Mereworth & the Kentish Weald
16.8km (10.4 miles), 5 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 9 hours.
3 out of 10.
Explorer 148 or Landranger 188. Yalding, map reference TQ 685 502, is in Kent, 10km north-east of Tonbridge.
This is an easy walk through the woods and fields of the Kent countryside, without too much in the way of hills. You will, however, need gumboots in muddy weather. The walk starts beside the River Medway, follows the Greensand Way to Roydon Hall (once the self-styled Maharishi's 'Capital of the Age of Enlightenment') and then goes on to the lunch stop in Mereworth, a village dominated by its massive Palladian church, the steeple of which is visible for miles around. After lunch, the walk is principally through the vast Mereworth Woods (very muddy in winter) on the Wealdway, then up following a stream to Borough Green. You will need long trousers for one short stretch in late summer (nettles).
There are 2 options, both of which visit an alternate pub for lunch, the Beeches route, and the Swan on the Green route.
You can get a bus about once an hour to either Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells from a stop on the way into Mereworth near the church.
Roydon Hall is a Tudor manor house, built in 1535, which has changed ownership only three times: in 1834 from the Roydon/Twysden family to William Cook, a city merchant who accepted it in settlement of debts, in 1974 from the Cook family to the Maharishi for his Transcendental Meditation centre until it again changed hands much more recently. In the nineteenth century, a water diviner told the Cook family to dig into the lawn - where they found a collection of large silver dishes, probably buried in the Civil War.
The Church of St Lawrence, Mereworth, has been described as 'one of the most remarkable neo-classical churches in Europe' with a portico supported by six Tuscan columns, and a steeple 'so tall', wrote Horace Walpole, 'that the poor church curtsies under it'. Admiral Charles Lucas, who won the first Victoria Cross in 1854 for throwing overboard a live shell that hit his ship, is buried in the churchyard.
Take the train nearest to 10am from Charing Cross Station to Yalding, changing at Tonbridge or Paddock Wood. Journey time about 1 hour 5 minutes. Trains back from Borough Green to Victoria run twice an hour (hourly on Sundays). Journey time 45 minutes. Buy a day return to Yalding; although on a different line, this is acceptable for the return journey from Borough Green.
The Queens Head (tel 01622 812 534) in Butcher's Lane, Mereworth, has a spacious dining room at the rear. It serves basic pub grub for lunch at weekends but is not open before 3pm Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturdays.
Walkers finding the pub closed or not serving food should continue to the Beeches Country Pub and Restaurant (formerly the Old Beech Inn), 501 Seven Miles Lane, Mereworth (tel 01622 813 038), serving food midday to 2.30pm weekdays, and all day at weekends (but closed Mondays). This establishment now welcomes walkers and serves some light dishes (Tuesday to Saturday) as well as main courses and roasts on Sundays.
A further alternative, particularly pleasant in summer, requiring a detour starting at point  in the directions is the Swan on the Green (tel 01622 812 271), an attractive country pub in the village of West Peckham, which serves food in informal and formal (restaurant) areas between midday to 2 pm weekdays and midday to 3 pm on Sundays.
The Henry Simmonds pub, Wrotham Road, Borough Green, by the station, is open daily till at least 10.30pm, with food till 8pm (not Mondays, and to 6pm Sundays).
Online version has an optional diverson to a new lunch pub
Old editions must use the online version to avoid a no longer permissive path along a private drive
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 1. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
It is not easy to return to the start of the walk by car, as the 2 stations are on different railway lines.
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.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  Coming off the London train go over the bridge and exit Yalding Station by a gate in the new fence. Go out through the station car park to the main road, and turn left (where to turn right goes over the railway crossing) your direction 75°. In 120 metres, just before the bridge over the River Medway, turn left on a signed Medway Valley footpath on the left-hand bank of the river, your direction 15°. (Your route will follow the Greensand Way and its arrows as far as the church beyond Roydon Hall.)
- In 110 metres fork left away from the river, following the Greensand Way arrow, your direction 340 ° and between concrete fences. In 100 metres cross the railway line and go up the concrete steps the other side, over a stile and then turn half right, your direction 325°, across a large field.
