Leeds Castle

02-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Gatehouse, Leeds Castle

02-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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The Shepherd sculpture

16-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Hollingbourne Meadows

16-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Ancient sweet chestnut, Leeds Castle

09-Aug-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Leeds Castle

02-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Leeds Castle

02-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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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

Main Walk: 21¼ km (13.2 miles). Five hours 30 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 10 hours.

Short Walk, omitting Thurnham: 16¾ km (10.4 miles). Four hours 15 minutes walking time.

Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle: 16¾ km (10.4 miles). Four hours 20 minutes walking time.

OS Map

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


7 out of 10 (5 for the shorter walks).


A short stretch through Hollingbourne village brings you to the North Downs Way (NDW) and up the side of the downland which you will have seen for much of the train journey. After a short detour through the edge of the Hucking Estate (explored more fully in this walk's companion: see below) the walk follows the NDW through a mixture of open downland and woods, with undulating stretches across a succession of sunken lanes and hollows in the hillside. Another short detour off the NDW takes you past some medieval castle ruins in a small country park before you drop down to the lunch pub in the village of Thurnham.

The return leg along the foot of the downs should be less taxing, although the paths across large farm fields can be heavy going on wet ground. After going back past Hollingbourne station you have the chance of another refreshment stop in the village of Eyhorne Street before the full walk concludes with something quite different. A dreary link route (across the high-speed railway and a motorway; two stretches alongside a busy main road; back through muddy woods and along overgrown field edges) 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

This walk was originally the Long Walk option of another circular walk from Hollingbourne, but the alternative route through the Hucking Estate had to be dropped when the lunch pub closed for two years. The pub's reopening has allowed that walk to be reborn as the Hollingbourne Circular via Hucking walk (#253).

The two walks share the same loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle – there are few viable alternatives as the A20, M20 & HS1 constitute a formidable triple barrier – but for variety it is described here in the opposite direction.

Walk Options

For a shorter and easier walk you can descend from the North Downs ridge at Coldharbour. This Short Walk omits the hilliest stretch of the NDW around Thurnham and goes directly to Eyhorne Street for lunch.

For a Curtailed Walk you could omit the afternoon loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle. The return route goes very close to Hollingbourne station, but the suggested route includes a circuit of the nearby Hollingbourne Meadows (which you could also do at the end of the other walk variations) before heading back through Eyhorne Street to the station.


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.

The only bus service on the walk route is Nu-Venture 13, which runs infrequently from Hollingbourne church through Eyhorne Street to Maidstone (Mon–Fri only).

Suggested Train

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

Train Times



Near the start of the walk you pass the Dirty Habit (01622-880880) in Upper Street; this is much too soon for a regular lunch stop but it does serve breakfast from 9.30-11.30am at weekends.

On the Main Walk the suggested lunch pub is the Black Horse (01622-737185) in Thurnham, after 8¾ km. This large free house has a patio garden at the back and serves a good selection of excellent à la carte and regular pub meals.

On the Short Walk there are no refreshment places after Upper Street until you reach Eyhorne Street, after 9¾ km. There are two large pubs to choose from in this village: the Windmill (01622-889000) is an up-market pub/restaurant, while the Sugar Loaves (01622-880220) is a more traditional village pub, serving food all day. Both have back gardens away from the road.


The two pubs in Eyhorne Street (see above) also serve as the tea places. On the Main Walk you go through this village twice and could try one before the castle section and the other on the way back.

On the way out to the castle grounds a short detour down the A20 would take you to the Park Gate Inn (01622-880985), a Vintage Inns pub. This large “country pub & dining” normally serves food all day and has a large (though not quiet) beer garden.

It is tempting to suggest the refreshment places inside the grounds of Leeds Castle but this would entail leaving the public footpaths and there are prominent notices stating that walkers are not entitled to do this. However, there might be kiosks on the paths and no doubt their vendors would be happy to sell you food and drink en passant.

