Out via the National Trust's Knole Park, House, and Igtham Mote. Back by the Greensand Way along the escarpment of the Kent Downs.
Main walk: 16.3km (10.1 miles)
With extension to Shipbourne: 18.5km (11.5 miles)
3 out of 10: gentle gradients
OS Explorer 147, OS Landranger 188
This walk goes through a lovely slice of Kentish countryside, starting by passing through the deer park of the National Trust owned Knole House (the house can be visited at either the start or the end of the walk) and then carrying on into a gentle area of fields and woods. There are currently some lavender fields at the end of this section (in flower late June to July).
You then descend through newly coppiced woodland to Ightham Mote (pronounced "I-tam"), a rare moated manor house, also owned by the National Trust, whose self-service restaurant is an option for lunch or tea.
The real glory of the walk comes next: a wonderful stretch of the Greensand Way which slowly climbs the escarpment of the Kent Downs with superb views over the Weald to the south. This is especially enchanting in late April when it has many fine bluebell woods (particularly around One Tree Hill) and one wild garlic wood too. Finally the walk finishes by passing through Knole Park once again.
In late October or early November the walk also offers lovely leaf colour, with plenty of golden beeches and a wide range of other trees. Particularly common in this area are sweet chestnuts, whose leaves turn a lovely yellowy-gold and whose nuts litter the ground in late October. In winter many paths on this walk have relatively firm surfaces, though there is inevitably some mud.
Knole Park Golf Club have asked us to point out that part of Knole Park is a golf course. They are concerned about walkers wandering onto the course at random. However, if you stick to the specified walk route, this should not be an issue. The two points where the walk crosses a fairway are in paragraph 9 of the directions, where it is clearly signed, and on the approach to Knole House in paragraph 80 on the more scenic route.
The Padwell Arms and the Snail in Stone Street were formerly pub lunch options on this walk, but both are currently (January 2018) closed, with no sign of imminent reopening. An optional extra loop has therefore been added to the walk taking you to the wonderful Chaser Inn in Shipbourne for lunch, which adds 2.2km (1.4 miles) to the walk length, making a total circular walk from Sevenoaks of 18.5km (11.5 miles). Since this crosses some low-lying fields it is muddier in winter than the rest of the walk. Towards the end of the loop there is fairly steep but scenic climb up onto the escarpment.
A fairly regular bus - the 222 - leaves outside The Chaser Inn on Monday to Fridays (eight departures) and Saturday (five departures). There is no service on Sunday or bank holidays. The buses run to Tonbridge station in one direction and in the other to Borough Green station, which is on the Maidstone to Victoria line.
There are several fast trains an hour from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge to Sevenoaks. You can also get to Sevenoaks on slower Thameslink services from Blackfriars via Bromley South, which in May 2018 are due to become through services through central London.
Either way aim to start the walk at 10.45am to get to Ightham Mote or the Chaser Inn comfortably in time for lunch. In spring and summer it is also possible to start an hour later, and have lunch in at the Bucks Head in Godden Green and then tea at Ightham Mote.
|Lunch and tea||
There are early lunch options at the National Trust-run Brewhouse Cafe at Knole House, 2.6km (1.6 miles) into the walk, and at at the Bucks Head (01732 761 330) in Godden Green, 3.9km (2.4 miles) into the walk: the latter serves food until 12-2pm Tuesday to Friday, 12-3pm on Saturday and 12-3pm Sundays (it is closed on Mondays).
More centrally placed is the National Trust-run self service restaurant at Ightham Mote (8.4km/5.2 miles into the walk), which these days is open year round till 5pm (4pm November to early February) and does hot dishes and soup from 12pm to 2.30pm.
Two other former pub lunch options on this walk - The Padwell and the Snail at Stone Street - are both currently (January 2018) closed with no sign of re-opening, but an optional extra loop to the walk (see Walk options above) takes you to the excellent Chaser Inn in Shipbourne (01732 810360), 9.7km (6 miles) into the walk, which serves food all afternoon and evening daily. This is a large pub with a range of different seating areas including outside tables in summer in a garden next to the church: however it is also popular and booking might not be a bad idea.
For tea the Brewhouse Cafe at Knole House is recommended. It is open till 5pm daily (4pm November to early February). Otherwise Sevenoaks has several cafes including Malabar, open till 6pm daily and a Caffe Nero which stays open until 6.30pm Monday to Saturday and 5.30pm Sunday.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk