Brian J. Rance

Author of "Finding My Place" and "Walking my Patch". Two guide books for long distance walks in the south east of England.

The Walks

Walk 1

Swanley to Hythe

[ Distance: 105 Miles / 168.98 km ]

Swanley – Crockenhill – Eynsford – Romney Street – Otford – Chipstead – Sundridge – Brasted – Westerham – Crockham Hill – Marlpit Hill – Edenbridge – Hever - Penshurst – Speldhurst – Rusthall – Tunbridge Wells – Pembury – Petteridge – Goudhurst – Cranbrook – Clapper Hill – Tenterden – Woodchurch – Warehorne – Ham Street – Ruckinge – West Hythe – Hythe

At the ripe old age of 59, in the summer of 2009, having more ambition than sense, I embarked on another marathon trek through the Kent countryside, from the London suburbs to the Channel coast. I came out of Swanley, across the A 20 to Crockenhill, and then across the M25 to Eynsford. From this lovely village I climbed up the dip slope of the North Downs to Romney Street and plunged down again to Otford. From Otford I followed the Darenth Valley path to Chipstead, on the outskirts of Sevenoaks, and carried on to Sudridge, Brasted and Westerham.

From Westerham I tackled the Greensand ridge, to the summit at Crockhamhill, and continued on down to Edenbridge in the pouring rain. From Edenbridge I hiked westward to Hever and Penshurst resplendent in the Medway valley. From this picturesque village I carried on to Speldhurst and Rustall, eventually arriving at the Pantilles in Tunbridge Wells. The next leg of my journey, through The Weald, took me to Goudhurst via Petteridge, and then on to Cranbrook.

After Cranbrook I slogged along the busy road to Clapper Hill and on to Tenterden, crossing over the Kent and East Sussex Railway. From this charming town I struck out eastwards to Woodchurch, Warehorne, Ham Street and Ruckinge, picking up the Saxon Shore Way. Thereafter I walked along the Royal Military Canal, all the way to Hythe.

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Walk 2

Gravesend to Broadstairs

[ Distance: 115 Miles / 185.07 km ]

Gravesend – Cobham – Luddesdown – Great Buckland – Birling – West Malling – Offham – Mereworth Woods – Gover Hill – West Peckham – Nettlestead Green – Yalding – Linton – Wierton – Chart Corner – Sutton Valence – Ulcombe – Liverton Street – Boughton Malherbe – Egerton – Stonebridge Green – Charing – Charing Hill – Shottenden – Chilham – Old Wives Lees – Chartham Hatch – Harbledown – Canterbury – Fordwich - Sturry – Hoath – Chislet – Sarre – St Nicholas at Wade – Minnis Bay – Birchington – Westgate on Sea – Margate - Cliftonville – Broadstairs

In the autumn of 2009 I embarked on another journey from Gravesend, a good place to start walks through Kent. I strode out through the suburbs, crossing the motorway, on route to Cobham, another quintessential Kentish village. From here I climbed up the dip slope of the North Downs, through Luddesdown and Great Buckland to Holly Hill, before descending into the Vale of Kent by Birling and West Malling.

From the lovely small town of West Malling, an ideal place to live, I took a short detour to Offham, and walked through Mereworth Woods, to reach the top of the Greensand Ridge at Gover Hill. I carried on down into West Peckham, and on to Nettlestead Green, and Yalding on the river Medway, in the empty heart of Kent.

From Yalding I pressed on along The Greensand Way to Reason Hill and Linton, and in spite of losing the path after Wierton detouring to Chart Sutton, eventually I made Sutton Valence. I tarried too long in this beautiful scarpside village and after passing through Ulcombe, I broke my journey at Liverton Street. Thereafter I carried on to Boughton Malherbe and Egerton before crossing the valley of the Great Stour to Charing.

From Charing I climbed up and over to North Downs to Shottenden and down to the incomparable village of Chilham in the Great Stour valley. From here I climbed back up the valley side to Old Wives Lees and Chartham Hatch before going into Canterbury by the back door. After Kent’s only city I trekked through low fields to Fordwich and Sturry, and then out along the old Roman road to Reculver to Hoath. Then I dropped down on to the Chislet Marshes crossing to Sarre and St Nicholas at Wade on the Isle of Thanet, eventually reaching the Thames estuary at Minnis Bay. From Minnis Bay I walked around the coast of Thanet to Broadstairs calling in at Westgate – on – Sea, Margate, and Cliftonville, passing through North Foreland, the most easterly point of Kent.

