Ashford’s rich landscape is a walker’s paradise; here routes range from national long-distance paths to leisurely town trails and atmospheric meanders along canals and strolls by lakes. Pull on your walking boots and you will encounter ‘not to be missed’ trails – including The North Downs Way, The Stour Valley Walk, the historic Pilgrims Way or the local Ashford Green Corridor.
Both Ashford and Tenterden have fascinating, fact- filled heritage trails – so combine a leisurely stroll with finding out more about the history of these two towns.
The borough is also home to some of Kent’s finest parks, lakes and a large stretch of the Royal Military Canal. There’s plenty to keep you on your toes, but please remember to Respect, Protect and Enjoy the countryside.
We’re fortunate to have a large section of one of England’s most accessible National Trails right here in the borough. So why not trace ancient routes on a modern day pilgrimage? The 153 mile (246 km) trail starts in Surrey and takes you via the Kent Downs at Wye onto the Kent Coast at Dover.
The Stour Valley Walk meanders through the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) from the source of the River Stour in Lenham, cutting through the borough of Ashford, to Canterbury. One of the most stunning sections can be found between Wye and Chilham, passing through a rolling landscape with panoramic views such as the Devil’s Kneading Trough.
The Pilgrims Way is one of the most well-known of British pilgrimages. Pilgrims first started making the journey in 1172 from Winchester to Canterbury, where Thomas Becket was buried after his martyrdom two years before.
In Ashford, you can join the Pilgrims Way route starting from either Chilham or the picturesque village of Wye, nestled in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Follow the Pilgrims Way, through the scenic Stour Valley, to the historic cathedral city of Canterbury. Along the way you’ll pass through ancient woodland, rolling fields and charming villages, as well as a few challenging climbs through the Garden of England.
Ashford’s Green Corridor is made up of parks, recreation grounds and other green spaces alongside the rivers that flow through the town of Ashford. They provide a pleasant and relaxing environment to walk, observe nature and unwind in the bustling town of Ashford.
Ashford has a rich history with evidence of settlement dating back to prehistoric times. Ashford’s Heritage Trail guides you round the historic town centre of Ashford, from its first mention in the Domesday Book, its Victorian transition with the coming of the railway to the modern town it is today by the way of a Friendship Stone and a unique WWI female tank. Don’t forget to drop into the Ashford Borough Museum to discover more!
Tenterden’s Heritage Trails takes you the length and breadth of Tenterden High Street discovering the myriad of different styles of buildings and architecture. Find out about the town’s Cinque Port history and why neighbouring Smallhythe used to be a shipbuilding centre in the 15th and 16th centuries. A visit to Tenterden Museum is a must!
There really is something for everyone at Victoria Park, including a wealth of history, exciting play spaces, interesting wildlife and ecology, quiet spaces to relax and a spectacular fountain built for the RHS Great Exhibition of 1862 and donated to the town by George Harper in 1911. Victoria Park is a great space to access the great outdoors with Ashford Town centre only a 5-minute walk.
Originally built to protect from Napoleonic invasion, The Royal Military Canal is the 3rd longest man-made structure in Britain after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke. It stretches for 28 miles from Seabrook near Folkestone to Cliff near Hastings in East Sussex with idyllic stretches around Appledore, where the vines of Gusbourne Estate come down to the edge of the canal side path, with Hamstreet and Warehorne being good places to start or finish, if in need of light refreshment. The canal is a haven for wildlife – listen out for the laughing frogs!
Conningbrook Lakes is made up of a series of lakes, ponds, river, wet woodland and grasslands – creating a great place for a lake and river side stroll, and is host to a variety of wildlife.
Singleton Lake, part of the Ashford Green Corridor, is a man-made lake which over time has become a wildlife haven, with habitats for many animal and plants. The deep waters are ideal for diving birds such as great crested grebe, while the trees on the banks and islands have attracted that great singing star of the bird world, the nightingale. Kingfishers can be seen flying up and down the Great Stour River which runs alongside. This is the perfect spot for walking and great for a picnic.
Ashford Community Woodland is an oasis of mixed woodland and rough grassland right in the heart of Singleton. Wooden sculptures provide added interest along the pathways round the woodland, which is also a receptor site for reptiles! Ashford Community Woodland is a green space designed and managed by the local community and the nearby Singleton
Hothfield Heathlands is one of the last remaining heathlands in Kent. The wide-open landscape of Hothfield Heathlands is perfect for a long stroll. During the spring months, fresh heather, gorse and a myriad of tiny plants can be seen. It’s an ideal location for spotting birds as the gorse bushes provide perch for many bird species. A series of waymarked paths allow you to explore most of the unique site, with boardwalks allowing access to some of the wettest parts of the reserve. Don’t forget to look out for the magnificent Highland Cattle who also call it home.
Only a 5 – 10 minute walk from Hamstreet railway station, Hamstreet Woods National Nature Reserve is nationally designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest - home to two protected species: the great crested newt and the dormouse.
The woodland contains three way-marked trails varying between 2.5km and 5km through the reserve. In spring, the woods are filled with white wood anemones and bluebells, whilst autumn is the perfect time for fungi-foraging and appreciating the autumnal leaves.
King’s Wood is a 15,000-acre forest in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Challock. Historically, King’s Wood was once a royal hunting forest and a large herd of deer still run free in the wood. The forest is littered with sculptures and other kinds of artworks. A marked trail leads visitors round the sculptures in King’s Wood and visitors should allow at least 2.5 hours to complete the trail. During the spring months bluebells cover the woodland floor making King’s Wood the idyllic location for walkers.
Tenterden’s not only home to the Kent & East Sussex Railway and numerous independent shops, cafes and restaurants, it’s also the perfect base for a number of delightful walks into the surrounding countryside – there’s a selection of seven different walks to try and none are more than 5 miles – so get your walking boots on!
If you are looking for a lunchtime stroll then try one of Ashford’s beautiful parks: Civic Park, next to the River Stour, has a circular walking route. One of the park’s main features is the Civic Memorial Beacon dedicated to the Cavalier poet Sir Richard Lovelace who gave Ashford its motto ‘With Stronger Faith’ from his 1649 poem ‘To Lucasta, Going to the Warres’.
A short walk away within the town centre is the beautiful Memorial Gardens. With thoughtful, well-kept flowerbeds and floral installations, it’s the perfect place for quiet contemplation. Ashford’s War Memorial, an area of remembrance for those that lost their lives in conflict at home and around the world, is located within the gardens.