Staplehurst to Headcorn or Cranbrook walk

An easy walk through fields in the Kentish Weald, with some fine bluebell woods en route, and an option to visit Sissinghurst Gardens (NT).

Tea at Sissinghurst

Tea at Sissinghurst

20-Apr-22 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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Bluebell wood


07-May-06 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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Celandine Staplehurst to Headcorn


Staplehurst to Headcorn

04-Apr-09 • moontiger on Flickr

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Oilseed rape Staplehurst to Headcorn

Oilseed rape

Staplehurst to Headcorn

23-Apr-11 • moontiger on Flickr

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Bluebells Staplehurst to Headcorn


Staplehurst to Headcorn

23-Apr-11 • moontiger on Flickr

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Bluebell wood in Kent MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Bluebell wood in Kent


07-May-06 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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Wood anenomes Staplehurst to Headcorn

Wood anenomes

Staplehurst to Headcorn

04-Apr-09 • moontiger on Flickr

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Staplehurst to Headcorn: 13.1km (8.1 miles)

Staplehurst to Sissinghurst: 12.6km (7.8 miles)

Staplehurst to Cranbrook: 15.2km (9.4 miles)

a) Staplehurst to Goudhurst: 22km (13.6 miles)

b) Longer walk via Sissinghurst 19.8km (12.2 miles)

c) Sissinghurst to Headcorn 11.8km (7.3 miles)




OS Explorer 136 & 137; OS Landranger 188

Walk notes

Once you get clear of a new housing estate on the outskirts of Staplehurst, the morning of this walk is an easy stroll through fields and woods in the Low Weald of Kent, with a very fine bluebell wood en route from mid April to early May, and good displays of wood anemones from mid March to mid April. The whole route is wonderful for wild flowers in late April and early May.

After lunch at Frittenden you then have the choice of carrying on over low-lying fields to the pretty Kent village of Headcorn, which has a railway station, or diverting south to the National Trust-owned Sissinghurst Castle, the former home of the diplomat Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, the writer now more famous as the lesbian lover of Virginia Woolf.

The house was originally a moated Tudor mansion, which fell into disrepair until only a few buildings – including the gatetower and the stable buildings were left. Nicholson and Sackville-West bought the property in 1930 and created the famous gardens that are now maintained by the National Trust. Notoriously, each lived in their own separate building – Sackville-West in the tower, Nicholson in the nearby house, only coming together in the communal living room in the stable block. A member of the family still lives on the property, though it has been owned by the National Trust since 1962. The gardens are open daily from mid March to December, but the permissive paths across the estate used by this walk are open year round.

Beyond Sissinghurst the walk takes you to Sissinghurst village, from where there are buses back to Staplehurst station. Or you can continue for 2.6km (1.6 miles) to the very pretty town of Cranbrook, which is served by the same buses as Sissinghurst and which has various tea options and a working windmill that still grinds corn.

Walk options

a) Extension to Goudhurst This option continues on from Cranbrook on the High Weald Landscape Trail from Cranbrook for 6.8km (4.2 miles) to the attractive hilltop village of Goudhurst, making a total walk from Staplehurst of 22km (13.6 miles). A problem here is that the village has a rather restricted bus service (including no Sunday or bank holiday service) - see Transport below. The route at first passes through a large area of woodland and then across open hillsides with fine views of Goudhurst as you approach that have an almost Tuscan feel to them.

b) Long walk to Headcorn via Sissinghurst This option allows you to visit Sissinghurst Castle and then end at Headcorn, but after a fairly long section on a quiet (almost entirely traffic-free) tarmac lane, the way is by little-used paths, with stiles and signposts that have not always been well-maintained, making route finding challenging at times. It is 9.5km (5.9 miles) from Sissinghurst Castle to Headcorn, making a total walk from Staplehurst of 18.8km (12.2 miles).

c) Sissinghurst to Headcorn You can use Arriva bus no 5 from Staplehurst to start the walk from Sissinghurst village. Permissive National Trust paths take you to the Sissinghurst Gardens in 2.3km (1.4 miles), and you can then do the 9.5km (5.9 miles) option b) route to Headcorn: but see the description above for the challenges of this route. This makes a total walk from Sissnghurst village to Headcorn of 11.8km (7.3 miles).


Staplehurst is on the line between Tonbridge and Ashford, and is served by twice hourly Charing Cross and London Bridge. Journey time is about 1 hour. Catch the train nearest to 9.30am from Charing Cross to Staplehurst to get to the lunch pub in time.