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Walk 3

Dumpton Gap to Rochester

[ Distance: 125 Miles / 201.17 km ]

Dumpton Gap – Ramsgate – Pegwell – Cliffs End – Minster – Pluck’s Gutter – East Stourmouth – Preston – Ickham – Wingham – Goodnestone – Chillenden – Elvington – Sibertswold - Lydden – Alkham – West Hougham – The Warren – Folkestone – Etchinghill – Postling – Brabourne – Wye – Kennington – Westwell – Little Chart – Pluckley – Smarden – Headcorn – Sutton Valence – Warmlake – Langley Heath – Leeds – Eyhorne Street – Hollingbourne – Thurnham – Detling – Boxley – Burham – Wouldham – Borstal – Rochester

In the summer of 2010 I started another walk from Dumpton Gap on the Isle of Thanet. I passed through Ramsgate and Pegwell dropping off the chalk at Cliff’s End. I passed on to Minster and down into the Great Stour valley, crossing the river at Pluck’s Gutter. Turning south I hiked on through East Sourmouth and Preston, along the banks of the Little Stour, to the delightful village of Ickham. From here I passed on to Wingham, Goodnestone and Chillenden climbing up he dip slope of the North Downs to Elvington in the heart of the Kent coalfield. I took the Miner’s Way to Sibertswold and Coldred, and dropped down into the dry valley running up from Dover at Lydden, and then over the bluff to another dry valley housing Alkham.

From Alkham I strolled through West Hougham, crossed the A 20 to scramble down steep cliffs into The Warren, hard up against the English Channel. I climbed back up the chalk cliffs and skirted the back of Folkestone along the Saxon Shore Way and passed on to Etchinghill. From here I picked up the North Downs Way at Postling, walking across Farthing Common, and down Cobb’s Hill to Brabourne. Rejoining the North Downs Way I plodded on to Wye in the throat of the Great Stour valley.

Coming out of Wye I crossed over the Great Stour on the way to Kennington, skirting the northern suburbs of Ashford, passing by Eastwell Towers on the way to Westwell. From here I crossed over the traffic corridor to Tutt Hill and Ram Lane passing on to Little Chart Forstal and Little Chart. I carried on through orchard country to Pluckley, dissecting Dering Wood to Smarden a crossing point on the river Beult. Thereafter I hiked on to Headcorn, and across the flat valley in front of the Greensand ridge crowned by Sutton Valence. Carrying on northwards I passed round the back of Langley Heath on the way to Leeds, recrossing the traffic corridor to Eyhorne Street and Hollingbourne.

On the next leg I clambered back up to the top of the North Downs and followed the North Downs Way for a time before dropping down to Thurnham and Detling. Then following the Pilgrim’s Way I passed on to the charming village of Boxley nestling in the Vale of Kent between the County Town and the chalk hills. Carrying on along the Pilgrim’s way I passed by the antiquities nesting at the foot of Bluebell Hill, and passed onto to Burham and Wouldham on the banks of the river Medway. All that remained now of this journey was to pass along the river into Rochester.

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Walk 4

Gravesend to Romney Marsh

[ Distance: 135 Miles / 217.26 km ]

Gravesend – Chalk – Shorne – Shorne Ridgeway – Cuxton – Halling – Snodland – Birling – Ryash – West Malling – Teston – East Peckham – Tonbridge – Penshurst – Groombridge – High Rocks – Frant – Wadhurst – Burwash – Netherfield – Battle – Westfield – Icklesham – Winchelsea – Rye – East Guldeford – Walland Marsh – Lydd – Lydd on Sea – Greatsone on Sea – Littlestone – St Mary in the Marsh

In the autumn of 2010, I started another journey from Gravesend, out across the marshes to Shorne and Shorne Ridgeway, crossing the transport corridor into Cobham Park. I climbed up through Great Wood to descend from Lower Bush in a dry valley to Cuxton on the river Medway. Then I hiked south through the industrialised valley to Halling and Snodland and under the Downs to Birling and Ryash, finally I crossing the M 20 on the way to West Malling.

From this splendid town I headed towards East Malling Heath, passing through Oaken Wood on the way to Teston on the river Medway. Then I ambled along the river all the way to East Peckham, eventually reaching Tonbridge, along the Medway Valley Walk. At this point, given that the weather had turned exceedingly inclement, I interrupted this journey which resumed in the spring of 2011.

