Get out into the elements
The elements are, by their very nature and by nature itself, all around us. Everything we do can be related back to earth, wind, fire, or water in some way. These four elements are essential to human life, giving us the ability to not only grow but to cook food and eat it too, to attain water to drink, and to breathe in lifegiving air. There is more to it than that though, some would say…there is a mystical element too.
It was the ancient Greeks who first discovered that these four important elements were the essence of all life in 450 BC. Aristotle took this idea and added his own clever twist, even including the notion that there was a fifth element – known as aether – which is what the stars and universe were made from (he simply couldn’t imagine any way that these celestial beings could be made of the same stuff as everything down on earth). Of course, this fifth element was debunked once science was able to give us more answers, but the seemingly magical powers of the others are still going strong.
The elements were first used when human beings began to delve into how the human body worked and – more importantly – how to fix it when it went wrong. Medicine has its origins in the elements, and Hippocrates used them to describe the four humours of the body. Although this may not hold quite so true today, we would be nowhere without neither the elements nor this knowledge. If you need an energy boost within any aspect of your elemental power, then look no further; insideKENT has put together a list of some of the best elemental activities to be found around the county.
Earth… In its natural form, it may not sound impressive, but just imagine where we would be without it. We’d be malnourished, have nowhere to live and – the ancient philosophers believed – we’d be subject to the whims of the gods too. That doesn’t sound like too much fun, and to prove that earth is essential, here are some of the best ‘earthly’ activities to enjoy in Kent.
Kent is a county full of stunning parks. There are eight gorgeous country parks in total, plus a plethora of playgrounds and outside spaces to run around in, explore nature, or just go for a grounding stroll with or without a dog. You’ll find that there is sure to be somewhere close to you that you can head to when you need a bit of time to yourself, or to spend time with friends and family. And if you are keen to try a country park, take your pick:
Brockhill Country Park (Hythe)
Lullingstone Country Park (Eynsford)
Manor Park Country Park (West Malling)
Pegwell Bay Country Park (Ramsgate)
Shorne Woods Country Park (Gravesend)
Teston Bridge Country Park (Teston)
Trosley Country Park (Meopham)
White Horse Wood Country Park (Maidstone)
The Kent countryside is famous around the world for being something very special indeed. We’ve got it all here – woods and forests, wide open spaces, hillsides and valleys, and to make it all even more appealing, not only is it available to all, but it’s all beautiful too.
Getting out into the countryside is vital for a healthy, happy life. It’s good for the soul. This, after all, is where our local produce is grown, giving us delicious food and drink, plus exercise in the great outdoors is more appealing than exercise in a stuffy village hall or a purpose-built gym.
There is also something innately adventurous about being outdoors that comes with an essence of excitement – just follow your instincts you can find all sorts of unique places to explore. On top of that, this is how to gain a great appreciation for the earth itself, understanding more about nature and about how lucky we are to have what we have, which in turn leads to a greater sense of mindfulness – of living in the present – which is a great way to destress. All in all, heading to the countryside is full of positives
There are some sites, such as the Grove Ferry Picnic Site near Canterbury, Penshurst Place parkland, Lower Leas Coastal Park and Quex Park that are just perfect for picnics. And other places – including the countryside, parks in general, beaches, and other sites and attractions across the county – where picnics have become the norm. And why not? Picnics are fun, different and very effective memory makers.
So, why do we love picnics so much? There are multiple reasons, and everyone will have their own particular favourite, but it comes down to the earth again. Sitting down outside, making contact with the ground, eating the food that came from it, all prepared by ourselves to share with the people we love…if that’s not elemental, we don’t know what is.
Feet pounding the earth; for some, it’s the ultimate way of making elemental contact. Running, jogging, even walking is excellent exercise – it gets the blood circulating as it is meant too and it burns calories too. As an added bonus, it generally happens outside, so you get to experience Kent in all its glory as you do yourself some good. You can add to the experience by joining in with a charity run, and put all that hard work to fantastic use by raising money to help those less fortunate. It’s a wonderful thing to do and a great way to keep focused on what’s important in life. Here are some upcoming charity runs that you can be part of.