If ending at Headcorn, this is the station beyond Staplehurst, served by the same trains, so buy a day return to Headcorn.

If planning to finish in Sissinghurst or Cranbrook, a day return to Staplehurst is sufficient. Once you get to Sissinghurst village of Cranbrook, you will need to use Arriva bus number 5 to get you back to Staplehurst station. At time of writing the buses go from Cranbrook go roughly hourly until around 8pm Monday to Friday, and 7pm on Saturdays, serving Sissinghurst village 7 minutes later. On Sunday the buses are only every two hours - 13.05, 15.05, 17.05 (the last bus).

For option a) Extension to Goudhurst, the buses work best Mondays to Fridays, when bus number 27 takes you in just 13 minutes to Marden railway station (the station before Staplehurst and so covered by a Staplehurst day return) at 17.15 or 18.45. On Saturdays only the 17.15 runs, but there is an 18.31 number 297 bus (direction Tenterden) to Cranbrook, arriving 18.46, in time to catch the 18.56 number 5 bus to Staplehurst station mentioned in the previous paragraph. In the other direction the 297 goes to Tunbridge Wells, the last bus from Goudhurst being the 18.11. This takes 50 minutes, but Tunbridge Wells has a regular train service to London until late. You would probably need to buy a train ticket from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge, though a Staplehurst return may just be accepted if you explain you have done a walk. There are no buses from Goudhurst on Sundays or bank holidays.


The Bell and Jorrocks, Frittenden, TN14 7QB (01580 852415). Food served noon-2.30pm Wednesday to Saturday and to 3.30pm Sunday. Located 7.1km (4.4 miles) from the start of the walk, this is the suggested lunch stop and the only lunch option if doing the standard walk to Headcorn. Groups should definitely book, as this is a small family-run pub and cannot cope with large numbers of customers turning up unexpectedly.

On the Sissinghurst, Cranbrook or Goudhurst endings of the walk Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, 3.2km (2 miles) beyond Frittenden - or 2.3k (1.4 miles) from the start of option c) - have a National Trust self-service restaurant and tea room which can be accessed without paying an entrance fee to the site. It does hot meals from midday to 3pm, and serves tea until 5.30pm daily from mid March to the end of December. There is also a separate small cafe, near the entrance to the car park.

If you are doing the Cranbrook or Goudhurst endings, the Milk House pub, (01580 720200, a gastro pub in Sissinghurst village, is a possible late lunch stop, 12.6km (7.8 miles) into the walk.


Bill's Village Tea Rooms (01622 890682) are a very nice tea option in Headcorn, but they close rather early at 4.45pm Mondays to Saturdays and 4.30pm on Sunday. Just as good is the George and Dragon (01622 890239), a very friendly and cosy pub which offers both full cream teas and excellent food well into the evening. There is also a Costa Coffee just before the George & Dragon.

On the Sissinghurst ending, Sissinghurst Castle's self-service restaurant is the obvious tea stop if you have had lunch in Frittenden. 2.3km/1.4 miles further on, the Milk House pub in Sissinghurst village is another possible tea stop. See Lunch above for more details of these.

In Cranbrook the most obvious tea place as you arrive in the village is the George Hotel, a pleasant enough old coaching inn with comfortable seating. Otherwise, the various cafes nearby close frustratingly early, especially at weekends. Arthur's, directly opposite the George, is only open until 4pm Monday to Saturday and 3pm on Sunday, for example. Kypseli, a greek taverna next door, advertises itself as serving coffee and cake (as well as some lovely gooey puddings) and is open until 10pm, but in practice after about 5pm it is preparing for its evening meal service. The nearby Wendy House cafe is open till 5pm Monday to Friday but only 4.30pm on Saturdays and 2.30pm Sundays. Lastly Costa Coffee, 100 metres beyond the number 5 bus stop, which used to be a late tea option, now shuts at 4.30pm Monday to Saturday and 4pm Sunday.

If you end in Goudhurst, the Star and Eagle Hotel does tea in pots: alternatively the Vine Inn has the advantage of overlooking the bus stop and has outside tables where you can sit and wait for your bus. In between these two options the high street does have a cafe or two but they close at 5pm.

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Start TN12 0QR Map Directions Return to the start:

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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


May-22 Chris L Peter

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Walk Directions  

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