Medieval bridges and churches in an attractive part of the Medway Valley
Main Walk: 14 km (8.7 miles). Three hours 20 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours.
Extended Walk 1, with Nettlestead ‘preamble’: 17¼ km (10.7 miles). Four hours 5 minutes walking time.
Extended Walk 2, finishing at Yalding: 16¾ km (10.4 miles). Four hours walking time.
Long Walk, with both extensions: 20 km (12.4 miles). Four hours 45 minutes walking time.
Explorer 148. Wateringbury, map reference TQ691529, is in Kent, 7 km WSW of Maidstone.
3 out of 10 (4 for the Long Walk).
This short walk explores a part of the Medway Valley described by William Cobbett in 1823 as “the finest seven miles that I have ever seen in England…with hop gardens and orchards two miles deep”. Sadly there are no hop gardens and fewer orchards to be seen now, but even though the area is close to Kent's county town of Maidstone it is still very rural in character.
The walk route is in the form of a Figure-of-8, intermingling sections alongside the river with short excursions into the low hills on either side. 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 route also passes two ancient churches but unfortunately these are usually locked.
There are several possible lunch pubs and an appropriately-named café towards the end, in the marina across the river from Wateringbury station.
If you want to abandon the walk there are frequent buses along the A26 (see below), and halfway round you could take a train back from East Farleigh station.
Conversely, directions have been provided for short extensions at both ends of the walk. For a pre-walk extension (or ‘preamble’) you could loop out to the edge of Wateringbury village, returning via Nettlestead. For a post-walk extension you could continue along the riverside path to the next station along the line, Yalding.
There are no further refreshment opportunities on the Yalding finish unless you extend it with a further loop out to Twyford Bridge, but an alternative would be to switch to the Yalding Circular walk (#320) after crossing Teston Bridge, in either the morning or afternoon. This would take you over a low hill and back through the village, passing several pubs and cafés there as well as at Twyford Bridge.
Yalding, Wateringbury and East Farleigh are adjacent stations on the Medway Valley branch line (Paddock Wood–Maidstone West–Strood), with an hourly off-peak service on this section of the line.
The suggested route is to travel via Tonbridge/Paddock Wood, taking around 1 hour 10 minutes. A return to Wateringbury is also valid on two other routes, giving more flexibility for the return journey: via Maidstone (walking from Maidstone Barracks to Maidstone East for trains to Victoria); or via Strood, although you would need a "Plus High Speed" supplement for those trains.
There are frequent buses to Maidstone along the A26, which is close to the walk route at Teston Bridge, in both the morning and afternoon. There is also an irregular service (Mon–Sat) through Farleigh Green and East Farleigh.
If driving, there are small free car parks at Wateringbury and Yalding stations.
Take the train nearest to 10:15 from Charing Cross to Wateringbury, changing at Tonbridge or Paddock Wood (or the High Speed train via Strood if you prefer). If you are doing either of the extensions an earlier train would be better.
There is a choice of traditional village pubs for refreshments on this walk. At the highest point of the walk (after 4½ km, or 7¾ km with the pre-walk extension) the Good Intent (01622-812426; food to 3pm Tue–Sat, 4pm Sun, not Mon) in Farleigh Green serves good-value pub food.
The alternatives are 2–2½ km further on in East Farleigh, about halfway round the Main Walk. The nicely-refurbished Bull Inn (01622-583149; food to 3pm Mon–Sat, 4pm Sun) is at the top of the village by the church; a little further on The Victory (01622-298234) is on the other side of the river.
There are two refreshment places near Wateringbury station. The Ramblers Rest Café (0333-666 6364; open daily to at least 4pm winter, 5pm summer) in Medway Wharf Marina shares its premises with a Pet Shop and describes itself as a “quirky bistro café with alfresco seating”. For stronger fare The Railway pub (01622-812911; closed Mon) is on the B2015 opposite the station car park.