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Start ME17 1TX Map Directions


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



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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 (21 km)
  1. Short Walk, omitting Thurnham (16¾ km)
  2. Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle (16¾ 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 Upper Street (1½ km)
  2. Go out on the station's approach road and turn left onto the main road. At the primary school take the footpath heading north to All Saints church. Rejoin the road and go through the village to the crossroads with Pilgrims Way.

    Arriving from London, cross the footbridge and go into the small station car park. Bear left and leave down its long approach road. At the end turn left onto a road (Eyhorne Street) and follow it for 200m, going under the railway and round a right-hand bend.

    Just before Hollingbourne Primary school turn left onto a signposted footpath, which continues as a surfaced path across a field. On the far side go through the churchyard of All Saints1, which is worth a visit. Go down Church Lane and turn left, rejoining the road you left by the school. Follow it round a right-hand bend into the main part of Hollingbourne2, the hamlet of Upper Street.

    As you go up this street you pass Hollingbourne Manor3 on the left, one of several fine old houses. At the top of the village the Dirty Habit pub is on your right, just before the crossroads with Pilgrims Way4.

  3. Upper Street to the Hucking Estate (1¾ km)
  4. Continue briefly on the road (now Hollingbourne Hill), joining the North Downs Way (NDW). Almost immediately bear left at a NDW signpost to climb up the downs, at first close to the road and then veering away from it. At the top of the downs follow the NDW as it skirts a large depression (Eden's Hole), then goes through a lightly wooded area to reach a T-junction with a byway.

    Keep ahead at the crossroads, then in 50m veer left onto a footpath with a signpost confirming that you have joined the North Downs Way5 (NDW). The path goes up a bank and runs alongside the road for a short distance. After it curves left into a field, keep right to stay close to the road. In 200m go through a side gate to the right of a fieldgate and turn half-left as indicated, through a belt of trees.

    Follow a grassy path uphill for 125m to a path junction and turn left. In 200m go through a gate and continue on a clear path, gradually ascending; there is a slightly awkward section through a copse but you can skirt around it to the left if you prefer. As you approach the top of the downs there is a large wooded depression (Eden's Hole) in front of you and the NDW has to swing right to get around it, with a stretch along a fenced grassy track beside a huge farm field.

    After the path swings left and comes back out onto the downs, keep right for another brief stretch across the grassland before the path veers back into the trees. The final part of this section is through a lightly wooded area where you pass under overhead cables. You eventually go out through a gate onto a byway, where a signpost indicates a choice of routes: the suggested route is to make a short detour through the edge of the Hucking Estate6 on the North Downs Way Link, as shown on a Woodland Trust information panel here.

  5. The Hucking Estate to Coldharbour (2½ km)
  6. Unless you want to remain on the NDW, turn right onto the byway. In 125m turn left into the Woodland Trust's Hucking Estate. Follow the yellow waymarkers of its North Downs Way Link route through grassland on its southern boundary, passing a wooden sculpture “The Shepherd” at a viewpoint. Continue across the grassland and out of the estate, rejoining the NDW. Cross a lane (Broad Street Hill) and stay near the top of the ridge on downland. Continue through a wooded section to meet a byway at Coldharbour. Fork left onto this track, which curves round to the left as it descends.

    You could remain on the NDW, turning left here and right after 75m onto an enclosed path along the downs; the two routes rejoin after 600m at another NDW Link signpost. If you take this slightly shorter route, resume the directions at [•] below.

    For the suggested route (with yellow waymarkers), turn right onto the byway. In 125m turn left through a side gate to the right of a Woodland Trust fieldgate (not the permitted horse ride on its left). Go straight ahead across the grassland, staying near the wire fence on your left. In 200m the field opens out and you bear left as indicated. A grassy path leads you to a viewpoint with a wooden sculpture “The Shepherd”7 gazing out over the Wealden Greensand.

    Continue across the grass past the sculpture, parallel to the field edge on your left. As you go past some clumps of gorse you come to another marker post where you turn half-left as indicated by the yellow waymarker. In the corner leave the field through a metal kissing gate and turn right onto a broad grassy path (the horse ride from the byway). In 75m you come to another Woodland Trust information panel. Veer left through a gap in the hedge and turn right to rejoin the NDW.

