Kent Walks

1066 Harold's Way Way

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Palace of Westminster

Tower Bridge

Sissinghurst Castle

Bodiam Castle

Site of Battle of Hastings with Battle Abbey in background

1066 Harold's Way

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1066 Harold’s Way is a new 100 mile long distance walk, accessible by public transport, tracing a possible route of King Harold’s march from Westminster Abbey to Battle. It is based on the Roman road network still being used in 1066, from London to Rochester on Watling Street and then south through Maidstone, Staplehurst and Bodiam. A clear route through the daunting Forest of the Andreasweald. There are castles and battle sites, rivers, streams and valleys to cross, forests to forge and hills to climb, Roman roads, green lanes and ancient foot-paths to walk.

David Clarke, who has devised the walk, is leading it in sections during 2012; you are welcome to join him.

Westminster Abbey to Greenwich (9 miles)
Completed 28th January 2012

1066 Harold’s Way starts at Westminster Abbey and follows the Thames Path past Queenhithe, London’s dock even before William built the Tower. After Tower Bridge, the once great London Docks stretched for miles along both sides of the river, St Katherine’s Dock, Limehouse Basin, Russia Dock, Greenland Dock and dominating the skyline - Canary Wharf. Across the river is Execution Dock where pirates, thieves and mutineers were hanged, Limehouse and the opium dens of the old Chinatown. We pass wharves that launched the ships of Captain Cook, the Pilgrim Fathers, Nelson and Drake and there are famous pubs to while away the hours.

Greenwich to Lesnes Abbey (9.75miles)
Completed 3rd March 2012

From the magnificence of Greenwich to the iconic steel hoods of the Thames Barrier shining in the sunlight, a broad walkway allows you to walk next to a much wider river. Working wharves give an industrial air and the occasional decaying pier or warehouse serve as a reminder of what was once the busiest port in the world. Leave the river to walk through parks and ancient woodland that have survived for a thousand years, a world distant from the hustle and bustle of London. So beautiful are the trees and trails, and the solitude and inspiration they provide, that it is hard to imagine how close you are to the City.

Lesnes Abbey to Dartford (9.75miles)
Saturday 31st March 2012

This is a mixture of the wild and desolate and the urban and industrial, of old paths and new roads, old bridges and new bridges, meandering rivers and canals built in hope, Saxon Manors and concrete architecture. It is a walk that reflects the dreams of men and often their failure, from the monks of Lesnes Abbey who fought to hold back the Thames to the navigators and entrepreneurs of Dartford, building a ship canal that could not cope with the pressure of the tide. The wilderness of the Cray Marshes and the QE2 Bridge soaring above the landscape lead to the River Darent and Dartford.

Dartford to Istead Rise (9.75miles)
Saturday 28th April 2012

Climbing away from the River Darent onto The Downs opens up to panoramic views south and west along towards the Surrey Hills and there is just the hint of a hidden population amidst the rolling hills and valleys, lush fields and rows of trees. The landscape changes as we pass under the A2 and the M25. The noise of the traffic gives way to the solitude of a church built from the rubble of a Roman villa 1000 years ago. Fields and paddocks, woods and country parks lead into villages that were once prosperous but now seem to have lost their heart, with the closure of pub, post office and shop. Southfleet is different; it is old with an equally important old pub, ‘The Ship’, to savour the journey.

Istead Rise to Rochester (9miles)
Saturday 2nd June 2012

Traverse the Downs plateau from Istead Rise to Cobham and through the woods of Cobham Park and Mill Hill to the North Downs Way. The reclaimed, regenerated and rejuvenated Jeskyn’s Country Park can be a bleak beauty for there is little cover when the wind blows. The Sentinels that guard the eastern gate will provoke your imagination. The Darnley Mausoleum has been restored, but the railings say ‘do not touch’. Follow the Strood Community Trail into Rochester for views of Rochester, the Castle, Cathedral and the River Medway.