If you continue alongside the river to finish at Yalding station you will probably have to do the additional 2 km mini-extension for any further refreshments. The Boathouse pub (01622-814359) and the “bistro-style café” on Teapot Island (01622-814541; open to 4pm Mon–Fri, 5pm Sat, Sun & BH in summer; one hour earlier in winter) are on opposite sides of the river at Twyford Bridge.
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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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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Main Walk (14 km)
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- 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 up the 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, briefly joining the Medway Valley Walk (MVW). Do not cross the river at Bow Bridge but stay on the riverside path on the north bank.
- For the ‘preamble’, 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). Follow it 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 up to the minor road on Bow Bridge. Leave the MVW (which temporarily switches to the other bank) and cross the road to continue on the tarmac lane opposite, going down a slope to Bow Bridge Marina.
- If starting the walk here, go out through the station car park and turn left onto Bow Hill. Go over the level crossing and immediately turn left onto the riverside path.
Starting from Wateringbury Station (+¼ km)
- Go out through the small station car park and veer left onto the minor road (Bow Hill) branching off the B2015. Go over the level crossing and immediately turn left again onto the tarmac lane leading down to Bow Bridge Marina.
- Go through a gate to the left of the small marina building and continue along the lane. Later, take the right fork where it splits to stay close to the boats and barges moored along the River Medway. At the end of the lane go through a wooden fieldgate to continue along the riverbank.
- Where the path splits fork left as indicated to stay on the right of way; the patch of grassland next to the river here is for anglers. After the two paths rejoin a long stretch of boardwalk takes you through an area of wet woodland. The next 250m is along a broad grassy strip dotted with trees, at the end of which you go through a wooden gate into Teston Bridge Country Park?.
- There is a map of the park on an information panel and you could take a direct route through it (up a small rise and across a couple of meadows), but the suggested route is to stay closer to the river. In 600m some stretches of boardwalk take you over Teston Canoe and Fish Pass and past Teston Lock?, with the ruins of Tutsham Mill? on the opposite bank.
As you approach the medieval Teston Bridge? fork left off the riverside path into Bridge Meadow, with a fine view of Barham Court? ahead, 500m away. Go up a small slope and through a wooden gate onto the B2163.
If you detour across the meadow (which has picnic tables) to visit the refreshment kiosk in the car park or use the toilets, you could leave the park through the vehicle entrance and turn right; there is a pavement for the small stretch of road up to the bridge.
If you want to abandon the walk there are buses to Maidstone along the A26 off to the left.
- If you detour across the meadow (which has picnic tables) to visit the refreshment kiosk in the car park or use the toilets, you could leave the park through the vehicle entrance and turn right; there is a pavement for the small stretch of road up to the bridge.
- Cross the river on Teston Bridge and take the short permissive path to the left of the road. At the end go through a gate and continue on a grassy path heading east across two fields to a third, with a cricket pitch. Either bear left to West Farleigh church and turn right up Church Lane, or take a short cut straight ahead to the junction of the B2010 (Lower Road) and Church Lane. From the junction head east along the B2010 for 300m and turn right into Charlton Lane. Go all the way up the hill to the Good Intent pub in the north-western corner of Farleigh Green.
- Cross the river carefully on the narrow road bridge, using the refuges when necessary to avoid the traffic. On the far side veer left onto a short permissive path parallel to the road. At the end join the public footpath coming up steps from the road and go through a metal kissing gate.
Take the clear grassy path heading E across two fields, going through a squeeze gate in the tree boundary between them. On the far side go out through a kissing gate into another field, with a cricket pitch off to the left and a choice of two grassy paths towards it.
If you want to take a closer look at West Farleigh church, take the alternative route in [?].
- Take the right-hand path across the field, later passing the cricket pitch on your left. Continue through a copse to the junction of Church Lane and the B2010. Bear left onto the pavement beside the main road.
Route via Church (+150m)
Take the left-hand path along the field edge, then go through a wooden gate to pass the cricket pitch on your right. Go over a stile and turn right onto Church Lane.
- You could detour ahead into the churchyard of All Saints?, but the church itself is often locked.
- Go up Church Lane to its T-junction with the B2010 and turn left onto the pavement beside the main road.