    [•] The NDW soon goes down a short flight of steps to a sunken lane (Broad Street Hill). Go up steps on the other side onto the start of a narrow path, with a stile on the left leading out onto the downs.

    The NDW continues along this fenced path, but it can be overgrown and is not recommended. For the next 400m the right of way appears to follow some ancient field boundaries and in practice most walkers take the more direct route described below.

    For the suggested route, go over the stile and continue down the left-hand side of the downland (not to the right, as indicated). In about 60m veer right onto a faint grassy path along the side of the downs, heading towards a gap in some trees 300m away. Go through this and continue with a line of trees on your left (the NDW pointlessly crosses over here and takes a lower route on the other side of the trees). Where the trees end and the NDW rejoins from the left, simply continue along the ridge for 200m towards a wood.

    At the trees go through a metal gate and continue in the same direction on a clear woodland path for 650m, following the NDW waymarkers and ignoring footpaths off to both sides halfway along. Eventually you come out onto a byway (Coldharbour Lane) where you fork left, staying on the NDW.

    The tree-lined track initially heads W and then makes a long curve to the left around a hollow, gradually descending. Later the track bends right and goes up a short slope, now with views off to both sides. In a further 125m there is a wooden kissing gate on the right, the continuation of the NDW.

    If you are doing the Short Walk, go to §6.

  7. Coldharbour to Thurnham (3 km)
  8. Stay on 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, bear right and go back up the slope. Cross a lane (Castle Hill) into White Horse Wood Country Park. Make your way to its south-eastern corner, either directly by turning left or going around its perimeter path. 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.

    For the Main Walk, stay on the NDW by going through the gate and up the hillside. Go through a metal kissing gate on the right-hand end of some trees and up a long flight of earth steps. The path eventually levels out and you go along the top of the ridge for about 300m, then make a long descent through a wood. At the bottom go past vehicle barriers and across a minor road (Coldblow Lane) to continue on the NDW.

    On the other side of the lane ignore a footpath off to the left and follow the main path past another vehicle barrier. After climbing gradually for 400m you come to a path junction and fork left to stay on the NDW, down a long flight of steps and then up the other side of a hollow. After a relatively flat section (with fine views on the left) another descent takes you onto a potentially overgrown path between hedges.

    Continue through a metal kissing gate and along the bottom edge of a field, between wire fences. In about 200m the trees on your left end and you come to another hollow, with the ground dropping away to your left.

    The suggested route now leaves the NDW briefly 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 at the bottom of the hollow 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 [•] below.

    For the suggested route, bear right to go uphill towards the hedge at the top of the field, aiming for a metal kissing gate near its left-hand end. Go through this gate and turn left to reach a lane (Castle Hill), with an information panel for White Horse Wood Country Park8 opposite. Keep ahead on a track leading to a private property, soon coming to a pair of side gates.

    There is a choice of routes through this small park: the longer route takes in another fine viewpoint but is marred by road noise from the nearby A249.

    1. Direct route
    2. Go through the left-hand gate and follow the all-weather path alongside a double line of memorial trees. Near the end keep left at a triangular path junction, where the longer route joins from the right.

    3. Longer route (+¾ km)
    4. Go through the right-hand gate and follow the all-weather path to the left of the car park (signposted “Woodland Walk”). Go round several left-hand bends, then fork left (signposted “View Point”). Continue on the path past the viewpoint and then a small open area on the left. You come to a line of memorial trees and keep right at a triangular path junction, where the direct route joins from the left.

    Go through a wooden gate onto a path through a grassy area, which leads out to a lane (Castle Hill again). Go straight across this onto a short path into the site of Thurnham Castle9. After going past its ruined walls, climb to the top of the mound ahead for another fine view.

