First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
What a perfect ideal of a village Wye encapsulates, with its charming red brick and whitewashed houses round the village green, its post office, sports field, pubs, shops, surgery and public conveniences, all tucked under a beautiful corner of the North Downs.
The Church of St Gregory and St Martin is a building of shreds and patches, odd corners and uneven walls that reflect its many collapses and rebuildings over the centuries. Beyond the church we found the North Downs Way arrowing through the fields towards the steep, tree-topped rampart of the Downs, where a huge chalk crown was cut high in the downland turf in 1902 by Wye College students to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.
Hops still hung like pale green lanterns in the hedges, sticky to the fingers. A jay swore among the tangled hazels and clattered off, leaving one sky-blue feather to float gently to earth. We climbed a chalky path up through the trees to emerge at the top of the downs with a remarkable prospect spread out across the flat wooded Weald of Kent. To the south, distant views of Romney Marsh, Dungeness power station buildings and the tiny shapes of cargo ships in the English Channel; to the north a silver-grey strip of the Thames, with the Essex shore a knobbled blue line beyond.
We strolled the upland path, absorbed in this South Country panorama. A handily placed bench gave a vantage point over the steep sides and narrow flat bottom of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, a coombe carved out of the chalk downs by Ice Age freezing and melting of water.
The Devil seems to have taken quite a fancy to this part of the world. Following the homeward path through the stubble fields at the foot of the downs, we passed near the cottage at Withersdane where the holy well of St Eustace still whelms. A local woman swollen by an evil dropsy once drank its waters in hope of a cure. She immediately vomited forth a pair of black toads that changed into hellhounds, then demonic asses. When sprinkled with holy water from the well, they shot into the sky and disappeared.
How hard is it? 5½ miles; easy; downland tracks and field paths.
Start: Wye village car park, Gregory Court, Wye TN25 5EG (OS ref TR 053468); or Wye railway station, Bridge Street TN25 5LB (048469)
Getting there: Train to Wye
Road: Wye is signposted from A28 (Canterbury – Ashford)
Walk (OS Explorer 137): Left along Bridge Street; in 100m, left along Churchfield Way. In 500m left through churchyard to NE corner (055469); up path by allotments. Cross road (056470), up Occupation Road (‘North Downs Way’/NDW). Follow NDW (road, then path) across road (066468), up hill into woods (069469). At top of climb (blue arrow on post points ahead) (070469), but fork right here. In 500m cross Crown Field (072466), then road (077457). Follow NDW through trees, then at edge of open downs. In ¼ mile pass Devil’s Kneading Trough coombe (078454); in 600m reach waymarked post with 2 arrows (081450). NDW keeps ahead, but go sharp right downhill through kissing gate. At bottom, right along road (072449); right at fork (075450, ‘Wye’); in 200m, left through hedge (074451, fingerpost) on path across fields. Cross road at Silks Farm (065460); at road near Withersdane Hall, ahead (060462); at next bend, ahead on path (060463). At road in Wye, ahead (055466, New Flying Horse inn to right), to station, or next right to car park.
Lunch/Accommodation: King’s Head, Church Street, Wye TN25 5BN (01233-812418, kingsheadwye.co.uk)