- Go along the pavement for 300m, with a low stone wall on your left and the spacious grounds of Court Lodge visible through the railings. Just before the gated entrance to the mansion, cross the road carefully into Charlton Lane. The route continues almost all the way up this quiet lane, climbing steadily and with a pavement for most of the way.
- In 800m ignore a signposted footpath on the right. In a further 100m fork right onto a side road, passing to the right of a small triangular green. In 100m this comes to the Good Intent pub (the early lunch stop) at the north-western corner of the main village green.
- Go to the top of Charlton Lane and turn sharp left into Kettle Lane. In 300m take a little-used footpath on the right across fields and orchards (with little or no waymarking) to Gallants Lane. Turn left onto the lane, then in 200m take a footpath on the right through a small wood and across more fields to the B2010. Turn right and go along the road to East Farleigh church and the Bull Inn at the top of Station Hill. Go down Station Hill and across East Farleigh Bridge.
- From the pub go diagonally across the green to the junction of Charlton Lane and the B2163. Ignore a footpath sign into a field and turn sharp left onto Kettle Lane. Follow this “unsuitable for motor vehicles” lane for 300m, past a few houses and then a paddock. Shortly after a metal fieldgate into the paddock turn right through an easily-missed wooden kissing gate, with a footpath signpost hidden in the tall hedge.
Head E across the corner of a large field to the tree boundary 100m away, where a narrow path through the trees leads into another field. Follow a faint grassy path up to an orchard and bear right to go alongside the trees, zig-zagging left and right and eventually heading NE. At the end of the trees turn left briefly onto a farm track, then veer right to go along the left-hand edge of a large field.
At the point where you turn off this track there is a footpath waymarker on an old stile in the tall hedge behind you. The right of way presumably cuts through the orchard for the previous 200m, but there is no trace of this route on the ground.
- The next turning is easy to miss. About 100m before the end of the field there is an inconspicuous footpath waymarker on a post in the hedge, where you turn half-right to head E across the field. There was no path when checked and you need to look carefully for a small gap in the hedge on the far side, 100m away. Go through this and down a flight of steps in the bank to a road (Gallants Lane).
- Turn left and follow Gallants Lane downhill for 200m. Just after the entrance to “Cokehurst” turn right onto a signposted footpath into a small wood, heading E. Keep ahead and leave through a wooden gate on the far side, going down a few steps into a field.
- Bear left across the field towards a group of converted oast houses visible through a wide gap in the line of poplars opposite. Go through this gap and turn half-right to go straight across the next field. On the far side turn left to go along the field edge to the B2010 (Lower Road again), coming out opposite Court Lodge Farm Oast?.
Cross the road carefully and turn right onto the pavement. After the road bends left you pass the ornate Old School Hall? and the parish church of St Mary? on the left. At the junction with Station Hill the Bull Inn (the later lunch stop) is directly opposite.
- The church is usually locked, but a detour to the back of the churchyard would reveal a fine view across the Medway Valley.
Go down Station Hill towards the river. At the bottom there is a patch of grass with an information panel about the history of the medieval East Farleigh Bridge?. Make your way carefully across the narrow bridge (which has no refuges from the traffic), with a view of East Farleigh Lock? on the right. There is a level crossing ahead, with East Farleigh station's two platforms on either side.
- If you want to abandon the walk, 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). If you have a long wait, The Victory pub is just up the road.
For the main route, go over the level crossing on Farleigh Lane and turn right onto a footpath opposite The Victory pub. Follow it past The Oast and loop back to Farleigh Lane. Continue on Rectory Lane opposite and then a footpath between orchards to Court Lodge Farm. Turn left and go down South Street to Barming Bridge.
- Alternatively, make your way past some old waterworks buildings to the riverside path. Turn right and follow the Medway Towpath to Barming Bridge.
Main route (2¼ km)
- Go over the level crossing and continue briefly up the right-hand side of the road (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.