    To avoid the awkward descent described below you could go back onto 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 at the back of the mound, which veers right and goes down a short but very steep slope. A squeeze gate then takes you onto a flight of steps and 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 Whitehall (2¼ 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. Follow the field edge round to the right. In 300m cross Water Lane and take the footpath heading east across fields to Whitehall.

    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 a signposted footpath, going over a stile. 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 a gap in the hedge would take you out onto Water Lane, but the footpath beyond Cobham Manor has been diverted and you should turn right to stay on the field edge, parallel to the lane on your left.

    In 300m turn left through a gap in the hedge and cross Water Lane. Go through a metal kissing gate and along the edge of a field, parallel to a driveway on your right. In the corner of the field continue in much the same direction for a further 150m, going through two more kissing gates. A third gate then takes you through a belt of trees into another large field.

    You will eventually go past its far corner, 300m away, but instead of going diagonally across the field the new right of way goes via the midpoint of the long field edge opposite. So you turn half-left to head ENE across the field, with no clear path and possibly having to negotiate some temporary fences along the way. On the far side a footpath marker post directs you onto a narrow path through the belt of trees which takes you to the top corner of the field.

    At the top bear right across a small open area and go through another metal kissing gate onto a potentially overgrown tree-lined path. In 175m turn right as indicated and follow a broad fenced grassy path around two sides of a garden to come out onto Whitehall Lane, where you turn right.

    Continue the directions at §7.

  11. Coldharbour to Whitehall direct (¾ km)
  12. Leave the NDW and follow the track downhill. At the bottom go straight across Pilgrims Way onto Whitehall Lane.

    For the Short Walk, leave the NDW and simply follow the track downhill for a further 400m, later with a line of trees on the left. At the bottom turn left briefly onto a lane (Pilgrims Way), then immediately turn right into a No Through road (Whitehall Lane).

    In 200m you pass some farm buildings and a house “Whitehall” on the right. In a further 100m the Main Walk route joins from a footpath on the right.

  13. Whitehall to Eyhorne Street (3¼ km)
  14. Go round a couple of bends on Whitehall Lane, then turn left onto a footpath heading south-east across fields. Go straight on at a five-way path junction and continue in much the same direction across more large farm fields to reach the railway line near Hollingbourne station. Cross the tracks and go straight ahead across fields. Continue on a fenced path towards the western end of Eyhorne Street. Turn left onto the main road through the village.

    Follow the lane round a left-hand bend, then another to the right. 175m after this second bend, in front of a sign for Ripple Manor, turn left onto a clear path across a field, heading SE towards the left-hand end of a wood 300m away. When you reach it continue alongside the trees for a further 300m. At the end of the wood the path bears right across a field towards an isolated oak tree, where there is a five-way path junction.

    Go straight ahead at the junction, still heading roughly SE. In the next 400m the path skirts a couple of copses, then comes to the corner of a larger wood. Turn half-right as directed to go diagonally across another large field, gently uphill at first and heading SE.

    When last checked the farmland for the next 1 km looked very neglected and the field paths had not been marked out (in marked contrast to the previous stretch).

    In 400m you should come to a footpath marker in front of a wood. Turn right to go alongside the trees, now heading S. At the end keep ahead across a field (passing another marker in a small clump of trees) towards the right-hand end of another wood. After skirting this bear left to go down across another large field, heading SSE towards its bottom corner and gradually approaching the railway on a tree-lined embankment.

    In this corner follow a path down to the left through the tree boundary, crossing a ditch on a plank footbridge. Continue uphill along the right-hand edge of the next field, parallel to the railway line. In 100m there is an old gate on the right leading to a crossing over the railway tracks, the continuation of the walk.

    The route here will change at some point. Network Rail want to close this footpath crossing and in 2018 constructed a path going straight ahead to Hollingbourne station, where walkers would cross the tracks on the station footbridge. However, because of some dispute about disabled access this new footpath has not yet been opened. When you are forced to take this route, return along a farm track on the other side of the tracks and turn left in the field opposite to resume the walk.

