|A friendly duck in daffodils|
|Tilly the Black Labrador|
|St Peter's Church 14th Century, Hever|
This walk had a difference as for the first time since I was a child I had a dog for company! Tilly the black Labrador. She is five years old with glossy black fur and deep brown soulful eyes that melt your heart every time you look at them. We set off from the car-park near St Peter’s church in the centre of Hever and spring was definitely in the air! The sun was shining and felt lovely and warm and the snowdrops and daffodils were out and looking beautiful. The church is very pretty and the walk started through the churchyard to join the Eden Valley path (not to be confused with the Eden Valley in Cumbria!) The sign near the church gates say it has been there for over 750 years, which would mean it was constructed in the 14th century (although I am not sure how many years the sign has been there!) It is also where Sir Thomas Bullen (a different spelling but Anne Boleyn’s Father and Elizabeth I’s grandfather) is buried.
|Beautiful Kent Countryside|
The walk starts in woodlands and on the edge of the grounds to Hever Castle but very quickly opens out into lovely green fields with views across the Kent countryside that on such a day were superb. You can at various points catch glimpses of the large lake in the grounds of Hever Castle. Tilly was in her element and loving the sights and smells, although unsure about the large horse neighing and cantering in the field next to us! As we took a footpath near some cottages, we had a pleasant surprise. We came across a menagerie of animals! Some seriously cute pink and black pigs with crinkly faces, ducks, hens, sheep and what looked like llamas to me but I believe are alpacas. This was very unexpected but lovely.
We walked passed ponds and streams sparkling in the sunshine, crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils waking in the spring warmth, crossed bridges and lanes and loved every minute of it. The views were beautiful and the sky was an azure blue that made the soft greens and yellows of the trees and fields striking. It reminded me why Kent is called “The Garden of England”. I know I love the rugged mountains of the Lake District but Kent is a really lovely county with plenty of its own charms and attractions where you can walk for miles and never tire of the rolling fields, woods and orchards.
Then I discovered that Tilly is an Olympian in training. As we approached one of several stiles on the route, I went to lift the dog-friendly fence post so Tilly could walk through the hole but rather than wait for me to do that, she flung herself with two leaps over the stile! One leap onto the highest step on the side we were on and another within a millisecond right over the fence and into the next field! She then turned around and sat down wondering why I was taking so long and did not just leap over like her. That dog has no fear! It may not have been elegant but it was fast and effective. She did this several times over the walk unless I managed to get to the stile first!
The last part of the walk takes you through two woods called Stock Wood and Newtye Hurst. As Tilly and I went through Stock Wood, I could hear what sounded like a chain saw and assumed there was tree-felling happening somewhere in the woods. It got louder and louder and I decided that actually it must be a light aircraft. However as we emerged from the woods into a field, above was an extraordinarily large remote-controlled aeroplane that was doing loops and swoops and spirals really high up in the sky. It looked like great fun and the adults and children flying it were clearly enjoying themselves (although I imagine it was a little annoying if you lived nearby!)
|Henry VIII Pub|
We were soon back in Hever village and Tilly (who had walked about seven miles to my five as she had been running back and forward so much) looked tired and seemed glad to be back. We decided a trip to the picturesque Henry VIII pub would be a fabulous way to end the walk and it was!
|A Mini Trevi Fountain at Hever!|
The Tudor history in Hever is fascinating. I visited the castle on a separate day from the walk (raining sadly) and I would absolutely recommend it. You can see history unfolding as you walk around the castle and gardens. The Boleyn family bought Hever Castle in the 15th century but it was constructed in the 13th century by permission of Edward I. The Italian gardens are full of architecture and ornaments brought direct from Italy between 1904 and 1908. The lake sweeping away from the gardens into the distance is beautiful. The castle itself is surrounded by a moat and still has a drawbridge. The rooms are filled with ornate wooden features and panels, some from the 15th century and others from the 19th century. You can see the room where Henry VIII stayed several times and also Anne Boleyn’s room. There are portraits and winding spiral staircases, letters and a range of memorabilia. When the Drawing Room was redesigned in 1905, inspiration was taken from the pannelling at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria so there is even a Lake District connection!
|Pretty Crocus in the Hever Grounds|