A Year in the Kent Downs

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5th January 2024

The Kent Downs National Landscape offers something unique and beautiful in every month of the year. From stunning natural landscapes to rich cultural experiences, the Downs is a year-round destination for appreciating the beauty of the Great British countryside.

Read on to discover our ‘must do’ experience for each month in the Kent Downs. How many have you ticked off?

January: Discover sculptures along the North Downs Way

Kick start the year with a leisurely stroll along the North Downs Way Art Trail. This unique trail features sculptures by various artists, adding a creative touch to the natural beauty of the area. There are nine sculptures dotted along the 153-mile long trail, creating an open-air gallery that’s free for everyone to enjoy. The trail has been handily broken down into smaller sections which you can walk in stages. As you walk, take in the crisp winter air and admire the incredible views along the way.

Two people with raincoats sitting on Monumenta Romana sculpture bench.

February: A countryside walk with a pub lunch

Embrace the cosiness of February with a winter walk in the Kent Downs, followed by a visit to a traditional ragstone village pub. There’s nothing like a hearty meal and a warm fireplace after a brisk countryside walk. We love the Samuel Palmer Trail, a circular walk around the village of Shoreham in the Darent Valley, which starts and ends near the 15th-century, dog-friendly Samuel Palmer pub.

A couple in winter coats walking holding hands in front of the Samuel Palmer pub

March: Search for fossils at Folkestone Warren

March is the ideal time to explore Folkestone Warren, a coastal area with a rich geological history. Enjoy an early spring stroll, admire the panoramic coastal views, and look for fossils on the beach. The rocks at The Warren date from the Cretaceous period and are about 112 to 90 million years old. The rough seas of winter cause higher rates of erosion, so more fossils are revealed at this time of year. Remember to ALWAYS go fossil hunting as the tide is going out for your safety.

Folkestone pebbled beach, blue sea and clear skies, with cliffs in the distance.

April: Celebrate bluebell season

One of the most magical experiences in the Kent Downs is witnessing the bluebell woods in full bloom. In April, our woodlands come alive with vibrant shades of purple, creating a dreamy and enchanting atmosphere that’s an unmatched seasonal spectacle. In fact, almost 70% of the Kent Downs woodlands are ancient woodland, which is the perfect habitat for bluebells! Discover our top 5 places in the Downs to see bluebells.

Bluebell woods

May: Hunt for rare orchids in our nature reserves

As spring progresses, nature enthusiasts will be delighted to discover rare orchids in our local nature reserves. The nutrient-poor chalk grassland combined with the warm climate makes the Kent Downs one of the best places in the entire country for wild orchids. Species to spot in May include the early purple orchid, the greater butterfly orchid and the incredibly rare lady and monkey orchids. Queendown Warren near Sittingbourne and Park Gate Down in Elham are both great spots to try orchid hunting. Please remember to  take care around orchids. Do not pick them and don’t get too close as you may inadvertently trample on their companions.

A pink orchid standing alone in a blurred green grass background

©xfgiro/Getty Images

June: Discover the Darent Valley

June brings the fragrant blossoms of lavender to the Darent Valley region in North Kent. Visit one of the lavender farms in the area and immerse yourself in the calming scent and gorgeous purple hues. It’s a sensory experience you won’t soon forget! Alternatively, embark on a hike through the region to admire the colourful landscape from a distance. Our Darent Valley – Lavender and Veterans walk takes in the lavender fields near Shoreham.

Oast House and Lavender Fields, Darent Valley

July: Go wine tasting at a sustainable vineyard

Kent is renowned in the UK for its vineyards and wineries. It’s the combination of lime-rich chalky soils (the same soils found in the Champagne region!) and the climate that make the Kent Downs landscape particularly great for wine production. The warm afternoons of July are perfect for indulging with a wine tasting experience at one of the many sustainable local vineyards. Our favourites include Terlingham Vineyard near Folkestone, Simpsons Wine Estate in the Elham Valley, and Westwell Wine Estates in Charing.

Two men and a woman sat on benches at a table in a tasting room toasting with glasses of white wine

August: Walk the White Cliffs of Dover

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover are a must-see in August. Hike along the sun-soaked cliffs and marvel at the breathtaking coastal views, with the English Channel stretching out before you. It’s the perfect spot to a family walk or to bring guests who might be visiting during the summer holidays. August is the ideal time to visit as the South Foreland Lighthouse and Mrs Knott’s Tearoom are open every day. Climb to the top of the Victorian lighthouse, which was the first to display an electric light anywhere in the world, then enjoy a homemade bake in the 1950s style tearoom. Just remember to wear a hat and sunscreen with a high SPF!

Wildflower meadow and South Foreland Lighthouse

September: Explore apple and pear orchards

Kent is famous for its fruit orchards, in fact, that’s why Kent is named the Garden of England! In September, discover apple and pear orchards in full fruit-bearing glory. Enjoy picking your own fresh, juicy fruit and savour the tastes of the season. We love Castle Farm in Shoreham and Garden House Orchard in Saltwood, who both run Pick Your Own apple and pear experiences during September.

Red apples on a tree glowing in the sunlight

October: Go leaf peeping in our ancient woodlands

October brings a stunning transformation to the ancient woodlands of the Kent Downs. The leaves change into a vibrant tapestry of red, orange, and gold, making it the perfect time for leaf peeping and woodland walks. Plus, the Kent Downs is one of Britain’s most wooded landscapes, so we’ve got plenty of places to choose from! Our top spots include Kings Wood in Challock and Ashenbank Ancient Woodland in Gravesend. Check out our Autumn Walks blog to find the perfect seasonal walk near you.

Autumn beech leaves

November: Take a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral

The historic city of Canterbury is a fascinating place to visit in November. Embark on a pilgrimage to the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and immerse yourself in its rich history and spiritual significance. Why not walk along part of the Pilgrims Way, an ancient pilgrimage route that connects the shrines of Saint Swithun at Winchester Cathedral and Thomas Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral. Used for over 1,000 years, the route through Kent takes you past amazing viewpoints, through ancient woodland and into our prettiest villages.

Ornate facade and spires of Canterbury Cathedral against blue sky

©claudiodivizia/Getty Images

December: Watch the sunset from the Downs

Wrap up the year with a reflective visit to the Wye Downs. It’s often listed as Kent’s top beauty spot. Did you know the sunset in winter is the best of the year? Find out why! In December, climb up the Downs on the outskirts of Wye and witness the incredible sunset over this far-reaching landscape, creating a beautiful end to your year in the Kent Downs.

A couple sitting on the Downs watching the sunset over the countryside

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