    For the time being, cross the tracks with great care as trains not stopping at the station will be going very fast. Unless you want to finish the walk here (a farm track off to the left leads to a path going down to the station) keep ahead across the field. In 200m go through a gap in the line of trees and along the left-hand edge of the next field. In the next corner go over a stile to the right of a fieldgate and follow an enclosed grassy track into the village of Eyhorne Street.

    At the end of the track keep ahead on a residential street (Athelstan Green). At a T-junction turn left onto Musket Lane and then bear left in front of some old cottages onto the main road through the village. In 100m you reach the Windmill pub/restaurant on the right, one of two possible refreshment stops; the Sugar Loaves pub is a further 100m along the road.

    If you are doing the Curtailed Walk, go to §11 (to go directly to the station you could pick up the directions at [•] in §12).

  15. Eyhorne Street to Leeds Castle grounds (1¼ km)
  16. Take the footpath heading south-east from the Windmill pub. In the corner of a small meadow take a footpath on the right across the high-speed railway (HS1) and the M20. Turn left onto the A20, then in 175m turn right into Leeds Castle grounds.

    Take the driveway to the right of the Windmill pub, signposted to the Village Hall. After passing the pub's car park and the hall you reach some farm buildings, where you keep left to skirt around them. Follow the farm track through a gate, across a stream and around bends to the right and left, climbing gently. At the end of the hedge on your right, after about 125m, there is a gate with a yellow footpath marker.

    Turn right onto this narrow enclosed footpath, which can be overgrown. At the end go over a stile and follow a faint grassy path near the left-hand side of a small field to another stile in the top corner. Go over this and continue along the edge 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.

  17. Through Leeds Castle grounds (2¼ km)
  18. Leeds Castle Head south-west through a wood, across two golf fairways and down to a lake. Go past this and follow the right of way through parkland, gradually curving round to the left and eventually going alongside the end of the Great Water. Turn right in front of Leeds Castle's gatehouse, then left to stay alongside the moat. Go across another fairway and head east alongside an estate road. Veer left in front of a vehicle exit from the grounds and follow a path through trees and up steps to a lane.

    You should be especially careful in this section, where the directions follow rights of way. Leeds Castle Foundation charges for entry to its grounds and you are not entitled to stray from these public footpaths.

    Leeds Castle Unless you want to visit the Park Gate Inn (150m further along the main road) go through an old kissing gate onto the woodland path. At the end of the trees you come out onto a golf course where you continue in the same direction across a couple of fairways.

    Observe the warning notices as golfers on the first fairway are playing over the brow of a hill from the right and might not be able to see walkers on the public footpath.

    On the far side continue through some trees, across an estate road and down a slope between rhododendrons. At the bottom you come to a tarmac path, with a lake ahead on your left and the castle beyond it, 400m away.

    The main visitor entrance is 250m to the right down this tarmac path, signposted “Exit”. It is not a right of way but there would probably be no objection if you went down it to buy an entry ticket to the castle.

    To continue the walk, keep ahead on a path alongside the lake. 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 fork left, now with a line of trees on your right.

    On the brow of the hill you come to a path junction and turn left to go downhill on another broad grassy path, now heading SE. Shortly before this merges with a driveway coming in from the right, bear left to stay on the grassy path. This eventually goes up a short slope where you go out through a wooden gate onto the driveway.

    Continue down a slope, directly towards the castle gatehouse and soon with a lake (the Great Water) on your right. In front of the gatehouse follow the drive round to the right, going between the castle moat and the lake. In 100m turn left to stay alongside the moat, passing a restaurant on your right and with increasingly fine views of the Maiden's Tower and other castle buildings.

    Keep ahead past a “No Entry” sign (this is still a right of way), with an estate road on your right. Take care as you cross a golf 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 past a golf green and up steps on the right to a lane (Broomfield Road).

  19. Leeds Castle grounds to Hollingbourne Meadows (2½ km)
  20. Head east along the A20, under the M20 and HS1. Turn left into Greenway Court Road, then 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 the corner of a small meadow. Go down the side of a farm field and through a small wildflower meadow into the largest part of Hollingbourne Meadows.

