Walk 126: Cranbrook and Benenden
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10.0 Miles (5 hours)
OS Map: Explorers
136, 137 & 125 (Start at grid reference
Park in the large, free public car park by the Coop supermarket. Leave by a path past the toilets at the end of the car park furthest from the supermarket. Turn right along High Street to the tourist information office at the corner and go up the steps past the church. Take uphill path keeping the church on your right and on leaving the churchyard go straight ahead along right hand edge of field. Continue to main road.
Take path opposite with fence on left. When HWLT goes off to right, keep straight ahead on concrete path. On reaching wood, enter through kissing gate and follow path downhill between fences. At bottom emerge into steep field and bear slightly right uphill to kissing gate and down steps to asphalt track. Turn right downhill to Buckhurst Farm and just before first building on left take path on left. Head uphill, through two gates and across field to kissing gate. Bear slightly left then head downhill along left hand edge of field. At bottom corner cross footbridge over stream and head uphill. Cross broader track and keep climbing to edge of wood.
Go over stile into field and bear very slightly left downhill to stile by a gateway. Go up right hand side of field to second stile then take path between fences to road. Turn left and take first track (“restricted byway”) on right. Follow this, gradually narrowing, past house with pond and past right and left turns until the path goes through a gap in the hedge on the left. Turn right along field edge to broad track and turn left along it to next field edge. Turn right down left hand edge of field to bottom, through narrow woodland then up left hand edge of next field. On passing house on left, bear left round edge of garden then left onto drive and right down drive to road.
Turn right along road and follow carefully. At entrance to Hemsted forest go past barrier and take first turn on right. Follow path to T-junction and turn right. On reaching road, cross into grounds of Benenden School. Follow yellow waymarks bearing first left then right onto narrower path. At cross paths turn left and join main drive to school. Turn right and when drive forks bear left. Immediately past netball courts turn left alongside courts then through a series of kissing gates in woodland. On emerging into open parkland bear left heading directly for Benenden church tower in distance. On reaching road turn right and follow carefully to crossroads. Turn left and continue to village green where there are seats for lunching and pubs nearby.
Go to top of green and take track to right of church, bearing left. On reaching choice of tracks, go over stile into fenced field and cross diagonally to next stile. Cross next field to far right corner, go over stile by gate and diagonally down field to stile into road.
Go straight across down sunken track, initially between hedges. At bottom on reaching drive to farm, go through small gate on right, across bridge, up steps and across field. Follow left hand edge of field uphill past a pond then join fenced path to road.
Turn right and take first left along drive of Benenden School. As soon as fencing on left ends, take path on left uphill with fine views of the school. At top go straight ahead through kissing gate, along edge of sports field and through another kissing gate. Cross two fields diagonally then enter woodland. Cross footbridges over streams and climb to stile. Go straight across field to gate behind a pole and along track past pond and fine tile-hung house. Follow track to large barn at bottom, turn left then right at end of barn downhill past fireplace to bridge over stream. Go straight across field to jutting hedge then along the hedge to corner of field. Descend into ghyll, cross footbridge and climb steps to kissing gate. Follow hedge on left to kissing gate, go through and then follow hedge on right to corner of field. Cross next field to kissing gate then follow left hand edge of fields to kissing gate. Go along track alongside orchard and across drive of house to
Turn right then take clearly signposted path on left. Cross field, cross stream then follow right hand edge of field and cross another stream. Go straight forward up to field, right along field edge to finger post then take path on left uphill along line of trees. At T-junction at top rejoin your outward route, turn left and retrace route back to
smallest “town” in Kent achieved prosperity in the 14th to 16th
centuries through the cloth trade. Often called the “capital
of the Weald” it retains great charm and is dominated by a fine
smock windmill built in 1814 for Henry Dobell.
Oak Hill Manor
There has been a house on this site at least
since the 15th century when a dwelling was sold by a
Stephen Swift. This
presumably accounts for the many earlier names of the house and the
estate incorporating the name “Swift” or “Swifts”.
From 1770 to 1820 the house was owned by the Austen family,
relatives of Jane Austen. The
present house was built in 1937 by Major Victor Cazalet, MP for
Chippenham. He died in
an air crash in 1943 after which the house was first let and then
sold to the exiled Queen Maria of Yugoslavia and her sons.
The house was renamed “Oak Hill Manor” in around 1995 and
may recently have reverted to the former name of “Great Swifts”.
Our book of Ten
Favourite Walks in the Kent Countryside has routes for ten more
walks like this one.
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Map based on Ordnance
Survey mapping released into the public domain under the OpenData
photograph by Robert Peel