a plank footbridge and up to the right into a large irregularly-shaped field. Follow a faint path going diagonally up across this field, towards the left-hand end of a distant line of trees 250m away and heading NNW.

    On reaching these trees bear right to head for the right-hand side of a wide gap in the trees 150m away, with the North Downs visible through the gap. As you approach this gap there is a footpath marker confirming the right of way in a clump of three trees in the field.

    Carry on alongside the wood on the right of the gap. Towards the end of the trees ignore a footpath branching off to the left, but almost immediately afterwards bear slightly left across the field. The faint path peters out as you cross a field boundary but continue to head N and aim for the right-hand end of another wood.

    At this wood bear slightly right towards the corner of a hedge 200m away. Bear right to go alongside it, then halfway along go through a gate in the hedge into a meadow. Turn half-right and follow a grassy path to another gate, which leads out onto a lane (Pilgrims Way1) in the hamlet of Broad Street.

  3. Broad Street to Coldharbour Lane (1¼ km)
  4. Turn left onto Pilgrims Way. In 600m take the left-hand of two footpaths on the right, across a large field. Near the far side veer left to meet the North Downs Way at a path junction, where it turns off a byway (Coldharbour Lane) to climb Cat's Mount.

    • For the Short Walk, turn right onto the byway.

    Turn left and follow Pilgrims Way through the hamlet for 600m. The turning off this lane is easy to miss. After passing the last house the road bends left and there is a metal fieldgate on the right; ignore this, but in a further 25m go through a narrow gap in the hedge on the right (by a tree) into a large field.

    Although not signposted there are two footpaths across the field from this point, faintly marked out at the time of writing. Take the left-hand path, a long straight path going diagonally across the field, climbing gently and heading NNW. The path goes under power lines and crosses a horse track.

    The field path leads to a stile in the hedge on the far side of the field, but this is not the exit you want. About 50m before that the path crosses another little-used right of way, although there was no trace of it on the ground. You should veer left at some point and aim for a wooden gate just beyond the field edge (a metal kissing gate on the hillside directly above it may be easier to spot).

    At the field edge go up the low bank onto a byway (Coldharbour Lane) in front of the wooden gate (with a footpath marker post confirming that there is a right of way back across the field). The Main Walk continues through the gate and up the hillside to the metal kissing gate, joining the North Downs Way2 (NDW).

    If there are crops in the field and no convenient path through them to the byway, the alternative would be to stay on the main path. Cross the stile in the hedge and turn left, staying near the bottom edge of the next field. About 10m out from the field corner, a stile and some steps up the bank would take you onto the byway where you could go back to the wooden gate (on the Main Walk).

    • If you are doing the Short Walk ignore the path up the hillside and turn right onto the byway, joining the NDW in the opposite direction.

      Continue the Short Walk directions at §6.

  5. Coldharbour Lane to White Horse Wood Country Park (2¼ km)
  6. Join the NDW, climbing Cat's Mount. On this undulating stretch of the NDW you have to cross several deep hollows, including Coldblow Lane. Where the NDW turns sharply left in one of these hollows, veer right up the slope to a lane (Castle Hill). Go across this into White Horse Wood Country Park.

    For the Main Walk go up the hillside (Cat's Mount), through the metal kissing gate and up a flight of steps. The path levels out and continues along the top of the wooded ridge for about 300m, then makes a long descent. At the bottom go past vehicle barriers and straight across a minor road (Coldblow Lane). On the other side ignore a footpath off to the left and continue on the NDW, past another vehicle barrier.

    After climbing gradually for 400m you come to a path junction and fork left with the NDW, down a long flight of steps and then along an undulating stretch. Eventually you go through a metal kissing gate to continue along a fenced path, with a field sloping up to the right. In 200m the path drops down to a wide gap between this field and the one below, with the NDW making a sharp turn to the left.

