A WALK IN THE PARK
A good park is something to cherish – and cherish them we do here in the UK. In fact, every week over 70 million people visit public parks. And during National Parks Week (14th to 23rd July), that number is estimated to soar to over 100 million, as Keep Britain Tidy and the team remind those who don’t regularly go just what is on their doorstep.
In Kent we are extremely lucky to have so much free, green public space. Our country parks are beautiful, tranquil places to spend our downtime, and they shouldn’t be overlooked. They come with ponds and lakes, sculptures and art, fantastic cafés and activities to join in with, play equipment and bike trails. They come, in other words, with everything you need to keep yourself and the rest of the family entertained at any time of the year, from dawn until dusk.
The Best Parks for Families
Kent’s country parks are ideal for families. Although it may not seem like it at first, a day out at the park is actually a full day out – a proper day out. Take a picnic, make some memories, and have some fun.
Shorne Woods Country Park
Brewers Road, Shorne, Gravesend DA12 3HX
Shorne Woods Country Park sits just off the A2 at Shorne, near Gravesend. You wouldn’t think it though – it’s a quiet, peaceful little haven that is fun for adults and children alike. The site includes the eco-friendly visitor centre and café, a sensory garden, orienteering, fishing lakes, a trim trail and picnic and play areas – not to mention to 292 acres of rolling woodlands, wetlands and meadows that can be explored via a variety of waymarked trails.
There are a number of other colour-coded waymarked trails too, ranging in length from the one-mile Easy Route to the 6.2-mile Darnley Trail that also takes in the nearby Jeskyns and Cobham Wood sites. Hosting educational programmes throughout the year, Shorne Woods offers lots of opportunities to learn about the nature and wildlife at the park. It is one of the few places in South East England to provide Forest Schools. With a unique space and meeting room for hire, Shorne Woods Country Park is also an excellent venue for everything from business meetings and workshops, to birthdays and club meetings.
Brockhill Country Park
Sandling Road, Hythe CT21 4HL
Once part of the estate of a Norman manor, Brockhill Park in Hythe has a central lake, open grassland and meadows, and all the facilities you need for a family day out, including a picnic area, a play area and refreshments at the excellent Brockhill Café.
Wildlife is a huge draw at Brockhill, and if your little explorers love nothing more than discovering new and exciting creatures, Brockhill has to be the place to take them. Here you can find marbled white butterflies, green woodpeckers, and, when the spring is about to arrive, beautiful carpets of snowdrops. There is also an attractive grassy area where deer like to graze, and when it comes to trees there are lots to spot including the variegated sycamore alder and the walnut.
Sandwich Road, Ramsgate CT12 5JB
Pegwell Bay forms part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve. It has stunning views of Sandwich and Deal to the West and the cliffs of Ramsgate to the East and is a great place for a bracing walk or cycle ride. With stunning views, a play area, picnic area and mobile refreshments, this is a great day out for all the family.
Pegwell Bay comes under the banner of a Ramsar Site of International Importance (a Ramsar site is a wetland area that is home to a number of plants and wildlife that need to be protected). It’s a beautiful place to be at any time of the year, but the summer might just win out overall. During the warmer months you can see gorgeous wildflowers including – perhaps surprisingly – orchids. During the winter is the time to come and see the magnificent wading birds such as grey plover and dunlin. You might even spot some large birds of prey – and for serious bird watchers, there is a public bird hide which is also accessible to disabled visitors.
St Leonard’s Street, West Malling ME19 6PE
Manor Park is the kind of place that kids love. There is a great play area with enough equipment to keep everyone happy for hours at a time (and it’s well looked after too), but there is also a huge open field that is perfect for ball games or just for running around. There is something to be said for children enjoying themselves in a manner that requires no electronics and no particular toys. Their imagination can run riot here, as can they, safe in the boundaries of the park itself.
Manor Park consists of 52 acres, and those 52 acres are split into four different sections. One section includes the lake where swans and moorhens glide serenely. Then there is the Abbey Field and the Chestnut Paddocks which are ablaze with wildflowers in the summer. After this is the Ice House area, where you can find the remains of an actual old ice house (which would have been used instead of a fridge when the manor house was in service). Finally there is Douce’s Meadow. This is the big open field mentioned earlier, and is a firm favourite with families.
