Parts of the Tunbridge Wells Circular
Walk 12… The 5th 20 mile walk in 26 days (even I think that is bloomin’ ridiculous!) Weather had cooled down, and our daughter Hazel had time off work and wanted to show her support and walk with us.
To be honest, even on the morning of the Walk – this one was in the balance. As you know if you’ve been following my blogs , Walk 11 had been tough and over the weekend I had had another, much stronger, silent migraine. It left that afterglow and I had been sleeping deeply for 10 hours for a few nights. A sign that my brain was rebooting and sorting itself out, a consequence of those lovely bright sunny days that saw me battling glare constantly.
So a plan was formed. Lets keep it at a very gentle pace and close to home. Hazel arrived and patiently sat in the garden whilst we faffed and got organised. The plan was very loose – probably 2, 10 mile loops allowing a short midway break at home. We would do the less familiar loop first heading out in the opposite direction to our usual dog walks.
Our local woods link into the Tunbridge Wells Circular walk. This is a 27 mile walk around the outskirts and villages of Tunbridge Wells so just a little too long for today. The route we ended up doing followed it a lot more than we had anticipated, and gave us some new walks to explore another time. I don’t think we were ever more than 4 miles from our front door on the whole of this walk but much of it was new.
We headed out through the village to the woods for a change, to gain some extra mileage early on. We passed a lovely small lake/ large pond we had discovered for the first time a month or so ago and the goslings that were tiny then were now much bigger. There was also Heron there perched looking for fish.
We headed out into the Orchards. This was going to be a theme for this walk discovering orchards – the first one was full of Kentish Cobnuts, and the nuts were just becoming visible. We have a cobnut tree in our garden, but its a battle each year to beat the squirrels to the bounty.
We headed through the farm itself towards a footbridge crossing a busy road. Many of my friends know I love a ‘faces in things’ , when I see one I have to take a picture. I was thrilled to find such a great one on the farm – although it was clearly specially doctored, it still put a smile on my face and became a marker point later on our return home.
Today’s plan for the first 10 mile loop was to explore the Pembury Walks. Our daughters used to go to Primary school near here, and so we drove through this area a lot for many years. We never thought to walk around here, except when joining the annual 12 mile sponsored walk each September.
These woods were a real delight. Nestled between the busy A21 and A228, they stretch out and also include a RSPB reserve. We met several people armed with binoculars. The most striking thing though was the height of the trees here. I’m not exactly tall (5ft 2″ on a good day) but being amongst these trees I felt like a toddler in comparison.
There were also some incredibly beautiful old trees in all kinds of wonderful shapes – we all were getting a little distracted and reaching for our phones to capture the photos.
We were due to loop back here towards home for this first 10 mile loop but we all agreed that we wanted to explore some more and just see where we ended up. A change of plan and now we were firmly making it up as we went along for this 20 miler.
We always make sure we have a battery charger for our phones and a rough idea of where we are by using OS Maps. Whilst walking on a whim is great, it can also add lots of miles to your walk unexpectedly as footpaths don’t always link up as you’d expect and you need to keep the odd marker point in mind. We decided we would head towards Tudeley and Capel and then pause to sketch a rough plan back towards home.
We came out into Half Moon Lane and followed the footpath through Knowles Bank towards Tudeley. The panoramic views on this stretch were stunning. Walking through the path here we were greeted by sheep and horses. It was incredibly quiet and we had the place to ourselves.
Perfect walking weather now and with the wide open fields and meadows we were rewarded with view after view. The first meadow we came across was tinged with pale blue from Flax plants. All gently moving in the breeze. It was really captivating , so we wasted a fair amount of time here taking it all in.
If you look closely in the above picture you can see Hadlow Tower. This featured in our virtual Walk 6, and always marks to me my mums house as she lives just underneath it!
We spilled out now onto the road and walked past one of our favourite local restaurants, Turmeric Gold, before heading back into the fields and onto the Tunbridge Wells Circular again. We had a decision point here – whether to turn left or right along the road. We went with the shorter roadside journey as this stretch of road is busy and limited pavement and we were instantly rewarded.
We walked into a meadow that had lots of swifts swooping around, but was absolutely full of little creamy lemon butterflies. I tried to capture it on video for you all (not very successfully!), but you can hear all of us being absolutely stopped in our tracks by the sheer scale and sight of it. Walk 12’s Vision Memory.