    The route now leaves the NDW to go through a small country park containing the ruins of Thurnham Castle (which is at the top of the wooded escarpment off to your left). You could bypass this by going through the metal kissing gate ahead and following the NDW south for 300m, then through another kissing gate to meet the route down from the castle. If you take this short cut, resume the directions at [•] in the next section.

    For the suggested route, veer right at this gap to go uphill; this is a right of way although there is no clear path. As the hedge at the top of the field comes into view, aim for a metal kissing gate near its left-hand end. Go through this and turn left to reach a lane (Castle Hill), with an information panel for White Horse Wood Country Park3 opposite.

  7. White Horse Wood Country Park to Thurnham (1¾ km)
  8. Follow the perimeter path around this small country park, either turning right to go round anti-clockwise or turning left for a much shorter route. Go back across Castle Hill to the ruins of Thurnham Castle, then steeply down the castle mound to rejoin the NDW. Follow this out to Castle Hill and down the lane to the Black Horse pub in Thurnham.

    Follow the track into the country park. This actually leads to a private property in the centre, but soon there are gaps in the fences on both sides where the track is crossed by the perimeter path around the park.

    The suggested route is an almost complete anti-clockwise circuit on the Woodland Walk around this small park. For a short cut (saving 750m) you can go through the gap on the left and follow the path in the other direction, alongside an avenue of memorial trees; the main route joins from the right at a triangular path junction towards the end of this avenue.

    For the main route, go through the gap on the right and follow the all-weather path to the left of the car park, into a wood and round several left-hand bends. At a junction fork left as indicated to reach a fine viewpoint. After passing it the path goes along the right-hand side of an open area (the site of an Iron Age Enclosure) and comes to an avenue of memorial trees. Keep right at a triangular path junction, where the short cut joins from the left.

    Go through a metal kissing gate and across a grassy area to return to Castle Hill. Go straight across this lane into the site of Thurnham Castle4. After going past its ruined walls, climb to the top of the mound for another fine view.

    To avoid the awkward descent described below you could return to Castle Hill and simply follow the lane all the way downhill into Thurnham.

    A more exciting way down from the castle grounds is via a path into the trees from the summit. This goes down a short but very steep slope to a squeeze gate, after which a flight of steps provides a less precarious route down the rest of the hill. At the bottom turn right at a path T-junction, rejoining the NDW which comes in through a metal kissing gate on the left.

    [•] Follow the woodland path out onto Castle Hill at a hairpin bend. Keep left and go downhill on the lane for 250m into the small village of Thurnham. At the crossroads with Pilgrims Way the Black Horse pub is ahead on your right.

  9. Thurnham to Coldharbour Lane (3 km)
  10. Head east along Pilgrims Way, then take a footpath on the right cutting through parkland towards Thurnham Keep Farm. Turn left onto a driveway and continue along a field edge towards Cobham Manor, where the footpath has been diverted. Turn right, either staying in the field edge or going along Water Lane. In 300m turn left onto the new footpath route and follow it across fields and paddocks. At the end turn left onto Whitehall Lane. Cross Pilgrims Way and take the byway opposite, returning to the NDW below Cat's Mount.

    Turn right out of the pub and keep ahead at the crossroads to head E on Pilgrims Way, taking care on this narrow sunken lane as there is no pavement. In 250m turn right onto an easily-missed footpath, going over a stile in the hedge. Turn half-left as indicated and follow a faint grassy path diagonally across a strip of parkland containing some fine trees.

    In the far corner go over another stile and turn left onto a driveway, passing a house. In 250m go through a gate and continue past a few more houses. Where the driveway swings left, keep ahead along the edge of a large field, with a hedge on your left. In the next corner there is a gap in the hedge leading out onto Water Lane.

    The footpath through Cobham Manor has been diverted onto a more southerly route and the new right of way here is not clear.

    A footpath signpost in the hedge implies that you should leave the field and go along the lane to find the continuation of the footpath 300m off to the right, but maps also show a right of way along the field edge. If you turn right at the corner to stay inside the field, however, you will need to look carefully for an easily-missed narrow gap in the hedge after 300m, where you can cross the lane onto the signposted footpath.