- In 280 metres, in the corner of the field, pass a barrier and then cross a stile into to a field where you turn left , your direction 280°. Follow the barbed-wire fence on your left-hand side and in 230 metres you exit over a stile and go straight across the B2015 to continue straight on to the left of no.1 White Cottage, your direction 290°. In 55 metres go over a stile and straight on along the left-hand edge of a field of ponies, donkeys and ducks, exiting the field in 160 metres, by a stile in its top left-hand corner, turning right to continue in your previous direction (280°) towards the woods.
- In 160 metres you have the edge of the wood on your right-hand side, with a LEAF notice (Linking Environment and Farming). Continue ahead and in a further 150 metres you come (via a break in the wood of 50 metres) to a large wood-enclosed field and continue straight across it (down its middle), your direction 315 °. Exit the field in 450 metres over a stile, straight on into Moat Wood (marked on the OS map).
- In 275 metres bend sharp left with your main path (following the Greensand Way arrow). In a further 175 metres the wood becomes a dark pine forest, your direction now due west. You now have a 2 metre high deer protection fence on your left-hand side. In a further 75 metres you step across a possibly dried up (in summer) tiny stream; in a further 150 metres, exit the wood by a new stile to go straight on, gently uphill between low wire fences.
- In 60 metres cross a (private) car-wide road to continue straight on along a car-wide gravel track, your direction 295° initially, between blackberry bushes on both sides and the deer protection fence to your left.
- In a further 150 metres you get a first sight of Roydon Hall ahead to your right, your path following the deer protection fence on your left. Where the track bends to the left towards the main gate, bear right to follow the Greensand Way sign across a grass verge, beside a low wire fence. Cross over a grassy path (which to the right after 100 metres gives you a close-up view of Roydon Hall and its garden). Go through a gap in the bushes and follow the fence on your right-hand side for 80 metres, to drop down onto a tarmac road where you turn right, your direction 40°. In 110 metres you pass a side entrance to Roydon Hall and in a further 120 metres you come to the front entrance. (Note: The sign once there announcing it as the 'Capital of Enlightenment' has gone; the Hall is no longer open to visitors, as it is under new ownership).
- [!] Your onward path is opposite the front entrance of the Hall, through a metal kissing gate on your left-hand side, on the Greensand Way footpath, across grass, your direction 305°. In 90 metres the path becomes enclosed between fences. The path swings to the left and right and after 120 metres go through a metal kissing gate and then cross over a stile, with a pond over to your right, following a fence to your right, uphill along the right-hand edge of a field. St Michaels Church is now clearly visible ahead and to your left. In 100 metres by a Greensand Way marker on a post veer left, your direction 295°, uphill towards the church. You exit this field by a stile to an enclosed path, in 30 metres to cross over a stile into the graveyard of St Michaels Church which, though not open for regular worship, is a consecrated building and cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, and worth a visit (opening hours 10am to 4pm). After exiting the church (or passing to its left-hand side) exit the churchyard by a stile in its far top corner, to go down stone steps and straight on downhill on a car road (the one with a dead end sign), your direction 320 °.
- In 200 metres down the road , by the end of the wood (and just before gravelled approaches to field gates to your left and right) [!] you have your first choice. Either continue on the main route, or detour to the The Swan on the Green route, for lunch in West Peckham.
- To follow the Swan on the Green route, keep ahead at this point and refer to the directions at the end of the main walk
- To continue on the Main and Beeches routes, turn right on the signposted public footpath, your direction 25°, with the edge of the wood on your right and a fence on your left.
- In 300 metres go through a metal swing gate and keep straight ahead, on a path across a vast field, your direction 25°.(This path can be very muddy when ploughed). The church in Mereworth is ahead to your north.
- In 500 metres, at the field boundary, bend left down the right-hand edge of the field, with hedges on your right-hand side, heading downhill towards the church. This leads down on to the A228 where you turn right. In 100 metres cross a bridge over a river and in a further 150 metres you come to a roundabout, where you take the left fork (northwards) sign-posted Mereworth and West Malling. In 80 metres turn left onto The Street into the Village of Mereworth.