Big Fun Run // Maidstone // 4 Aug
You don’t have to race for charity during the Big Fun Run in Maidstone’s Mote Park, but it’s a very worthy thing to consider if you’re running anyway – or, you can run for fun, for yourself, with your friends, or perhaps as part of a bigger overall fitness picture.
The Big Fun Run is an untimed 5K run, and it’s all about doing your best, pushing yourself and ideally making some money for a good cause.
Bubble Rush // Maidstone // 12 Aug
There are runs, and there is fun and then there are ‘fun runs’, which combine the two – the Bubble Rush in aid of Demelza Hospice is just that. You can run, jog, walk, dance, skip, or hop along this course but the main requirement is that you rush through the four-foot high walls of bubbles that you’re going to come across along the way!
Superhero Fun Run // Yalding // 30 Sep
YouCan Youth Cancer Support and local charity The Kenward Trust have joined forces and are inviting people to take part in the first Kent Superhero Run. The 5km run will take place in the stunning setting of Kenward Trust’s headquarters in Yalding (ME18 6AH) on Sunday 30th September, starting at 10am.
As the Hollies’ song goes: “all I need is the air that I breathe.” It’s true that human beings do need a little more than that to keep going, but air is another essential element that we tend to take for granted a lot of the time. Stop to think for a moment, though, and you’ll realise just how amazing it really is – the planet we live on sustains us, giving us the air that we need to survive and even using the carbon dioxide that we breathe out to give life to plants and trees, producing evermore oxygen for us to breathe. That’s a truly awesome thing and something to bear in mind if you want to centre yourself and remember that life is beautiful, even when things aren’t going exactly to plan.
As for Kent, we’ve got air aplenty, and good, fresh air at that. Here are some of the ways you can make the most of it.
Hot Air Ballooning
If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you’ll have a special place in your heart for a hot air balloon, but even if Dorothy and the wizard don’t mean much to you, a hot air balloon is still going to be a super-exciting way to see Kent and beyond. When it comes to getting some good, fresh, Kentish air, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of being high up amongst it. Perhaps because of this, there are a number of hot air balloon companies in the county, each one offering a breathtaking experience for all.
Kent Ballooning offer seven flights a week between mid-April and mid-October, and what makes these flights particularly special is that they take place at sunrise and sunset. The flights last for around an hour and launch from a number of different Kent locations including Canterbury, Folkestone and Ashford. You’ll see some of the most famous icons of the county including Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral, and the most beautiful times of the day from a viewpoint that very few people get to experience.
Sky Bus Ballooning
Sky Bus Ballooning has been going strong since the early 1990s. Run by Shiralee Colin, one of the country’s very few female balloon pilots, this company has a 100 per cent safety record and flies across Kent and Sussex too. Not only can you book onto standard flights, but you can also choose exclusive hire and VIP flights to make a special occasion even more special.
Getting up, up and away into the clouds above Kent is a dream for many, and when it comes to experiencing the true power of the elements, this is certainly one way to do it in style. Flying takes skill and focus, and there are a number of different places across the Garden of England that can start to teach you what to do – or where you can sit back and watch the professionals at work.
TG Aviation // Lydd
At TG Aviation you can take your pick of the flights and experiences on offer. From flight training that takes you all the way to being a fully qualified pilot to one-off experience days in some of their extraordinary flying machines (including the vintage Boeing Stearman), the highly qualified and experienced pilots will guide you through everything you need to know.
EFG Flying School // Biggin Hill
EFG Flying School at the well known Biggin Hill Airport has a mixed fleet on Piper and Cessna aircraft, allowing for the most wide-ranging experience for veteran or first-time flyers. There are various different qualifications that you can achieve through this flying school, including nighttime flying and a full private pilot’s license. No matter what you want from your lesson, the highly qualified instructors will be able to help you.
Skydiving isn’t for everyone, but there is no other (safe) way to feel the air rush against your body and experience its true power. If you do want to try this popular bucket-list activity, here are the places to do it.