Starting again from Tonbridge I followed the Eden Valley walk, past Haysden Water, to the classic, almost feudal, village of Penshurst. Then striking out southwards across The Weald I made my way to Groombridge on the East Sussex border. Then turning east at Groombridge I walked through the High Weald to High Rocks, skirting the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, to the lovely hilltop village of Frant. In East Sussex now I carried on to Wadhurst, and then via Witherenden Hill, to Burwash. The next leg to Battle, via Hollingrove, Darwell Hill and Netherfield, passed through a sparsely populated area of the County.

From Battle I travelled eastwards, through Great Wood, to Westfield, on the 1066 Country Walk to Icklesham. From here I carried on to Winchelsea and Rye before disgorging on to Walland Marsh via East Guldeford, all the way to Lydd. Then I crunched over the pebbles of Denge Beach to Lydd – on – Sea, on the shore of St Mary’s Bay, passing through Greatstone and Littlestone to New Romney, ending up in St Mary – in – the – Marsh, gracing the atmospheric Romney Marsh.

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Walk 5

Dartford to Rye

[ Distance: 100 Miles / 160.93 km ]

Dartford – Dartford Heath – Old Bexley – Foots Cray - St Pauls Cray – St Marys Cray – Chelsfield – Halstead – Knockholt – Sundridge – Ide Hill – Winkhurst Green – Chiddingstone – Markbeech – Cowden – Holtye –Hartfield – Withyham – Leyswood – Eridge Station – Stonewall – Wadhurst – Bewl Water – Union Street – The Moor – Hawkhurst – Iden Green – Rolvenden – Tenterden – Small Hythe – Peasmarsh – Rye

In the summer of 2011 I started another journey from Dartford, striding out across Dartford Heath down to Old Bexley, walking along the river Cray to Foots Cray. By the A20 I crossed from Bexley into Bromley and carried on to St Mary Cray, skirting Orpington and climbing all the time to Chelsfield. Then I crossed another significant traffic corridor and carried on climbing to Halstead. From here I walked to a high point at Knockholt before descending from the North Downs to Sundridge. I kept going southwards to Ide Hill on the Greensand Ridge, and then on to Winkhurst Green beside Bough Beech Reservoir, eventually ending up at the lovely village of Chiddingstone after crossing over the river Eden.

Then hiking through The Weald I passed on to Markbeech and Cowden before crossing the County boundary to Holtye Common and on to Hartfield. From here I turned eastward, walking through High Weald country past Leyswood, Eridge Station and Stonewall eventually to arrive at Wadhurst. From here I navigated the northern shore of Bewl Water to Union Street at its most easterly point and hiked cross country to The Moor and Hawkhurst. Still travelling east I carried on to Iden Green and Rolvenden following the High Weald Landscape Trail.

From Rolvenden I passed through Upper and Lower Woolwich, across the Newmill Channel, to Tenterden. From here I turned southwards passing through Small Hythe, crossing over the river Rother to Peasmarsh and then on to Rye.

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Walk 6

Bromley to Deal

[ Distance: 115 Miles / 185.07 km ]

Bromley – Hayes – Keston – Halstead – Polhill – Shoreham – Kemsing – Heverham – Wrotham – Trottiscliffe – Addington – West Malling –East Malling – Ditton - Aylesford – Maidstone – Mote Park – Bearsted – Leeds – Leeds Castle - Ringlestone Hamlet – Frinsted – Milstead – Rodmersham Green – Rodmersham – Bapchild – Teynham – Conyer – Faversham – Goodnestone – Dargate - Yorkletts – Seasalter – Whitstable – Herne - Maypole – Upstreet – West Stourmouth – East Stourmouth – Westmarsh – Richborough – Sandwich - Deal

In the Autumn of 2011 I started another walk from Bromley southwards over Bromley Common to Hayes, and on to Keston. From here I traversed to dip slope of the North Downs to Halstead to a high point at Polhill, before plunging down the scarp slope to the delightful village of Shoreham in the Darenth Valley. From Shoreham I scrambled up White Hill, up and over the bluff to Kemsing, nestling below the Downs. Carrying on eastward I passed through Wrotham and on to Trottiscliffe, crossing the M 20 to Addington and West Malling.

Walking in the Vale of Kent now I hiked on to East Malling, skirting the famous research station to Ditton, and carried on down to the river Medway, crossing at Aylesford. From here I followed the river all the way into Maidstone, and after a brief visit to the town centre I strolled out through Mote Park to Bearsted and Leeds. From here I passed through the grounds of Leeds Castle, crossed over the traffic corridor, and climbed up on top of the North Downs on the way to Ringlestone Hamlet. Heading north now I walked through Frinsted, Milstead and Rodmersham on the way to Bapchild on the old A2 trunk road.

