Friday, 16 January 2009

Roaming along the Greensand Way Day 6 Limpsfield - Sevenoaks

Blossom Time
Move forward a couple of months from the last stretch of the walk and the landscape has been completely transformed. It was now mid-May and all the leaves were out, there were still bluebells in the woods and the May and rhododendron blossoms were in full swing. This made for a spectacular walking day, although compared to the previous sections it was very hot and sticky. I took plenty of refreshments with me as again there were few villages en route and shopping opportunities were at a premium.

Parking in Sevenoaks is not particularly easy so once again I parked at Limpsfield Church and walked first and got the bus back.

Kent Border
Limpsfield is set back a little from the crest of the ridge and apart from a short section with good views back to Tilburstow Hill, most of the first part of the walk is through woods. During May this was a very attractive section as the leaves were only recently out and as the sun shone through they were very pale green in colour. The bluebells were hanging on manfully, leaving a blue tinge to the floor of the woods although in fairness they were well past their best and were on their last legs.

Colour Palette
A couple of miles into the walk, you reach the Kent border and there is a sign to mark this in similar style to the one at Haslemere. Coincidentally, this also marks the halfway point of the walk. Once into Kent the style of the waymarkers changes as well; the rather unimaginative GW waymarkers are replaced by ones depicting an oast house and you should now look out for these for the rest of the hike.

French Street
It isn’t long before you spot the first oast house after entering Kent. Traditionally these distinctive buildings were used for drying hops and are unique to Kent and the very eastern part of Sussex. Nowadays most have been converted to housing, ensuring that they are preserved in the best condition they probably have ever been in!

Impending Storm?
The next few miles are reminiscent of the section of the hike around Leith Hill, for this is the highest part of the ridge in Kent. In fairly quick succession the path crosses Ide Hill and Toys Hill, both of which have fantastic views across the Weald. Close to each of these hills are villages carrying the same name, which are idyllic spots probably inhabited by people now working in Sevenoaks and beyond rather than in the local communities. There was a shop in Ide Hill but unfortunately it was closed as I passed. They obviously enjoy a long lunch hour!

Church at Ide Hill
After Ide Hill the way leaves the ridge for a short time, passing through the top end of the village of Sevenoaks Weald. The A21 then comes into view and luckily there is a tunnel under the road, which means that you don’t have to dodge the traffic to try and cross the road. The last part of the walk was one of the most difficult to navigate as signs evaporate for the next mile or so. The field I crossed were also quite overgrown with hay and wildflowers, which although attractive were very difficult to walk through. Eventually I reached the old A21, which used to pass through Sevenoaks before the by-pass was built. I mistakenly thought I would miss my bus at this point so followed the road into town. However, a more attractive (if slightly longer) route would be through Knole Park across the road.

Ide Hill
A word on public transport here. There are buses back to Limpsfield from Sevenoaks via Westerham where you have to change buses. However, as I found to my cost, the services are irregular during the afternoon and there is a gap of approximately two hours where there isn’t a service. I expect the buses are away doing school services at this point. The bus I took did connect at Westerham, but this isn’t always the case so you might have a little time to spare having a look around the town closest to Winston Churchill’s house at Chartwell.

Crossing the A21
This was a particularly attractive day’s walking, possibly the best of the Kent section. It is a much more undulating part of the way than most, so be prepared for a few steep climbs and descents. Also ensure that you take refreshments with you as there are few opportunities en route. However, Sevenoaks itself at the end of the route offers lots of attractive places to eat and drink so you could save yourself until the end of the route!

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