Rochester to Maidstone (12miles)
Saturday 30th June 2012

Up onto the North Downs and the somnolent Medway valley below this strategic ridge appears peaceful but long ago it shaped the future of England. The river drew a line against invading foes long before the Norman Invasion. Later battles defined the political struggles caused by civil wars. Leave the commanding North Downs for a peaceful walk along the Medway to the Archbishop’s Palace. The ‘Allington Belle’ glides by the willows takings its cargo of passengers from the Malta Inn to Maidstone, suitably refreshed - £5 return.

Maidstone to Staplehurst (10.75miles)
Saturday 21st July 2012

It must have been blessed relief for the soldiers of Rome and of King Harold to finally arrive at the Low Weald. A few miles of flat land would ease the aching legs of the army after the climb up and over the North Downs. The line of the Roman road remains visible on its descent from the ragstone ridge into the Low Weald. First, the jewel that is the Loose Valley Conservation Area and no more beautiful start to a walk. Climb up to the ridge where the Romans quarried the ragstone 2000 years ago and hauled it along the road to help build London. The finish is at Staplehurst Station and The Railway Inn provides refreshment before train and bus connections.

Staplehurst to Sissinghurst Castle (8.25miles)
Saturday 11th August 2012

“Quick, quicker, we need to make good time, you can see the road is straight, straight through the forest.” We can dawdle through the fields and meadows that make up the Low Weald and look back from Hocker Edge across the valley to a rural England at its best. The Bull at Sissinghurst beckons weary walkers. Old Staplehurst sits on a hill, clustered around the church next to the A229, the old Roman road. The walk continues through the meadows to the Hartridge valley and one steepish climb to Hocker Ridge before the finish.

Sissinghurst Castle to Bodiam Castle (12.5miles)
Saturday 8th September 2012

The landscape was so very different in 1066, with heavily wooded hillsides and the tidal estuary extending into the valleys around Bodiam and Sedlescombe – natural hazards to navigate. The Roman road passed through Benenden to Sandhurst on the ridge and finally Bodiam. This Roman road is different, green lanes and forgotten sunken tracks, marked by lines of trees, you can look down on the overgrown road and imagine it full of Saxon men, women, horses and wagons, straining, pulling to make headway. Walk the Roman road from Sandhurst to Sandhurst Cross before the descent into the upper reaches of the Rother Valley joining the Sussex Border Path to Bodiam Castle, perhaps the most beautiful castle in all of England.

Bodiam Castle to Battle Abbey via Sedlescombe (9 miles)
Saturday 6th October 2012

Perhaps there was a shimmer on the Appledore Estuary and an early morning mist rising into the trees. This was a wild and desolate place and no doubt a strong breeze was already pulling at the water as men and horses prepared for the final few miles to Caldbec Hill. South of the causeway, the old Roman road drew the eyes up the hill between the trees of the forest, an arrow pointing towards the imminent battle. This was Harold’s route, the fast route for a small and agile force, not for the main army who will divert via Cripps Corner. Broad leaved forests lead to Sedlescombe and in the valley is a squat towered stone church set against a backdrop of trees. Great Wood is to the south, Petley Wood to the north and a final steady climb to the rendezvous at ‘the old hoar apple tree’, Caldbec Hill.

Bodiam Castle to Battle Abbey via Cripps Corner (10miles)
Saturday 13th October 2012

This is an alternative route to Walk 10 and takes into account the difficulties that an army of 5000 may have faced in crossing the Appledore Estuary at Sedlescombe. Crossing the Appledore Estuary at Bodiam was like crossing the Rubicon into another world of battle and death, but there was no turning back. This was a march along roads and tracks used for centuries and still in use today. This stretch follows the Roman road from Bodiam to Colliers Green, where we divert and turn west, following ancient ridgeways to Cripps Corner, Vinehall Forest, then south towards Battle. The last ½ mile rejoins Walk 10 for the final tribute to Harold II, King of England at the Abbey Hotel. This walk will coincide with the Battle of Hastings re-enactment weekend at Battle Abbey EH.

Relevant links:

1066 Harold's Way

Death of Harold


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