- If not having lunch at either pub, continue straight on along The Street. Pick up the main route at the Church, point [3A]
- Take the first right turn into Butcher's Lane. Keep ahead, steadily uphill for 400 metres, until you come to a side road on your left, (Willow Vents), about 70 metres before the Queen’s Head pub.
- Here you have another choice of lunchtime options, the main walk via the Queen’s Head, which as of Dec-13 serves food at restricted times which may not fit in with your walk, or a detour from the main route to the Beeches Country Pub, along the Beeches route.
- To follow the Beeches route, refer to the directions at the end of the main walk
- To continue on the main route. After lunch at the Queen’s Head pub, retrace your steps back down Butcher’s Lane to the road junction with The Street.
- Turn right to the [3A] Church of St Lawrence. 100 metres further on, you come to the site of the old Torrington Arms pub (now called Torrington House). Turn right on a signposted footpath, a tarmac lane, your direction 325 °. You go into a narrow path between fences by house no. 103. In 180 metres you ignore a fork up to the right (going north). Continue on the main path (now 265°). In 130 metres go round to the right of an old stile to continue straight ahead (275°) on a car-wide earth track through a network of fields.
- Take the left fork in 250 metres for 10 metres by a corrugated water mini-reservoir and immediately fork right, your direction now 230° until in a further 80 metres a stile (to the left of a metal fieldgate) leads you out onto the main B2016.
- You can turn right here and head for the Beeches Country Pub, 1 km away – but it is not recommended: traffic along this busy B road travels at speed and walking along the road edge is quite dangerous.
- The route ahead is to cross the B2016 to continue straight on along a tarmac lane to the left of Libbits Cottage. [!] In 40 metres go left by a post marked 'FP' to take the faint footpath to the left of a fieldgate (since gone), with a fence on your right-hand side, parallel and to the left of the main track, your direction 175°. This is a potentially very muddy area - there is now a boardwalk for some of it possibly because one reader wrote ‘on the day we did it, it was impassable, we had to continue along the track to the right and clamber down an earth mound building site to regain the woods and the path’.
- In 180 metres go over a metal fieldgate to continue straight on, your direction 210° initially, towards buildings, with the chimneys of Yotes Court mansion house (marked on the OS map) visible in the distance. Exit the field in 175 metres, by its far left corner, through a metal fieldgate. Turn right uphill on an earth farm road, your direction 320°, away from the houses.
- In 30 metres take a footpath to the right of metal fieldgates, your direction 350°. In 20 metres you are between hedges on both sides. In a further 270 metres your path crosses over a stream and then the path follows the stream (with the stream to its left). In 160 metres you come to what looks almost like a low wooden horse jump and you go round this, to the left, leaving the stream banks to continue straight on, with a fence on your left-hand side, your direction 285°. In 130 metres there are duck ponds on your left-hand side.
- Go past what used to be a mini-stile, part of another 'horse jump' and in 10 metres you are on a tarmac road where you turn left, your direction 210°. Opposite Yew Tree Cottage, in a few metres, turn right on an earth car road (there is a pond on your right-hand side), your direction 295°.
- Keep straight on. In 100 metres you pass a cottage on your left-hand side - apparently you are on a private drive. In a further 100 metres, go out through its metal fieldgate and continue straight on, your direction 250° until you reach the woods where you swing to the right, bearing 295°, on a wide avenue to the right of the woods. In a further 250 metres go up left through a metal fieldgate on an earth car road, your direction 300 °.
- In 100 metres this road has an avenue of small redwood trees on both sides of the road. You are now in Mereworth Woods (as marked on the OS map). In 650 metres you cross a bridleway and continue straight on (due west). In a further 375 metres, you come to a T-junction of paths. Turn left, your direction 245 °.
- [3B] The Beeches route rejoins here. In 15 metres you ignore an unofficial bridleway off to the right, to continue straight on.
- In a further 130 metres you come to a post with blue arrows  and here you turn sharp right, your direction 320°, on a path marked with a public bridleway concrete marker.
- It is normally possible to skirt the muddy and waterlogged areas ahead by short detours into the woods to your left and right. In a further 125 metres keep to the main path, your direction 300°, ignoring all turn offs until after 300 metres you reach a broad earth road with a wooden post covered with yellow arrows. Go right on this earth road (MR 315), your direction 340°.
