A very easy 8 mile walk through undulating Kent countryside, exploring the orchards and woodlands and  finishing by the Great Stour river.

Date walked: 22nd October 2014

Distance: Around 8 miles, give or take

Maps used: OS Explorer No’s 150 (Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet) and 149 (Sittingbourne and Faversham)

*********

Anne and I were staying in  The Cedar House near the centre of Canterbury (you’ll find my review of the place here on Tripadvisor). This, and three more walks I did on our two-week stay start from there.

My friends Christine and Christopher who live in nearby Faversham, recommended that I explore the North Downs Way. (henceforward to be referred to as the Way). It passes through the centre of the city, a long stone’s throw from our rather impressive red gate (the Cedar House sits behind the Old Fire Station).

Entrance to the Old Fire Station, Canterbury, photographed by Charles Hawes

Anne’s pic. Not processed in Lightroom. Hence the wonky verticals.

After  less than half-a mile of walking along a busy road I spied the first finger post for the North Downs Way, directing me off the A2050 down a quiet suburban, street. This soon became a sunken, leafy, lane (Mill Lane).

mill Lane, The North Downs way near canterbury, photographed by Charles Hawes

Bit fuzzy cos, I was moving and it was dark

I was walking down the side of Golden Hill; over to my right the first view of the apple orchards that would provide snacks for much of the day.

Apple Orchard near Golden Hill, canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

Not that I would pick apples off a tree, obvs

This is fruit growing on an industrial scale.

Apple Orhard near canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

….. and I certainly wouldn’t climb over any fences…..

The rumble of traffic ahead was coming from the A2, which had to be crossed before I could return to the orchards, though its sound pursued me for the next mile.

A2 photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

I could hear it from Golden Hill, too

In fact it was not orchards that followed, but something that I have not seen much of before- Chestnut Coppice.

Chestnut Coppice near canterbury, Kent, photographed from The North Downs way by Charles Hawes

If you look closely you can see that the bark of lower yard or so has all been stripped

According to Wikipedia, Chestnut coppice in Kent and Sussex is the last remaining large-scale commercial use of this ancient method of woodland management. These trees may have been planted in the  19th Century to provide poles for Hop Fields.

Deer damage to Chestnut Coppice near Canterbury, photographed from the North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

I wonder if deer were a problem in the 19th century?

You can see how tall and straight they grow in the right conditions.

Chestnut coppice near canterbury, photographed from The North Downs way by Charles Hawes

This area of ancient woodland is called The Blean.

Information board for The Blean, near Canterbury, photographed from the North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

I doubt that the archeology is sufficient for so much detail but it’s a nice picture

Within it, the Way passes by Bigbury – a former Iron Age settlement and Roman camp where they have very helpfully offered an artists impression; otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue that there was anything of such interest on this mostly cleared hillside.

Site of Bigbury Fort, near Canterbury, photographed from the North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

The desire of trees to grow despite being felled impressed me as I passed an unearthed trunk lying flat on the ground with a perfectly vertical young tree growing from its side.

Regenerating Oak in The Blean, near Canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

An Oak, I think

This walk was becoming a rich woodland education, the path now passing though an old(ish) orchard that is also the subject of some community restoration and has been named No Man’s Orchard. 

Information Board for No Man's Orchard, near Canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

Sorry, don’t think you can read about the apple varieties even with a magnifying glass

 

The Orchard was mostly Bramleys and other pollinators.

Apple in No Man's Orchard, near canterbury, photographed from The North Downs way by Charles Hawes

My first snack of the day. Not a Bramley. Nice.

At the far end of this little woodland walk was the small village of Chartham Hatch where a splendid oast house called Hoppers Oast lies divorced from its former life on its outskirts, the orchards having displaced the hopfields.

Hoppers oast , Chartham Hatch, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

It’s been converted into 4 dwellings

 

The Way passes through this most impressive of properties, allowing the nosey more scope for their curiosity…..

Hoppers Oast , Chartham Hatch, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

…. and affording the artistically inclined a subject  for their creativity.

Corrugated barn at Hoppers Oast , Chartham Hatch, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

Once again I am indebted to Lightroom for these perfect verticals

With Fright Wood (great name) to the north of me, I was returned to the orchards of  Nickle Farm, the deliciously crisp, red-streaked apples making lunch unnecessary.

Canterbury walk 1-28

What was disturbing was the amount of these super fruits that lay on the ground, food only for passing walkers and the rabbit and bird populations.

 Apples on ground at Nickle farm, near canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

Such a waste!!

Mansfields, who have 20 local fruit farms under their wing, have their headquarters and main storage facility here, and provide temporary accommodation for their itinerant  and migrant workforce in rather un-bijou sheds modelled on static caravans but without the porch.

