Sasha Wilkins st pancras international javelin trains southeastern trains

My emotional attachment to the county of Kent in the south east of England is hard to over-stress. We moved out of London when I was just three years old, and my sister and I grew up in a small medieval weaving village called Smarden.

In many ways it was the perfect country childhood. Our mother would open the back door during the school holidays and we would disappear for hours on our bikes to explore the surrounding countryside.

For a naturally curious child like me it was heaven: on one hand we had the natural world to explore and, on the other, the extraordinary stories of the past in every house, church and farm we passed. Kent, situated between the English Channel and London, is in many ways the cradle of English history: its jewel in the crown is the venerable City of Canterbury, with its cathedral, archbishop and centuries of religious life,  and it’s not uncommon for most villages to have houses with parts dating from the fourteenth century – or even earlier; most Kentish villages have their origins in settlements  mentioned in the great land survey of the British Isles, the Domesday Book of 1086.

The afore-mentioned countryside is ravishing– it’s easy to work out that most of Kent was once covered by trees by the suffix –den on many place names, (think Smarden, Tenterden, Rolvenden, Biddenden and so on), which means ‘a clearing in the woods’ and, whilst many of the trees are long gone, there are still plenty of woods to explore and public footpaths along which one can wander.

Chief amongst those footpaths is the North Downs Way, along part of which runs the ancient Pilgrims Way, which took supplicants to the cathedral in Canterbury, and from which sprang the inspiration for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Parts of the Way are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in particular the stretch above the village of Wye, and both my sister and I know it well, not least because we hiked our Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Bronze Expedition along its route when we were at school.

When I was asked by Southeastern Railway to pick a so-called Hidden Gem (#SEhiddengems) to promote anywhere along their network it felt like I was choosing from an embarass de richesses. But with a criteria for my Hidden Gem of no more than a fifteen minute walk from a station my options narrowed a little, and eventually I decided to focus on beautiful Wye, just fifteen miles from Smarden.

Whilst Wye itself is beautiful, there are several other good reasons to visit: On two Saturdays a month there is a lovely Farmers Market, with local produce – not for nothing is Kent known as the Garden of England, there is a lovely dog-friendly gastropub called The King’s Head for lunch, and one can work up a serious appetite for their excellent menu by hiking up to the top of the Wye Crown, a local monument high above the village on the North Downs Way.

st pancras international javelin trains southeastern trains

So last weekend my sister Holly and I, accompanied by Lettice and Maisie our Miniature Dachshunds, hopped on one of the High Speed Javelin trains from St Pancras International.

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

The journey to Wye is almost exactly an hour, with a quick change at Ashford International, onto a local train for a single stop to Wye.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

southeastern trains javelin Kent dog friendly

Lettice assumed her alerti-dog position and off we went.

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

I’ve always loved Wye Station – it’s a traditional red brick Victorian railway building, with a proper waiting room, manned ticket office and, joy, a level crossing.

Wye station Kent southeastern trains level crossing

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains
It’s a brisk ten minute walk in to Wye from the station, past all manner of pretty period houses.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains
Our first stop was at The Kings Head to check out their tiny vintage market, before heading to the bi-monthly Farmers Market across the road.

vintage market kings head gastropub Wye Kent

botterells fish shellfish Wye Kent farmers market

wet fish rye Wye Kent farmers market

cox pippins apples Wye Kent farmers market

cheesemakers canterbury Wye Kent farmers market

I bought a lot of cheese from the Cheesemakers of Canterbury. One of each, in fact, including their flagship cheese Ashmore.

ashmore kentish cheese Wye Kent farmers market

I bought Holly an alpaca beanie from the Boughton Alpaca Farm lady.

boughton aluph alpaca Wye Kent farmers market

boughton alpaca Wye Kent farmers market

Wye Kent farmers market

Wye Kent farmers market

The Kings Head very kindly let me store my 2kg of apples and vast cheese supplies under their coat rack (we had a later reservation for lunch), and we set off for our brisk round trip walk along the North Downs Way to the Wye Crown.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Even without a GPS-enabled phone or an Ordnance Survey map and compass, it’s not hard to find the entrance onto the Way. Just look for the signpost at the entrance to the Churchyard.

