First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Late spring bursting across the Kentish Weald out of a blue sky, its drifting grey and silver clouds backlit by the first honest sunshine of the year. Ide Hill woods were a mass of bluebells already in seed. Wildly overshot stems of sweet chestnut coppice brushed their saw-edged leaves across the sky and threw dappled shadows along the muddy track of the Greensand Way.
‘To the honoured memory of Octavia Hill,’ read the inscription on a strategically place bench, ‘who, loving nature with a great love, secured this view for the enjoyment of those who came after her.’ The bench looked out on a ten-mile view across woods and pastures, over the pale blue waters of Bough Beech Reservoir and on to the long ridges of the Wealden Hills.
The Greensand Way led us out of the woods, down through hay meadows in a shallow valley below Toy’s Hill where fat bees were bumbling their way into the bell-like flowers of foxgloves. Two blackcaps challenged each other in a contest of liquid melody from opposing hedgerow oaks. Railed paddocks, duckponds, meadows, mellow red pantile roofs, a pigeon cooing in an ash bough – an English summer idyll that would have any Romantic poet reaching for the rhyming dictionary.
Below Toy’s Hill we crossed a meadow flooded with gold buttercups and dotted with clumps of common spotted orchid, their pale pink lips streaked with splashes of dark purple. On the other side of the hedge stretched fields of intensively managed new grass, a uniform green with not one flower head to be seen.
A rough field road led us past half-timbered old Henden Manor. A green ride led east to the conical-capped oast house where Bough Beech Reservoir’s nature reserve has its visitor centre. Nightingales, hen harrier, breeding mandarin duck, the occasional osprey on migration – the reservoir is birdwatching heaven.
The afternoon was slipping away as we turned north for the sharp climb to Stubb’s Wood and Ide Hill. ‘I’ve lived here 52 years,’ said a lady at the garden gate of a cottage, ‘and every day is different, every season is lovely,’ and she gestured out across her daily prospect – woods, water, flowery fields, and distant hills blue and hazy under the sun.
Start: Ide Hill car park, on B2042, 1 mile SW of Goathurst Common, TN14 6JG (OS ref. TQ 488517)
Getting there: M25 jct 5, A21, A25 (‘Sevenoaks, Riverhead’). In ½ mile, right at King’s Head PH; in 350m, right on B2042. Through Goathurst Common; in 1 mile, car park on right (WC, shop)
Walk (6½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 147): Cross Ide Hill road on west of car park, into Ide Hill wood; turn left and follow Greensand Way (GW) for 1¾ miles via Cock Inn at Ide Hill village, Scords Wood and Toy’s Hill woods. At T-jct of tracks just NW of Toy’s Hill village (468514), turn left off GW, down to crossroads in Toy’s Hill (470513). Ahead down road for 400m. On right bend, left (472510, fingerpost/FP) along green lane. In 150m, right through kissing gate/KG; half right across field (yellow arrows/YA). Through KG (476509); across 2 fields (YA); bear right along wood edge to KG (478507) and on along track (YAs) past Henden Manor and south on tarmac to B2042 (481495).
Ahead for 200m; on right bend, left on path (FP). In 50m, don’t turn left; keep ahead to cross stile on left (YA). Follow fence on right; stile (482493, YA); through trees; stile. Right along fence. In 150m (483493) bear left along green ride for 450m to cross road at Winkhurst Farm (488492). On ahead down green lane. In 350m, at gateway with multiple YAs on left (491493), aim half right across field to waymark post by trees (493492). Left (YA) along hedge. In 100m, right through hedge (YA); across field and into wood (494491). In 70m, left up path through wood, then meadow; at top of meadow, right through gate to Bough Beech Nature Reserve visitor centre (494494).
Ahead between oast house centre and outbuilding, to road (495494). Right to view Bough Beech Reservoir; return up road for ½ mile. At T-junction (495501), cross road; through gate, up gravelled drive, then green lane, then field edges, heading north. In 400m, cross railed footbridge; in another 100m turn right (495506, unmarked) across footbridge on path through trees. Out into field; right up hedge for 700m to Boarhill Cottage (493513). Left up lane; at left bend (493514) bear right, then left (FP) into Stubbs Wood, climbing many steps. In 150m, meet a wide, obvious woodland track (492515); right for 250m to crossroads of tracks at waymark post (494517). Left (blue arrow/BA) on Greensand Way. In 450m, hairpin back left (490516, BA). At turning circle by house, right (BA) to B2042 and car park.
Lunch: Community Shop, Ide Hill car park (tea, snacks, picnic ingredients); Cock Inn, Ide Hill (01732-750310)
Bough Beech Nature Reserve: Visitor Centre (01732-750624, kentwildlifetrust.org.uk) open Wed, Sat, Sun, BH Mon, 10-5
Chiltern Society Golden Jubilee 2015: Book of 50 Chiltern walks, available from 29 May from chilternsociety.org.uk
Information: Sevenoaks TIC (01732-450305)
satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk; LogMyTrip.co.uk