Skyjumping // Maidstone
When skydiving, you can reach speeds of around 120 miles per hour, and you’ll be 10,000-15,000 feet in the air – it’s a rush in more ways than one when you start to freefall, but there is nothing to worry about. At Skyjumping in Maidstone, there are experts on hand to give you all the training and information you need before making that first great leap into the unknown.
Over 70,000 skydivers have jumped from planes 12,000 feet up in the air at Headcorn and when you see the kinds of view you’ll get when your parachute deploys it’s not hard to see why. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the France, and of course there are some exceptional views to be taken in of county icons such as Leeds Castle and the Weald. Skydive Headcorn offers a variety of different types of skydive, from tandem to accelerated freefall (AFF) training.
Somewhere in between flying and parachuting, you have paragliding. Paragliding is the sport of attaching a wide canopy – a bit like an elongated parachute via harness to the body so that, when launched from a height, it can glide through the air. Quiet, beautiful, awe-inspiring and offering the most gorgeous views, paragliding is one of the least taken up hobbies, but a very gratifying hobby to take up.
Fly High Sky Sports // Barming
Since the equipment you need for paragliding can all fit into one rucksack, it’s one of the more portable flying sports, and since – even though there is no engine involved – you can soar for hours at a time, it’s one of the most cost effective too. The ethos of value for money, entertainment ad pure thrills is what can be found behind Fly High Sky Sports in Barming, Maidstone. Everything from taster lessons to EPPA pilot accreditation is on offer.
Is there anything more primal than water? It is, so the scientists suggest, where life came from 3.8 billion years ago, and we’ve been pulled back there ever since. If messing about on the river (or any other body of water, come to that) is your thing, then it’s lucky you live in Kent – we’ve got plenty of it. Here are some of the best way to enjoy this most essential of elements.
Kent has some of the best beaches in the country, and with 350 miles of coastline to play with, you’ll find the one that’s right for you and your plans. Sandy or stony; busy or quiet; perfect for sunbathing; ideal for water sports: the choice is yours. So where to go?
Joss Bay // Broadstairs
Just a 30-minute stroll from Broadstairs’ town centre is Joss Bay, a beach that has it all including chalk cliffs, a shallow bay for swimming, nearby shops and cafes, plenty of coastal walks and, if you love to surf, Joss Bay is the place to be.
Botany Bay // Broadstairs
Botany Bay is the beach that offers a lot of rockpool exploration and there are fossils to find here too. This will keep both old and young occupied for hours at a time, but even when you need to sit back and rest, you’ll find that Botany Bay is peaceful and beautiful, even when it is busy.
Margate Main Sands // Margate
Margate Main Sands is a huge stretch of curved beach. It is backed by plenty of restaurants and shops, the town of Margate within a stone’s throw for further exploration – including the world-famous Dreamland amusement park too. Plus, don’t forget to pay a visit to Turner Contemporary, the modern art gallery that sits alongside the beach.
Lidos (pronounced lee-doh) are open-air public swimming pools that often also have a beach or other facilities including boating lakes, children’s entertainment and cafes surrounding them. The word ‘lido’ comes from the Italian for beach and it is a place where adults, children and families can enjoy a swim, some sunbathing, and even water sports. And, lucky us, we have a number of them in Kent!
Faversham Lido // Faversham
This wonderful lido has a 33-metre swimming pool complete with three diving boards (1m, 3m and 5m), as well as a fun pool with a rapids ride and a toddlers’ pool so the whole family can go for a splash around. You can take a picnic and enjoy the grassy area, or you can buy food and drink once you’re there from the café and kiosk.