    If instead you leave the field through a wide gap further along, double back along the lane to the footpath signpost.

    Go through a metal gate onto this footpath, parallel to a driveway on the right and heading ESE. Go along the right-hand edge of several paddocks for 300m, passing through gates along the way. Eventually you go through a belt of trees into the corner of another large field divided into paddocks.

    Turn half-left here as indicated to cut across this field, heading ENE and negotiating several fences with horse tape along the way. Near the midpoint of the far side, a footpath marker post directs you through one final fence onto a narrow path going gently uphill through a belt of trees.

    When level with the top of the field veer right onto a potentially overgrown tree-lined path, now back on the original footpath route. In 175m turn right as indicated and follow a broad fenced grassy path around two sides of an orchard. At the end turn left onto a minor road (Whitehall Lane) and follow it to a T-junction with Pilgrims Way.

    Turn left briefly onto this road and almost immediately veer right onto a byway (Coldharbour Lane again), climbing gently towards the North Downs Ridge. At the end of the hedge on your right you should recognise the large field as the one you crossed after in §2. Keep ahead at the path crossing below Cat's Mount, rejoining the NDW but now in the opposite direction.

  11. Coldharbour Lane to the Hucking Estate (1¾ km)
  12. Follow the byway around a hollow. At the top fork right and follow the NDW along the side of the downs, through a wooded section for 600m and then the same distance across open downland. Go across Broad Street Hill and continue briefly along the NDW, then turn left into the Woodland Trust's Hucking Estate.

    Follow the byway as it curves round to the left along the side of a hollow, then swings sharply round to the right to climb the other side. At the top of this straight section fork right off the byway where it turns left, as indicated by a NDW waymarker.

    Follow this gently undulating path through the trees for 600m, ignoring footpaths off to both sides halfway along. At the end of the trees go through a metal gate onto open downland above the hamlet of Broad Street. Keep ahead on a well-trodden grassy path for a further 600m to a tree boundary in front of a lane.

    As shown on the OS map the NDW deviates from this path (sometimes below and at other times above it, presumably conforming to some ancient field boundaries), but in practice most walkers take the suggested direct route.

    At the tree boundary veer left up to the top corner of the downland, go over a stile and turn right. Cross the sunken lane (Broad Street Hill) via a few steps on each side and continue along the NDW. You soon come to a prominent three-way signpost where you turn left onto the signposted North Downs Way Link, entering the Hucking Estate5.

  13. The Hucking Estate to Upper Street (2¾ km)
  14. Follow the yellow waymarkers of a North Downs Way Link route through grassland on the estate's southern boundary, passing a wooden sculpture “The Shepherd” at a viewpoint. Leave the Hucking Estate in its south-eastern corner and turn right onto a byway. In 125m turn left to rejoin the NDW, initially heading south-east through a lightly wooded area, then out onto open downland. After skirting a large depression (Eden's Hole) stay on the NDW as it slants down across the face of the downs, then turns right. Continue alongside a sunken lane (Hollingbourne Hill), eventually dropping down onto it to reach the Dirty Habit pub in Upper Street.

    Turn right in front of a Woodland Trust information panel to go parallel to the NDW on a permitted horse ride. In 75m go through a metal kissing gate on the left and continue in much the same direction across open grassland, dotted with gorse bushes. If you stay on one of the mown paths near the right-hand side you will come to a viewpoint with a life-size wooden sculpture The Shepherd6 gazing out over the Wealden Greensand.

    Continue along the mown path, passing an information panel about the sculpture. Where the grassland narrows between two woods bear right as indicated by the yellow NDW Link waymarker. Go across a smaller patch of grassland and leave the Hucking Estate through a wooden side gate. Turn right onto a potentially muddy byway and follow it for 125m to another NDW Link signpost and Woodland Trust information panel.