    You will soon have to endure a fairly long stretch alongside the A20 (at the end of the lane to your left), but the footpath opposite cuts off a small part of it. Cross the lane carefully onto this footpath, which veers left and goes around the back of a golf tee before dropping down to a grassy verge beside the main road. Where the road bends left (and 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 along the road for 500m, passing under the M20 and HS1, then turn left into Greenway Court Road. At the end of the pavement turn left again onto a footpath across a field, heading NW towards a wood. When you reach 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 to a lane (Hospital Road).

    Turn right onto the lane. In 100m, shortly after passing an isolated house on the left, turn left onto a signposted footpath. Once again you follow a clear woodland path for about 400m, which after turning half-right and then back to the left heads W in a fairly straight line. At the end of the trees on your left go past an old stile and continue in the same direction along a field edge, with the wood on your right.

    At the end of the wood keep ahead across a gap to continue with a tall hedge on your right. At the end of the farm field go over a stile and follow the path past a small wood on your left. Continue along a fenced path beside a paddock, which comes out into the corner of a meadow (100m away from your outward route). Veer right and go out through the right-hand of two exits from this corner of the meadow (not the more obvious gap leading into another meadow).

    Go down the side of a farm field, with a hedge on your left. At the bottom of the slope veer right onto a broad grassy path through a small wildflower meadow, curving round to the left over a small rise. On the far side a plank bridge over a ditch takes you into the largest part of Hollingbourne Meadows10.

    Unless you want to make a circuit around this meadow, turn left onto a broad grassy path.

    • Optional Meadows loop (+¾ km)
    • For a clockwise circuit of this meadow go straight ahead onto a broad grassy avenue lined with memorial trees, with a grazing enclosure (Godfrey Field) on your left. Before reaching a bridge under the railway embankment, veer right to continue on a grassy path around the perimeter.

      There are winding paths cutting across the centre of the meadow which would shorten the loop, but for the full circuit follow the perimeter path all the way around the meadow. At the end you pass the small wildflower meadow behind a hedge on your left and go straight across your outward route at the path crossing where you entered the meadow.

    Complete the directions at §12.

  21. Eyhorne Street to Hollingbourne Meadows direct (1½ km)
  22. Take the footpath heading south-east from the Windmill pub and bear left through a small meadow. Go down the side of a farm field and through a small wildflower meadow into the largest part of Hollingbourne Meadows. Go straight ahead at a path crossing and make a clockwise circuit of this large meadow, returning to this point.

    Shortly before reaching this footpath fork left onto a broad grassy path cutting across the meadow to the next corner. On the far side keep ahead to go out through the right-hand of two wide gaps (not the more obvious one leading into another meadow).

  23. Hollingbourne Meadows to Hollingbourne Station (1 km)
  24. Go to the corner of the large meadow and bear left along the side of a smaller meadow. Go down a track into Eyhorne Street and continue along the main road to reach the Sugar Loaves pub, with the Windmill 100m further on. Take the footpath off the north side of the village street, between the 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.

    Go up to the corner of the meadow and bear left through a gap in the hedge to continue along the right-hand side of a small triangular meadow. In the far corner go through a side gate to the right of a metal fieldgate and continue on a broad track. This soon merges with a driveway from the left and leads out to Eyhorne Street at a bend. Keep ahead on the main road to reach the Sugar Loaves pub on the left in 100m, with the Windmill (which you passed earlier) a further 100m along the road.

    [•] To complete the walk take a signposted footpath on the north side of the village street, 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 a gap 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 cross a farm track via a couple of awkward stiles and go down a narrow path to the station. Platform 1 on the near side is for trains to London.

Walk Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Hollingbourne is made up of three settlements, with the main part (around the church) being 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.
  3. Hollingbourne Manor is an Elizabethan manor house dating from the late 16thC.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. White Horse Wood Country Park was established by Kent County Council as a Millennium site in 2000.
  9. 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.
  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: May 23, 2019

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