Fork left up a broad grassy strip through Little Fant Farm, passing an ‘Honesty Hut’ with farm produce on the right and a triangular area with trestle tables on the left (where refreshments are available in a Tea Barn on summer Sundays). At the top of the slope go through a gate on the left to walk along a grassy track at the top of the field, with a tall hedge on your right and views across the Medway Valley to the left.
A notice on the gate shows that this is a permitted route across the farmland, running parallel to the public footpath (in a gloomy tree tunnel in the hedge).
- The grassy track curves left and goes gently downhill to meet a farm track. This is not one of the farm's permitted routes so you need to go through a gate in the hedge to switch to the public footpath, which leads out to a road (Farleigh Lane again). Cross over carefully to continue in the same direction on Rectory Lane opposite.
- Follow this quiet lane for 450m, past a few cottages and with orchards on both sides. Shortly after a right-hand bend turn left by a large cedar tree onto a signposted footpath. You could simply stay on this long straight farm track between orchards, but halfway along look through a wide gap in the hedge on your right: at the time of writing there was a ‘Permissive Access’ notice allowing you to walk through the orchard.
- At the end of the trees rejoin the footpath and follow it out between buildings. Turn left onto a lane (South Street) and go all the way down the hill. After going under the railway bridge do not cross Barming Bridge? but turn right through a gate onto the riverside path.
Riverside route (1¼ km)
Between the bridge and the level crossing turn left onto a driveway past an old Maidstone Waterworks building, which is also a right of way. As indicated by a series of FOOTPATH► signs, keep ahead between some converted buildings and veer left just before reaching the gated entrance to a caravan park. Follow a short path out to the river and turn right onto the Medway Towpath?.
Alternatively, turning left (going under the bridge and past the lock) would get you to the centre of Maidstone in around 3½ km.
- A raised footbridge soon takes you across the entrance to a small marina and the river curves round to the right. Where the surfaced track ends at Barming Bridge? go across a track (where the main route rejoins from the right) and through a gate to continue on the riverside path.
This section simply follows the Medway Valley Walk (MVW), with the river on your left for the first 2 km. At Teston Bridge cross the river and go up the short permissive path again, but this time turn sharp right at the end. Take the lane on the other side of the B2163 past Mill Cottages, later swinging left to Tutsham. Turn right in front of Tutsham Hall to continue past farm buildings and across a field, gradually returning to the river. Follow the path through Waregrave's Wood and across water meadows to reach a lane (Bow Hill) opposite the entrance to Medway Wharf Marina and its Ramblers Rest Café.
- If finishing the walk here, cross the river on Bow Bridge and go over the level crossing. Veer right through the station car park to the platforms.
This section simply follows the Medway Valley Walk? (MVW) all the way back to Bow Bridge. The first 2 km is along a broad strip of grassland dotted with trees, with the river on your left; there are occasional gates to negotiate and wooden footbridges to take you across side streams. As you approach Teston Bridge for the second time, bear right onto a grassy path and go over a stile onto the B2163.
As before, if you want to abandon the walk there are buses to Maidstone along the A26 off to the right.
- Repeat your earlier route across the bridge and up the short permissive path, but this time turn sharp right in front of the gate and go down a flight of steps. Cross the road carefully and take the No Through Road opposite, towards Tutsham. In 400m the lane passes a few houses in a dip and then the white-painted row of Mill Cottages.
- Go past a cattle grid and continue along the lane for a further 400m, past a WWⅡ pill box in open countryside with fine views of the river valley. The lane eventually bends left towards the cluster of buildings at Tutsham. Go over a stile by another cattle grid and turn right in front of the ivied Tutsham Hall?.
- Follow the lane past some farm buildings in a dip, over a small rise and then straight across a parking area in front of a barn conversion. Keep ahead on a faint grassy path up a slope and then down across a large field, slightly to the right and gradually descending towards the river.
- At the bottom follow the path round to the left, down a slope and through a metal side gate onto a path along the bottom edge of Waregrave's Wood, close to the river on your right. At the end of the wood a section of boardwalk takes you into a water meadow.