    Turn left off the byway, going through a wooden gate and rejoining the main NDW. Follow a winding grassy path through a lightly wooded area, heading roughly SE. In 200m the path passes under power lines and later emerges onto open downland (where you might just be able to make out Leeds Castle, nestling in the trees 3 km ahead).

    Follow the NDW round to the left, as indicated. In front of you there is a large wooded depression (Eden's Hole) and the NDW has to swing left to get around it, with a stretch along a fenced grassy track beside a huge farm field. The track eventually swings right to re-emerge onto the downs.

    The NDW now descends gently for 250m; the right of way includes a slightly awkward stretch through a copse, but there is a well-trodden alternative path skirting around it to the right. The NDW then goes through a gate and levels off, curving round to the left. In 200m turn right at a footpath marker post onto a grassy path sloping down the hillside. At the bottom follow it through a belt of trees to a wooden fieldgate.

    Go through a side gate and along the left-hand edge of a field, with a sunken lane (Hollingbourne Hill) down to your left. In 200m veer left to continue on a short narrow path above the lane. After joining the lane you soon come to a crossroads with Pilgrims Way, with the Dirty Habit pub at the top of Upper Street in the main part of Hollingbourne7.

  15. Upper Street to Hollingbourne Meadows (1½ km)
  16. Go down the main village street, then through the churchyard and along a path across a field to Eyhorne Street by the primary school. Turn left and go via Culpeper Close to a footpath going under the railway. Take any route through Hollingbourne Meadows to a small meadow on the far side.

    • For the Curtailed Walk, bear slightly right to go across this meadow.

    From the crossroads go down Upper Street, passing several fine old houses including Hollingbourne Manor8 on the right at the far end. Follow the street round to the left, turn right into Church Lane and go through its lychgate into the churchyard of All Saints9, which is worth a visit. Follow the surfaced path through the churchyard and across a field to come to Eyhorne Street by Hollingbourne Primary School.

    Hollingbourne station is 600m away: if you want to abandon the walk, turn right onto the road and then turn right again into the long station approach road after passing under the railway bridge.

    To continue the walk, turn left onto Eyhorne Street, then turn right into Culpeper Close. Follow this street round to the left and then turn right again onto a broad track, signposted as a footpath. Go through a metal kissing gate and under a railway bridge into Hollingbourne Meadows10.

    You might like to meander around these meadows, especially if you are doing the Curtailed Walk. Be aware that the layout of the mown paths and other features might change in future.

    For a direct route, keep ahead along a broad grassy avenue lined with memorial trees, passing a grazing enclosure (Godfrey Field) on your right. At the end of the avenue keep ahead through a gap in a hedge, crossing a plank bridge over a ditch into a wildflower meadow. Follow the mown path curving round to the right-hand corner.

    Do not go through the gap into the next meadow but turn left to go up the edge of a large field, with a hedge on your right. At the top of the slope go through a gap into the corner of another meadow, with two grassy paths ahead.

    • If you are doing the Curtailed Walk take the right-hand of these two paths, going slightly to the right across the meadow.

      Complete the Curtailed Walk directions at §12.

  17. Hollingbourne Meadows to the Great Water (2 km)
  18. Leeds Castle Keep to the left of the small meadow and continue on a footpath across the high-speed railway (HS1) and the M20. Turn left onto the A20, then in 175m turn right into Leeds Castle grounds. Head south-west through a wood, across two golf fairways and down to Cedar Pond. Go past this and follow the right of way through parkland, gradually curving round to the left and eventually going alongside the Great Water towards the Gatehouse.

    For the circuit around the grounds of Leeds Castle take the left-hand grassy path. Ignore a small metal gate with a yellow waymarker on the left (the return route from the castle) and continue along a broad grassy track between a fence and a hedge. Where this track swings round to the right keep ahead on a narrow enclosed path, with a yellow footpath marker.

    At the end of this short but potentially overgrown path go over a stile and follow a faint grassy path near the left-hand edge of a small field. In the top corner go over another stile to continue along the top of a field, with the high-speed railway (HS1) behind a hedge on your right. Near the end of the field go over a stile on the right to cross both HS1 and the M20 motorway on footbridges.