The Best Parks For Fitness
Keeping fit is so important, but sometimes going to the gym is simply too much hassle. Imagine if there was a wide, open space to enjoy whilst also working out. Well that’s exactly what a park is – and some of Kent’s finest are ideal for those who want a little fitness with their fun.
Waterlow Road, Vigo Village, Meopham DA13 0SG
The little village of Vigo near Meopham has a lot going for it. One of those things is that, right at the far end, you can find Trosley Park. Trosley Park covers 170 acres of beautiful woodland and chalk downland on the North Downs and provides some spectacular views.
There are three waymarked trails – the Downland Trail is very steep in parts, while the Woodland Walk is much gentler. The Trosley Trail is an easy access route suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. All provide spectacular views over the downs. There’s also an outdoor trim trail should the steep paths not prove tough enough. That’s plenty of space for working out in beautiful surroundings which, if it doesn’t make getting fit something that might be called enjoyable, at least it offers some sort of comfort during the whole process!
Trosley offers more than a workout arena, however. The chalk grassland there is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and this is where you can find an abundance of butterflies each summer. One of the most beautiful is the Chalkhill Blue, which is specific to the area.
Castle Road, Eynsford DA4 0JF
For those wishing to venture into the wider countryside, you can follow a 6.5-mile circular walk, passing through the nearby village of Shoreham. It’s a beautiful trail to follow, taking in some of the best of the Kent countryside.
Lullingstone is famous for many things, not least its collection of over 300 veteran oak, beech, sweet chestnut, hornbeam and ash trees – some of them are over 800 years old.
Just to the north of the park is the impressive English Heritage site, Lullingstone Roman Villa. There are rare mosaics and Roman wall paintings here, and if you are taking a walk about the area, it is always worth popping in here.
Teston Lane, Teston ME18 5BX
Combining 32 acres of grazed meadow, river walks, a children’s play area and of course the picturesque 14th-century Teston Bridge, this country park makes the most of its beautiful natural setting on the banks of the Medway. Bridge Meadow, the large grass area adjacent to the car park and playground, is perfect for picnics and ball games. Several events take place here throughout the year, including the famous Kite Festival.
Tutsham Meadow and Coombe Hill are used to graze cattle, and because of this are awash with the colours of native wildflowers in summer. The areas closest to the river tend to flood in winter, creating a natural wetland habitat.
A variety of bird and mammal life can be spotted here too – keep an eye out for the otters which can occasionally be seen hunting along the river.
No matter what your ability, this is an ideal place to enjoy a walk. Take a short stroll around the easy access trail in the park, or if you are more adventurous carry on along the Medway Valley Walk. With a children’s play area it makes for an ideal day out.
The Best Parks For Romance
Visiting a park as a family is fun, and going to one to work out is great, but if you want a romantic date then a park is ideal for that too. A bit of bubbly in a picnic basket, or a simple stroll arm in arm through immaculate scenery, and you can both be happy in one another’s company. Sometimes the simplest of dates can be the ones that you remember the most.
White Horse Wood
White Horse Wood, Detling Hill ME14 3JE
White Horse Wood is set within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers beautiful countryside, local history and panoramic views. This is another park just off a busy road (the A249 at Detling), and yet once you enter the park itself and begin to walk away from it all, the outside world simply disappears. This is a truly romantic spot that lends itself perfectly to some alone time with the one you love.
Walk far enough and you’ll come across the medieval ruins of Thurnham Castle. You might even spot the clues that suggest an Iron Age settlement was once in this area.
Since becoming a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, over 20,000 trees have been planted at White Horse Wood, including silver birch, wild cherry, oak and ash. But that takes nothing away from the wide open spaces that can still be enjoyed by you and your date.
Grove Ferry Picnic Site
Grove Road, Upstreet, Canterbury CT3 4BP
Is there anything more romantic than kicking back and watching the boats meander their way down the river? Not much! And this is exactly what you can do at the Grove Ferry Picnic Site near to Canterbury. It’s peaceful, it’s calm, it’s a lovely place to be.