- Continue along the right-hand edge of the meadow, crossing a stile along the way. A small plank footbridge gets you across a boggy section and the path then bears slightly left, away from the boundary fence. On the far side go through a partly-concealed metal kissing gate in the line of trees and bear slightly right to continue across more meadows (possibly partioned with temporary fencing), heading W.
- On the far side you might have to negotiate a boggy section in front of a metal gate taking you out of the meadow. Go across a patch of grass and over a stile to emerge on a minor road (Bow Hill) almost opposite the entrance to Medway Wharf Marina, with its Ramblers Rest Café in an old boat house by the river.
Finishing at Wateringbury Station (+¼ km)
- To complete the walk, return to the lane and cross the river on Bow Bridge. Go over the level crossing and veer right into the small station car park (unless you want some post-walk refreshments in The Railway pub across the road). Platform 2 on this side is for trains to Maidstone and Strood; cross the footbridge to Platform 1 for trains to Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.
Cross the river on Bow Bridge and turn left onto the riverside path. Follow the MVW to the B2162 by Hampstead Marina, where Yalding station is 125m away along the road to the right.
- For a longer extension, turn left onto the road and follow it to the pub and café at Twyford Bridge. The suggested return route is on a footpath heading west through Yalding Fen, then alongside the railway to the station.
- For the post-walk extension to Yalding (which starts by reversing the end of the pre-walk extension), return to the lane and cross the river on Bow Bridge. In front of the level crossing turn left down either of two tarmac lanes, passing the (closed) Riverside Restaurant. Go past a wooden fieldgate and follow the long driveway between a caravan park and boats moored on the river.
- At the end cross a stream on a wooden footbridge to continue along the riverside path. In 500m there is a path across the railway on the right where you could make an out-and-back detour up the pre-walk extension route to the church of St Mary the Virgin?.
- Otherwise, simply continue along the riverside path for a further 1½ km. There are views back to Nettlestead Place? and later of Kenward House?, 400m away across the river. The path eventually swings right to follow the canal arm of the river. Keep ahead where another footpath merges from the right and follow the path out to the B2162 by Hampstead Marina.
- Yalding station is 125m away. Unless you want to do the additional mini-extension below (which goes past some more refreshment places), turn right onto the B2162 and go through the station car park to Platform 1 for trains to Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.
Detour via Twyford Bridge (+2 km)
- Turn left onto the B2162, crossing the canal above Hampstead Lock. In 250m you might find a seasonal café open, on the left. A further 500m alongside the canal brings you to two popular refreshment stops, facing each other across the Medway by the medieval Twyford Bridge?: the large Boathouse pub and the café on Teapot Island?.
- For a different route back to Yalding station, take the private road (which is also a public footpath) across the canal on a drawbridge, going past the Boathouse car park. Before reaching the last house on this road go over a stile on the right onto the continuation of the footpath, a short fenced path leading to a small grassy area.
Ignore a fieldgate ahead and veer left across the grass. Go over a stile and bear right onto a broad grassy avenue heading W through a community orchard, passing an information panel showing a ‘Meadow Discovery Trail’ around Yalding Fen?. At the far end go over a stile and turn right as indicated onto a grassy path skirting around a pond.
- For a longer exploration of this small wildlife area you could turn left instead, following the nature trail shown on the information panel. The outward route along a boardwalk through a meadow is obvious but the continuation back to the public footpath is less clear, with few waymarkers.
- On the far side of the pond the public footpath straightens out to head W again. Keep ahead at path crossings, eventually passing another pond on the right and going up a short slope to the railway line. Go over a stile and cross the tracks carefully (with Yalding station visible off to the right, 500m away). Follow the path down to the right and over another stile.
- You have to negotiate a short but potentially waterlogged path along the edge of some wet woodland before reaching the corner of a field. Keep ahead along its right-hand edge. Shortly before reaching the far side fork right onto a narrow and potentially overgrown path between garden hedges (the left fork leads to a private garden).
- At the end turn right onto the B2162, go over the level crossing and turn left into the station car park. Trains to Paddock Wood and Tonbridge leave from Platform 1, on the near side.
» Last updated: October 12, 2020