Strand Leisure Pool // Gillingham
In the summer, the Strand Leisure Pool in Gillingham opens its outdoor pool and draws the crowds as soon as it does so. This fabulous pool has a lazy river which makes it hugely popular with families, but even if you don’t want to swim all day you can play golf, tennis, use the playgrounds and inflatable toys, ride on the miniature railway and even participate in Medway Sport’s ParkSport programme. A one-day fun pass gives you unlimited access to the lot.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool // Margate
Not a manmade lido, but a natural tidal pool, Walpole Bay can be found in Cliftonville, Margate, and is for the more hardy outdoor swimmer. Being a sea pool there is no heating here, so when it’s cold, it’s cold. Even when it’s hot, it’s still chilly in the water, but that’s why so many people (such as the Walpole Bay Swimmers) come here in the first place – a refreshing dip is often what’s needed on a hot, summer’s day.
Tonbridge Swimming Pool // Tonbridge
The outdoor pool at Tonbridge (which also has an indoor pool and toddler/teaching pool) is open from April to September, and even if the weather isn’t perfect, the pool is heated so you can still enjoy yourself in the fresh air. There is a water arch, beach area, and you can even swim through specially designed channels to reach the indoor pools, so you’ve got the best of all worlds.
Just you – and anyone you care to take with you, including an instructor if you’re still learning – a boat and the open water; what could be better? If sailing is your thing, here’s where you can do it in Kent.
Elite Sailing // Chatham
Since Chatham is home to the iconic Dockyard, it makes sense that it should also be a place to go sailing. At Elite Sailing you can do everything from learning to sail through to intensive training courses and ‘adventure sailing’ that can take you around the British Isles and even into Europe.
Tonbridge Town Sailing Club // Tonbridge
Tonbridge Town Sailing Club offers lessons to people (adults and children) of all levels when it comes to boating. All the volunteer instructors are RYA qualified, so you can relax knowing you’re learning from the best.
If the idea of piloting your own boat doesn’t tick any boxes for you, what about having someone else do it for you? We have waterways a-plenty in Kent, and boat tours are a fun, exciting way to explore them.
The Kentish Lady // Maidstone
The Kentish Lady sails up and down the Medway through Maidstone on either one- or three-hour excursions. You can even hire the boat for private functions and the view you get of Maidstone and specifically Allington Castle are wonderful.
Jetstream Tours // Strood
You can choose between cruise or jet experiences at Jetstream Tours, each one with its own unique fun attached. The fast jet or the slower cruise are ideal for getting out on the water, and there are special trips that you can book into including a visit to the Maunsell Forts.
Canterbury Historic River Tours // Canterbury
Award-winning Canterbury Historic River Tours is a different way to see the cathedral city, offering new views and insights, as well as stories of the past.
Fire isn’t something you want to play with, but it is certainly possible to incorporate it into some fun and fantastic Kent activities – here are some ideas to get you started.
To really camp you’re going to need a campfire, and even if you don’t want to sing songs around it, it can be used to keep you warm once the sun goes down and to cook up some pretty tasty dishes too. Campsites in Kent span the entire county, so you can find somewhere close to a beach, near woods, in the gorgeous open countryside, or even close to some of our most important towns. Just a few examples include:
Far Acre Farm, Marden
Oldbury Hill, Sevenoaks
Badgells Wood, Meopham
Strictly Camping, Tunbridge Wells
Watercress Farm, Pluckley
Hatchers Farm, Canterbury
Going to the circus as a family is a rite of passage, and now that there are no animals to worry about, it’s possible to enjoy every aspect of the silly, clever, inspiring acts in front of us. One of which often happens to be fire breathing. If you ever wanted to learn, here is your chance.
Kinetic Circus // All Across Kent
Kinetic Circus workshops take place across the county and range from one-to-one tuition to larger groups. The skills you learn during your lesson will help you in many different aspects of life, so even if you’re not planning on running away to join the circus, you’ll still have a great time. As for fire breathing, that’s a fairly specialised skill, so you may need to book that as an extra.
Firewalking is essentially walking on hot coals barefoot. It’s a spiritualist practice that takes place in many countries around the world, and in the UK – including Kent – it’s often used to raise money for charity. Because it’s a real challenge, you can often raise a large amount of money using this method, and you’ll feel a massive sense of achievement once you’re done.
Take a look at www.ukfirewalk.com to find out more about how you can raise money for your favourite charity by walking across hot coals.