From Bapchild I slogged along the main road to Teynham and cut over fields to the Swale at Conyer. I walked on besides the Swale estuary through remote country, with the isle of Sheppey looming across the water to the Oare nature reserve. I carried on down Oare Creek to the village of Oare, and on to Davington and Faversham, a most beautifully conserved medieval town. Coming out of Faversham I made for Goodnestone on the Swale Heritage Trail, and on to Dargate and the unremarkable Yorkletts by Blean and Victory Woods, part of an ancient forested area known as ‘The Blean’. I carried on to the Thames Estuary at Seasalter and sauntered into Whitstable.

Having no wish to walk through the suburbs of Whitstable and Herne Bay I caught a taxi to Herne to resume my journey. From here I headed in an easterly direction to Maypole and Chislet Forstal before mounting the ridge between the Sarre Penn and the Great Stour at Upstreet. From here I walked along the wet banks of the river Great Stour to Grove Ferry, and on to West and East Stourmouth on their low promontory sticking out into the reclaimed marshes. I hiked on eastwards south of the uninhabited Ash level through Westmarsh and Paramour Street to the hamlet of Richborough. I paid a visit to the stunning Roman remains of Richborough Castle before ambling into the splendid town of Sandwich. From here all that remained was to walk across the famous Royal St Georges golf links to the channel coast and southwards to Deal, a very pleasant coastal town.

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Walk 7

Deal to Winchelsea

[ Distance: 115 Miles / 185.07 km ]

Deal – Great Mongeham – Northbourne – Betteshanger – Tilmanstone – Nonington – Ratling – Adisham – Bridge – Lower Hadres - Petham – Chilham – Shalmsford Street – Chartham – Harbledown – Blean – Boughton Street – Painter’s Forstal – Newnham – Doddington – Lenham – Boughton Malherbe – Headcorn – Frittenden – Sissinghurst – Biddenden – St Michaels – Tenterden - Reading Street – Stone in Oxney – Iden – Rye – Rye Harbour - Winchelsea

In the summer of 2012 starting were in left of last time in Deal, I trekked away from the coast to Upper Deal and Great Mongeham and Northbourne. Walking through the heart of the Kent coalfield I passed through Betteshanger, Tilmanstone and Nonington to Ratling on the outskirts of the mining village of Aylesham. From here I walked on to Adisham and over Oxenden Shaw to Bridge in the Nailbourne valley. Traversing the North Downs I belayed across to Lower Hadres and Petham before dropping down into the Great Stour valley, through heavily wooded terrain, to the indescribably lovely village of Chilham.

From Chilham I detoured northwards along the Great Stour to Shalmsford Street and Chartham, following the Stour Valley Walk to Harbledown on the western outskirts of Canterbury. From here I walked through Rough Common on the way to the village of Blean, skirting the National Nature Reserve to the North from Honey Hill, through a quiet valley down to Boughton Street. From here I progressed south of the M2, across country to Painter’s Forstal, and on to Newnham and Doddington in the massive dry valley on the dip slope of the North Downs that leads back to Faversham. Next leg took me up and over the North Downs to the historic medieval market town of Lenham.

Coming out of Lenhaam southwards, I crossed over the M20 and climbed up the Greensand Ridge to Boughton Malherbe, dropping down through Grafty Green into the Low Weald on the way to Headcorn. I crossed over the river Beult and the Hammer Stream on the way to Frittenden and Sissinghurst in the High Weald. From here I took the opportunity to walk through the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle on the way to Biddenden and Tenterden. From Tenterden, once the last outcrop of The Weald before the reclaimed Rother marshes, I hiked down to Reading Street, across the Reading Sewer, over Chapel Bank, and up on to the Isle of Oxney. Passing through Stone in Oxney I careered down old sea cliffs at Stone Cliff, following the Saxon Shore Way, to the floodplain of the river Rother. I crossed the river at its junction with the Royal Military Canal walked walked up to the village of Iden before dropping down in Rye.

All that remained of this final leg of the final walk was to proceed to Rye harbour walking to the seaward side of the nature reserve to Winchelsea elegantly perched on its hill. This final walk completed a project that was thirteen years in the making, and involved me walking a total distance of over 1,000 miles in Kent and East Sussex.

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[ Total combined distance: 810 Miles / 1303.6 km ]