- In 50 metres, you come to a road junction where the main earth road bends to the right.
-  The Swan on the Green route rejoins here. Take the middle fork with yellow WW arrow indicating the Wealdway (so marked on the OS map), your direction 320°.
- Your route for the next 2km or so is more or less straight on, following the Wealdway, till you come to a tarmac car road. In more detail: In 275 metres you cross paths to continue on, following the WW arrow on a post. In a further 360 metres, you come to a three-way fork and take the leftmost fork (the one that is the most straight on for you), your direction 330°.
- In a further 200 metres, you ignore a fork off to the right, to continue straight on, your direction 325°. In 300 metres you ignore a footpath going left and keep straight on, your direction 340°, with the field fence (and oasthouse beyond) on your left-hand side and the tree-felled wood to your right. In a further 250 metres you go through a wooden swing gate and cross a track path that goes off left into fields (and right into a field for horses).
- In a further 800 metres , you come out onto a car road (by a WW arrow on a post) and turn left on this for 1metre, [!] immediately going left again onto a public bridleway (with a concrete marker), your direction 285°.
- A green way, soon running parallel to your path in a field to the left and with regular openings from your path, offers an unofficial refuge from the potentially muddy bridleway. You come out by a wooden fieldgate in 400 metres onto a car road where you turn left, gently uphill, your direction 230 °. In 200 metres, turn right, downhill, on Crouch Lane (signposted to Borough Green and Ightham), your direction 325°. (If it is getting dark you can follow this road all the long way to the A25, then turn left into town.)
- In 250 metres you pass Sotts Hole Cottage on your left-hand side. 15 metres past this cottage , DO NOT turn left on a private tarmac driveway (to go 30 metres down towards a wooden fieldgate with a grass road beyond it), [!] but keep ahead down the road for just a few metres past the driveway to a hedge with a gap where you turn left to go down a few steps, to pick up a clear, narrow bridleway ahead, your direction 235°, to continue parallel to the car road on your left-hand side.
- Follow this path for 1km. In more detail: In 70 metres you follow the way through two zigzags to the right, some 60 metres apart. 200 metres beyond the last zigzag, turn sharp left to descend through the woods until in 110 metres you come out to an open glade, ignoring the stile and fork straight on, to fork right on the main bridleway, ignoring any ways off, now on the level with a fence and open fields off to your left, and a wooded bank to your right. After some 600 metres you pass through a housing estate to you reach a car road. Turn right here. There is a small waterfall to your right-hand side.
-  Continue on along the road’s pavement and after 150 metres the pavement ends and a lake starts on your right-hand side.
- [!] In 300 metres, just beyond the end of the green open space on your right-hand side, with its picnic area, you fork right on a signposted path, your direction 5 °, downhill, with a wooden close boarded fence to your left.
- In 50 metres you go over a stream on a concrete-and-brick bridge (if you forked right off the tarmac road 50 metres too soon, you will have come to the wrong bridge, consisting of three wooden planks).
- The route is then steeply up the other side. In 450 metres you cross a car road to continue on your path between fences, your direction 15°, downhill.
- In 260 metres, having passed a telephone exchange on your left-hand side, you cross a housing estate road to carry straight on, uphill, your path now tarmac. In a further 185 metres you come up to a car road with the Church of the Good Shepherd opposite, where you turn right, your direction 55°.
- In 40 metres you pass a fish and chip shop on your left-hand side and cross the A25 to go straight on, now in Borough Green High Street. In 220 metres you come to the railway bridge. 5 metres before the bridge, a tarmac lane to the left leads down between metal railings to Platform 1 of Borough Green Station, for trains to London. On the other side of the railway bridge is the recommended tea stop, the Henry Simmonds pub.
- Take the turning on the left – Willow Wents (lane). Keep ahead for 375 metres to a T-junction, where you turn right, your initial direction due north, along a tarmac lane. In 70 metres the road swings to the left: ignore the turning right, Horns Lane and keep ahead (left), your direction now 240°.