Even Ruby loved this meadow. There was definitely something magical here that got us all a little bit bouncy!
We headed out now through a gap in the hedge, around another field and through a walled pathway onto the Somerhill Estate at Tonbridge. This is a private primary school and the fields were full of children in their class groups all keeping ‘bubble distance’ from each other during the lunchbreak. It must have been a challenge for the school to manage this with a public footpath running through the grounds, but the children were clearly aware to keep away from the path.
As you head out from the school grounds, the edge of the estate here has stunning lodge houses and an exclusive fishing lake. Again this is just by the A21 and we left the estate through a patch of woodland that led us to a tunnel under the A21 – where all 3 of us gave an impromptu tunnel whoop to check for echoes.
Now was the downside of the navigate on a whim.. We had to walk up Castle Hill alongside the A21 dual carriageway towards Pembury for a couple of miles. The road was dualled a couple of yeas back, and alongside it a new cycling and running/walking path created. It was surprisingly quiet when the traffic was beneath the banks but the fumes were evident and we just put our heads down and picked up the pace. No point moaning.
As soon as we could we headed back in to Pembury Walks. A rough plan again to head to Pembury Old Church and then out next to the girls old school across to Capel and then the woods by our house. Again the woods here at Pembury delivered some more surprises.
The Church itself was closed. We hadn’t visited it since the girls left primary school ( nearly 15 years ago!) but its such a pretty Church with interesting carvings around the door , i will head back someday and look into its history a bit more.
We headed out across fields now. Soon to be met by the sheep taking refuge from the sun under a copse of trees.
We went back into woods for a short while now before coming back out into more meadows. This time filled with a sea of yellow.
A little bit of focus now on navigating. We needed to reach the A228 ( a very busy road) at a particular point so we could minimise walking along this dangerous stretch. The footpaths here became far less defined as they were clearly less used and we had lots of stiles to negotiate, that had no dog gates as the fields had sheep amongst the long grass. This meant carrying Ruby over the trickier stiles. She usually leaps over them , but some were awkward or missing the ‘steps’ that gave her a launchpad. She loved being picked up by Hazel and saw it as an opportunity for a cuddle refusing to get down!
But this carrying malarkey didn’t last for long as we stumbled across another orchard this time full of Cherries. Its the height of cherry season and the harvest here was in full progress..we may have ‘helped’ a little bit
We left the cherries straight for an apple orchard before crossing a small lane to rejoin the footpath.
We crossed a small road, and found it difficult to find the footpath here. Luckily Hazel’s sharper eyesight spotted the footpath marker amongst the ferns. So we beat a path through the ferns coming out into a meadow and a lovely brook that gave Ruby an opportunity for a quick dip.
We came out into a meadow again with a very overgrown path making it hard to navigate across. We could just make out the stile in the corner of the field that led us onto the busy road we had to cross.
It took a while for a gap in the traffic allowing us to cross the road, and we ended up jogging to get out of the way of the traffic so we could get back to the safety of the footpath. From here we were back in the woods where we started this morning. We still had 4 miles to complete, so rather than take the direct route home we added a loop back through the farm with the ‘faces in things’ treat.
For once, this last 5 miles wasn’t too tough. My eyes (and head) were fine , and although the walk was very hilly, we were feeling relatively OK. I suspect as we were navigating on the go our pace was much slower and therefore we were benefiting from the gentler pace.
As we headed back through the last part of the woods we were now retracing our steps from this morning. We passed a part on the path where this morning we had seen a young family building a shelter together. Now this shelter had a small fence taking shape. They had clearly been busy.
We finally arrived back at Matfield Green and walked back towards home. When we got to the gate we were OBVIOUSLY 0.3 miles short, so we finished with a number of laps of the garden. More consequences of navigating on a whim!
Walk 12 of 20 done!
I will now ease back on the frequency of walks. A few extra joints feeling stiff today and with work starting to get busier, its not so easy to keep up this pace. Keep following me – Walk 13 will be taking place in July – just not sure where just yet!
As always a big thank you to everyone who has donated and supported me. Justgiving doesn’t give me an option to reply directly unfortunately so I will thank you again through this blog, as there has been a lot of support this month.
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