The Perfect Twixmas Walks in the Kent Downs

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19th December 2022

Make the most of the break between Christmas and New Year, known as Twixmas, to enjoy some fresh air and spend time in nature. After the indulgence of Christmas, a wintery walk is the perfect antidote.

Winter in the Kent Downs is a magical time, with the landscape transformed by frost and the atmospheric glow of low sunlight. Wildlife is often easier to spot in the winter months with less leaf cover for camouflage. Plus, the shorter days mean you don’t have to get up as early to watch the sunrise or stay out as late to see the sunset.

So, whether you’re looking to escape with (or without!) the family, or want to explore with your four-legged friend, we’ve got something for you.

Handpicked Twixmas walks in the Kent Downs National Landscape:

1. For families: Hythe Royal Military Canal

  • Distance: 1.9 miles/3 kilometres
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Look out for: Grey herons, great crested grebes and reed warblers at the water’s edgeHythe Royal Military Canal

The Royal Military Canal is a tranquil haven for wildlife that runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe to Cliff End in East Sussex.  The canal was built between 1805-1809 as a defensive structure designed to protect against possible invasion by Napoleon’s army. Such an attack never happened; however the canal still acts as an essential form of irrigation providing drainage to much of the surrounding marshland.

The linear route can be explored in either direction and is suitable for bikes too. 

For those looking for a longer stroll, continue past West Hythe where the trail runs along the bottom of Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. You might be lucky enough to spot giraffe, rhino and a whole host of African wildlife from the path! 

2. For all abilities: Samphire Hoe Easy Access Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles/3.2 kilometres
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Look out for: Winter flocks of cormorant and red throated diver at sea

Group of people walking along a footpath beneath the White Cliffs of Dover

Samphire Hoe is a 30-hectare site at the foot of the famous Shakespeare Cliff, between Dover and Folkestone. It was created from 4.9 million cubic metres of chalk marl dug to create the Channel Tunnel.  Samphire Hoe is a haven for wildlife and supports a rich biodiversity all year round. 

Stroll below the famous White Cliffs of Dover – gaze up and you might see kestrels and peregrine falcons flying along the cliff face. Looking out to sea, you can see across the Channel to France on a clear day.  

The easy access trail is a circular route along sections of concrete, hardened surface, and wooden boardwalk. There are plenty of rest spots along the path, as well as refreshments, adapted toilets and designated parking at the Information Centre.  

3. For dog walkers: Wye Downs

  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 kilometres
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Look out for: Incredible views across to the High Weald AONB

This circular walk around the village of Wye has some challenging climbs in places but offers spectacular panoramic views from the North Downs.

Climb up to the Wye Memorial Crown, a chalk hill figure created in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. The route follows the North Downs Way National Trail through Wye National Nature Reserve, home to an abundance of wildlife, including moths, insects and orchids that are important for national and international conservation efforts. Soak up the view from the top of the Devil’s Kneading Trough . On a clear day, it is possible to see Rye, Romney Marsh, the Coast around Hastings, and Dungeness. 

4. For history buffs: Westerham Walk

  • Distance: 5 miles/8 kilometres
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Look out for: Veteran trees in the ancient woodland

This walk leads uphill to dramatic views over rolling hills, historic houses and farms.  

Beech, yew, maple, birch and chestnut all make up the woodland along the walk. Peering through the trees you’ll find the 17th century manor house sat in Squerryes Park and even signs of an Iron Age hillfort. 

The well-tended grounds of Chartwell can be seen along this peaceful walk. Sir Winston Churchill was so attached to his home here that he said: “I love the place – a day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.” 

You could choose to extend this walk further by combining it with the National Trust Weardale circular walk which links Chartwell to the beautiful Emmetts Garden. 

5. For peace and quiet: Sheldwich – A Land for All Seasons

  • Distance: 9.3 miles/15 kilometres
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Look out for: Migratory birds, and fox and badger tracks in the woods

Avenue of deciduous trees with a dusting of snow and snow on the ground

Whatever the time of year, you’ll be captivated by the tranquil beauty of this remote rural haven, where rolling countryside is studded only by sleepy villages and historic churches.

Through cornfields and along country lanes, discover remote hamlets and the farms that work these fertile downland foothills. You might spot migratory birds in the arable fields as you walk. Fieldfare, redwing, brambling and waxwing are some of the birds that make the Kent Downs their home in the winter months.  

You’ll also walk through the historic and peaceful Perry Wood, 150 acres of ancient woodland boasting panoramic views. The viewpoint here, called The Mount, was used as part of a semaphore chain, sending messages from London to the Kent ports. 

The circular route can be explored in either direction from Sheldwich, and there are several pubs along the way offering refreshments. 

6. For the Adventurous: North Downs Way – Cuxton to Detling

  • Distance: 12.5 miles/20 kilometres
  • Time: 7-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Look out for: Neolithic remains and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

The 153-mile North Downs Way National Trail runs along a unique and geologically important chalk ridge through the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs AONBs. The trail is captivating in all seasons, but in winter, through leafless trees you’ll see distant views even clearer.

The North Downs Way from Cuxton to Detling is a challenging section of walking, but offers many rewards for the adventurous. The route passes through Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve and Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, both a haven for wildlife. You’ll cross the River Medway, with views of Rochester Castle and Cathedral upstream. Keep your eyes peeled for waders and seabirds on the Medway Estuary. After challenging climbs, soak up the wintery views from Wouldham Common viewpoint and the top of Blue Bell Hill SSSI. The heritage of the trail continues as you reach Kit’s Coty, a Neolithic burial chamber of the Celtic Catigem. Local legend states that when counting the stones, you will never arrive at the same number. 

7. For a slow journey: The Way of St Martin

  • Distance: 20.9 miles/33.7 kilometres
  • Time: Several days
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Look out for: Chalk streams and historic chapels

St Edmund's Chapel, Dover

The Way of St Martin is a newly launched, self-guided pilgrimage route through Kent taking in the ruins of Saint Martin le Grand in Dover and Saint Martin’s church in Canterbury.

The 21-mile slow pilgrimage route follows in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims who travelled from the Continent, arriving in Dover, to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The route follows the history and landscape of the area. From the Bronze Age boat at Dover, through Roman and medieval times to the industrial age. The landscape takes in chalk streams and dry valleys as well as the Kent Downs AONB.

The route is split into six short linear walks with public transport connections, so you can complete the pilgrimage at your own pace. In fact, a slow pilgrimage is designed to be a short journey so you can truly appreciate everything you see along the way.

View all the walks

Image credits: ©Explore Kent and Brian Townend

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