    Follow the path through a small wood to the A20 and turn left onto the tarmac path running alongside it. At some point in the next 175m cross this busy main road with great care when you have a clear view in both directions. Continue along the grass verge to a signposted footpath heading SW into a wood. Unless you want to visit the Park Gate Inn (125m further along the road) go through an old gate onto this woodland path.

    Leeds Castle You should be especially careful to follow these directions (on rights of way) through the castle grounds. Leeds Castle Foundation charges for entry and you are not entitled to stray from the public footpaths.

    After emerging from the trees the path continues across a golf course; take care as golfers on the first fairway you cross are playing over the brow of a hill and might not be able to see you. On the far side keep ahead through a copse, across an estate road and down a slope between rhododendrons to a tarmac path.

    The main visitor entrance is 250m to the right along this tarmac path (signposted “Exit”). It is not a right of way but the staff could hardly object if you used it in order to buy an entry ticket to the castle.

    To continue the walk keep ahead alongside Cedar Pond, with a fine view of the castle beyond it. At the next path junction bear left past a large cedar tree and go through a kissing gate into parkland. Bear right up a broad grassy path which passes to the right of a clump of trees, then curves left to head SW alongside a low fence. At the end of the fence keep left, now with a line of trees on your right.

    On the brow of the hill bear left to go downhill on another broad grassy path, now heading SE. Shortly before this merges with a driveway coming in from the right, fork left to stay on the grassy path. At the far end go up a short slope and out past a wooden gate onto the driveway. Bear left and and follow it downhill to the Great Water, with a seasonal kiosk (the Whistle Stop Café) at the lakeside.

  19. The Great Water to Greenway Court Road (1½ km)
  20. Turn right in front of the Gatehouse, then left to stay alongside the moat. Go across another golf fairway and continue alongside an estate road. Veer left in front of a vehicle exit and follow a path through trees and up steps to a lane. Head east alongside the A20, under the M20 and HS1, then turn left into Greenway Court Road.

    Go alongside the lake towards the Gatehouse, then round to the right between the lake and the moated castle. At the entrance to the Restaurant and other attractions turn left to stay alongside the moat, with increasingly fine views of the Maiden's Tower and other castle buildings.

    Keep ahead past a “No Entry” sign onto the golf course (this is still a right of way), with an estate road on your right. Take care as you cross a fairway and continue on a broad tree-lined avenue. Just before a vehicle barrier at the edge of the grounds, veer left onto a path into the trees.

    Follow this path past a golf green and up steps on the right to a lane (Broomfield Road), leaving the castle grounds. You will soon have to endure a fairly long stretch alongside the A20, but the footpath opposite cuts off a small part of it: cross the lane carefully to follow this short path round the back of a golf tee and down an overgrown bank to the main road.

    When you have a clear view in both directions cross the A20 with great care and turn right onto the tarmac path running alongside it. Continue alongside the busy road for 500m, passing under the M20 and HS1, then turn left to go a short distance along Greenway Court Road.

  21. Greenway Court Road to Hollingbourne Meadows (2 km)
  22. Take a footpath on the left across a field and through Warren Wood to Hospital Lane. Turn right onto the lane and take the first footpath on the left, through Coombe Wood. Continue along field edges and past a paddock to return to Hollingbourne Meadows. Go into a small meadow and turn left.

    At the end of the pavement turn left again onto a footpath across a field, heading NW towards Warren Wood. At the trees bear left to continue along the field edge, with the wood on your right. At the end of the field go into the trees and follow a potentially muddy woodland path for 350m.

    As you approach a lane there are signs of a development and the onward route might not be clear, but make your way out to the lane (Hospital Road) and turn right onto it. You pass an isolated house on the left, then in 50m turn left onto a signposted footpath.

    Once again you follow a clear woodland path for about 400m. After turning half-right and then back to the left this heads W in a fairly straight line. The path eventually leaves the wood past an old stile and you continue in the same direction along a field edge, with the wood on your right and later a tall hedge.