- In 475 metres turn right on New Pound Lane, gently uphill. In 575 metres you come to a T-junction with Beeches Road, where you turn left, due west. In 150 metres you come out onto the busy B 2016 road: cross over with care – the Beeches Country Pub and Restaurant is opposite.
- After lunch, take the public bridleway immediately to the right of the Pub (coming out of the pub, it’s on your left) your direction 250°, in 15 metres passing a metal barrier. You will now take a route through Mereworth Woods in a westerly direction for some 1.6 km to join up with the Main route at paragraph 31. Forestry work and logging is taking place and some new forestry tracks and clearings will appear from time to time. But the general route ahead is as follows:
- Keep ahead along a broad path, with hedges to your left and right. In 350 metres you have metal silos and overhead conveyors over to your right. Here keep ahead (slightly right), your initial direction 225°, along a broad gravel path. In 400 metres the path becomes a track through a tree felling area (December 2012). In a further 450 metres cross tracks with a green metal 3-bar gate some 15 metres to your right, and keep ahead, your initial direction 240 °, soon gradually bearing left.
- In 400 metres, a path joins you on your left-hand side. You are now back on the main route at point 3B above..
- At point  above, keep ahead, downhill, and in 110 metres cross the busy A228 road, taking great care. On the other side pass a redundant stile and continue down a sunken bridleway, your direction 290°, with tree line and hedges on either side.
- In 215 metres you come down to the A26 road, with Forge Farm on your right-hand side. Turn right along the road for 40 metres, then cross this (equally busy) road, again taking great care, and take the byway ahead, between an oasthouse on your left and a detached house on your right. 70 metres down this access road you pass Beadles Forge on your right and in a further 20 metres go through the metal swing gate ahead of you (slightly right) with a metal fieldgate to its right, to go down the left-hand edge of a field on a clear, broad grassy way, your direction west.
- In 150 metres go through a metal swing gate into a lightly wooded area, cross over a wooden bridge with metal railing, to continue up a path with a field to your left and a lightly wooded area to your right. In 90 metres turn left through a wooden swing gate and immediately turn right along the right hand edge of a field, your direction as before.
- In 300 metres and the end of the field, turn left along the field boundary and in 110 metres join a bridleway and turn right along it. The way ahead soon becomes a concrete farm track which in a further 100 metres comes out onto Mereworth Road, where you turn left towards the village of West Peckham. In 205 metres, as the road swings right (to become Forge Lane) keep ahead through white gate posts into the village of West Peckham. You soon pass St Dunstan’s Church on your right and coming down to the village green, you come to the Swan on the Green pub on your left, your lunch stop.
- Coming out of the pub after lunch, turn half right to cross the village green in a diagonal, on its far side going through a metal kissing gate to keep ahead on a farm track. In some 180 metres at the end of this track you come to Pear Tree Cottage. Cross its access road and go through the metal kissing gate ahead of you (slightly right) to turn right down the field edge, your direction 290°. In 200 metres, at the top right hand corner of this field, [!] you have a choice of way ahead. You can turn left to pick up the Greensand Way, but the suggested way ahead, which entails a stretch of road walking, is the more direct route to rejoin the walk’s main route in Mereworth Woods. In this top right-hand corner, keep ahead to pass a redundant stile to go through a lightly wooded area.
- In some 35 metres you come out onto a road (Forge Lane) where you turn left. In 40 metres, at a road junction, you take the right-hand fork, signposted West Peckham and Mereworth, to walk uphill, soon to ascend Gower Hill. In 700 metres, at the top of the hill, you come to a 4-way road junction. Here you take the public footpath (a wide track) ahead of you (slightly to your right) uphill, your initial direction 340°, along a wooded slope, with a road directly below you. Soon there are viewing points just to your left, but otherwise keep ahead along this path, ignoring ways off.
- In 300 metres cross a forestry access road and keep ahead, with a sign “Fairlawn Estate – Private Land” on your right-hand side, your direction now 15°, along a gravel road.
- You now keep ahead in a northerly direction along this unmade forestry road for some 800 metres until you come, on your left-hand side, to a road junction. You are now back on the main route a point  above (where you take the middle fork…).