Fruit pickers accommodation at Mansfields, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

At least their dark colour makes them stand out less.

Very little seemed to be going on.

Mansfields HQ, near canterbury, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

It all seemed very strange when clearly the fruit was ready to be brought in. Had the bottom dropped out of the apple market?  Was there a strike? Had everyone gone to the fair?

Apple pickers accommodation at mansfields, Kent, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

And why’s he sitting there so lonesome?

Was Bulgaria playing England somewhere?

Fruit pickers accommodation at mansfields, Kent, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

It took a bit of research to find out this was a Bulgarian flag.

My head full of questions, I marched on through the orchards, the Way dropping down a little hill, following a neat line of Beech that bore the marks of foreign labour.

names carved in beech trees near Chartham, Kent, photographed from The North Downs Way by Charles Hawes

Not that I am accusing anyone…..

I had to make my own way across a ploughed field at the bottom which showed the first signs of its Autumn-sown crop and revealed the Clay-with Flints soil. 

Flint in field on the North Downs Way, in Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’m sure you know this, but the flint used to be a sponge.

 

As I looked back to the beeches …..

Line of Beeches on the North Downs Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

Too nice a pic not to include

…..I spotted a small triangular piece of a grey-glazed pot which had clearly been made on the wheel. My souvenir of the day, and still intriguing me as to its origins.

Pottery piece found on North Downs Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

All dating suggestions welcome

 

My path now continued to give more arboreal interest, taking me up through a tunnel of hazel…

Hazel tunnel on the North Downs Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. and then a closely planted avenue of conifers that brought to mind cathedral architecture.

Avenue of conifers on the North Downs Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

An unsympathetic planting in the landscape but close to, a delight.

 

At Lower Ensden Road, just outside the village of Old Wives Lees, I parted company with the North Downs Way, taking a sharp left down Shalmsford Road to meet on the busy A28, the Pilgrims Way.

Sign for the Pilgrims Way near Old Wives Lees, photographed by Charles Hawes

“Whoso beset him round with dismal stories”

 

My own pilgrimage lasted a full hundred yards; a right turn over the Great Stour taking me off towards Chartham.

The Great Stour near Chartham, photographed by Charles Hawes

Not the most exciting river pic, I know

 

I passed what is probably  be the most sign-adorned pub I have ever seen.

The George at Chartham, photographed by Charles Hawes

Now, children, how many signs and notices can you count in this picture

The George has on its pub sign the knight in full armour, and the place clearly feels under siege.

The George at Chartham, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’d like to have had a pen in my pocket to add a comment

 

A short way after the pub I joined the Stour Valley Walk (also known as the Great Stour Way), turning left before a railway bridge and then crossing the line and taking a lane into the pretty village of Chartham.

The Green at Chartham, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

On the left hand side of The Green, the 16th century Bedford House was duly admired…..

Bedford House, Chartham, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

….and I paused at the flint-faced St Mary’s church. I would have gone in but it was locked. Shame.

St Mary's Church, Chartham, Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

No wonky verticals with me

The Great Stour river is not particularly great in any obvious respect, but it is always nice to walk beside a river that makes a noise.

The Great Stour river near Chartham, photographed by Charles Hawes

The path passes by and through a series of ponds at Horton, formed by reclaiming gravel pits; the lush surrounding land, under the occupation of sheep.

SSheep near the Great Stour in Kent, photographed by Charles Hawes

If I can bring you sheep, I will. (Suffolks, perhaps)

Most of the riverside houses at the suburb of Thanington have taken the opportunity to have a decking area by the riverside, and why not? There was an entertaining variation in style (sorry, no pics). The walk passes under the A28 and just afterwards I saw a young man walking towards me and a boy and a girl hauling a kayak onto the riverbank.

Kayak on the Great Stour near Canterbury, photographed by Charles Hawes

“Do you know where we are?”, he enquired.

“Canterbury”, I replied, and thinking this was so obvious as to seem a little inadequate, offered him sight of the map.

“Oh”, he said “we weren’t sure if we had missed it”.

I might have asked if they knew where they were heading but I was off duty.

The underside of the A2 had been adorned by the creative youth of the city…

Graffiti on the road bridge of the A2 near Canterbury, photographed by Charles Hawes

What does that say?

 

….as had the railway bridge that followed.

Graffiti on a railway bridge at Canterbury, photographed by Charles Hawes

Harmless fun in my view; I don’t know why I hadn’t got into graffiti when I was a kid. (I got into other trouble, mind).

The river walk was deep within the city now and had become a place where office and shop workers might take their lunch and where the local alcoholics met for a rant. Me, I was ready for a cup of tea and a bun chez nous.

{ 8 comments }

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)