    In the field corner keep ahead past a copse on the left to continue on a narrow fenced path beside a paddock. At the end go through the small metal gate you passed earlier, back into Hollingbourne Meadows. Cross over your outward route into a meadow, then almost immediately turn left at a path crossing to head SW on a mown path near the edge of the meadow.

  23. Hollingbourne Meadows to Hollingbourne Station (1 km)
  24. Leave the meadow and turn right onto a farm track. Follow it across a stream, past farm buildings and along a driveway to Eyhorne Street. Take the footpath off the north side of the village street, between its two pubs. At the end of the fenced path turn half-left to go across two fields. Cross a farm track and go down a short path to the station.

    Follow the mown path out though a wide gap in the hedge and turn right onto a farm track. This goes down a slope and swings right and left, crossing a stream. Go through a gate and follow the track to the right of some farm buildings. Keep right to continue on a driveway, soon passing the Village Hall and then a pub car park on the right.

    The two refreshment places in Eyhorne Street are on the village street ahead, but you can access both of them from this car park. The beer garden for the Windmill pub/restaurant is straight ahead, and off to the right a sign for the Sugar Loaves leads to steps down into the other pub's car park.

    To complete the walk go out to the village street and take the signposted footpath on its north side, between the two pubs (nearer the Sugar Loaves and opposite the Village Shop). Keep right to continue on a fenced path along the side of Magnolia House.

    At the end go over a stile into the corner of a field and turn half-left, aiming for a gap in the hedge 75m away (not in the opposite field corner). Go through the hedge and bear slightly right up a larger field, passing to the right of an isolated tree.

    At the top of the field cross a farm track via a couple of awkward stiles and go down a new pathway to the station. Platform 1 on the near side is for trains to London.

Walk Notes
  1. Pilgrims Way is a fanciful name which was added to OS maps by a 19thC surveyor. There is no real evidence that this 192 km route between Winchester and Canterbury was used by medieval pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket, but the legend was embellished by Hilaire Belloc and other writers. Much of the route actually follows an ancient trackway on the southern slopes of the North Downs, linking the narrowest part of the English Channel to the sacred sites of Stonehenge and Avebury.
  2. The North Downs Way runs for 246 km along the length of the North Downs (with two sections at its eastern end), from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.
  3. White Horse Wood Country Park was established by Kent County Council as a Millennium site in 2000.
  4. Thurnham Castle is a typical motte and bailey castle dating from the 12thC. The large motte (artificial mound) is still visible but the only remaining stonework is on one side of the bailey (courtyard) wall.
  5. The Hucking Estate was bought by the Woodland Trust in 1997. They have gradually been reversing the changes to the landscape brought about by modern farming practices, restoring large areas of woodland and chalk grassland.
  6. The Shepherd is one of four wooden sculptures illustrating the Hucking Estate's habitat and heritage. They were designed and carved in 2012 by two local artists, Nick Speakman and Rob Dyer.
  7. Hollingbourne is made up of three settlements. The main part (around the church) is called Upper Street to distinguish it from Eyhorne Street (near the station) and Broad Street (2 km to the north-west along Pilgrims Way). The village is a conservation area and contains many historic properties.
  8. Hollingbourne Manor is an Elizabethan manor house dating from the late 16thC.
  9. All Saints, Hollingbourne dates from the 14thC, with several later extensions. It contains numerous monuments to the Culpeper family (at one time owners of Leeds Castle and Hollingbourne Manor), notably a fine marble sculpture (1638) by Edward Marshall in the Culpeper Chapel of Lady Elizabeth on her tomb chest; the mythological creature at her feet is a theow, her maternal family's heraldic beast.
  10. Hollingbourne Meadows were bought by a local trust in 2004 to protect the village from “inappropriate or insensitive use”. A large area to the east of Eyhorne Street is managed as a wildlife haven with broad grassy paths to encourage use by walkers.

» Last updated: October 10, 2019

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