Wye churchyard Kent north downs way southeastern trains
(Next to this plaque – history is always around you in Kent.)

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

In fact there are signs pretty much all the way along the route.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains
I’m not going to say it’s impossible to get lost, but you’d have to be trying pretty damn hard.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

There is a longer three hour round trip from Wye which takes in the Devil’s Kneading Trough, a deep crack in the local chalk formation, and we shall return in the summer with a picnic to do it justice. But this time we wanted to get back before lunch so decided to just do a third of the walk instead.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Our walk took us past allotments, up through farmland, rising always towards a beech wood.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

It’s a steep pull up through the wood. (We were wearing wellies and it was fine – a longer trip might require hiking boots.)

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

After about ten minutes you turn right (clearly marked) into a silver birch glade

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

and then over this stile and onto open hillside to reach the Wye Crown.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

It’s cut into the chalk hillside to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII by college students, on the Wye college estate on 12th June 1902.

Wye crown north downs pilgrims way Kent

Wye crown north downs pilgrims way Kent

Wye crown north downs pilgrims way Kent

Then we turned around and bolted for the pub.

kings head gastropub Wye Kent

I so deserved this pint of delicious local lager after all our exertions.

kings head gastropub Wye Kent

The menu reads very deliciously, with a focus on seasonality and local provenance, and we ordered flatbreads with Ashmore cheese and hazelnut butter,  a mushroom tart with poached quails’ eggs and hollandaise for me, and a rainbow chard gratin with salt baked celeriac and potato and cheese croquettes, and ham and cheese beignets and turbot for my sister.

flatbread kings head gastropub Wye Kent

turbot fillet kings head gastropub Wye Kent

ashmore cheese croquettes vegetarian kings head gastropub Wye Kent

Not really a gratin, but very nice all the same. We finished with an excellent apple and blackberry crumble with almond ice cream and custard (two spoons).

apple blackberry crumble kings head gastropub Wye Kent

kings head gastropub Wye Kent

We took so long over lunch – service is utterly charming but slooow, that we had to rush for the train. We took a different route back, passing the village sign, and a first world war memorial.

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains

After all that rushing we still had ten minutes to wait on the platform.

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

Wye Kent north downs way southeastern trains
Lara Classic Parka: Parka London. Grey cashmere sweater: Pure Collection.
Leggings: GAP Fit. Boots: Air & Grace (gift). Black bag: Prada

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

Do share your #SEhiddengems on social media too – I’ll be very interested to see where you all recommend, and you can also find great ideas from other users on this hashtag. To find out more about offers and destinations on the Southeastern network head to their website here.

Wye station Kent southeastern trains

Wye Farmers Market is on the Green by the Post Office in Wye, Kent, just off the A28 between Ashford and Canterbury. It meets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month from 9am – 12 midday.
The Kings Head, Wye: Church St, Wye, Ashford TN25 5BN
Telephone: 01233 812418
www.kingsheadwye.com

      Sasha paid £56 + £12 tip for lunch at The Kings Head, Wye for two people, and travelled by train from St Pancras International to Wye, Kent as a guest of Southeastern Railway
           This post was written in collaboration with Southeastern Railway to publicise their winter Hidden Gems campaign in November 2016.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

You May Also Like

3 comments

Reply

Hi there
Again you delivered something that If I may be a little selfish, needed to see and read about. Your verse and photos of Wye helped to remind me of the calm and natural beauty that remains abundant in our world. From the centuries old paths to the outdoor markets and of course the town pub, gave me a sense of hope that some how things can get sorted out. I guess that I am saying that I needed to visualize a bit of tranquility. As I’m sure you have heard, here in the states we have just concluded a very unusual election with an uncertain outcome. I could talk to you for hours about the strange feelings I have about all of this and why,but maybe some other day.

I can say with some certainty that your next trip to NY city or to any other city stateside will have a different vibe.
So without droning on about what happened here, I want to again thank you for taking us there, helping me to visualize just what I needed to see and feel during these strange days.

You’re the Best, and all the Best
James

Reply

James, that’s exactly what I was thinking too.
This looks like a gorgeous walk.

Reply

Yes.Really thought about hopping on a plane but I have to work today.So,on I go through the city and walking by all that extra police detail needed to protect the man who claims to be our salvation….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.