Bluebell Hill Walk No.1
(Pilgrim's Way and Sandling)

Saturday 7th June started with early morning thunder and rain. Fortunately, by 2.00pm the weather had cleared to bright and sunny as nine KGG members, friends and relations met with Anne Padfield for the first of three walks she had planned in the Bluebell Hill area where she lives.

We met in the layby off the A229 Chatham to Maidstone road, half a kilometre north of Tyland Barn, the Kent Wildlife Trust's headquarters.

We started by heading north and passed under the A229 to look at Orchids. The flowers on a few Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) were just developing but Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii, and quiz question 1) were to be seen everywhere.

Common Spotted Orchid,Dactylorhiza fuchsii Orchids En Masse Pyramidal Orchid,Anacamptis pyramidalis
Common Spotted Orchid
Orchids en masse
Pyramidal Orchid

Returning under the A229 we took the eastward direction of the Pilgrim's Way beside the Shell Garage and Caravan Business and soon crossed over the Channel Tunnel rail Link (CTRL and quiz question 6) where we had a good view of the southern portal. Anne explained that the tunnel through Bluebell Hill had been bored but that an entrance portal at each end had been dug out then covered. The portal was designed to minimise the blast effect as trains entered the tunnel at high speed.

A huge erratic sarsen boulder, known locally as the White Horse Stone, gave us the answers to three more of the fifteen questions in Anne's quiz. (Sarsons is a brand of vinegar, Hengist's sidekick was Horsa and a prancing white horse is the emblem of Kent).

The White Horse Stone CTRL Southern Portal Wooden Sculpture
The White Horse Stone
CTRL Southern Portal, Bluebell Hill
Wood Sculpture

Return to Top

We had not travelled far before we met two charming young men resting with their dog. They told us they were pilgrims who had started in Winchester and were walking to Canterbury, putting up each night wherever they could find accommodation. With permission of the vicar they had spent the previous night in a church. After they had sung us a tuneful duet of 'To be a Pilgrim' we exchanged best wishes and they continued on their way.

Two pilgrims walking to Canterbury ... ...and their canine companion
Two pilgrims walking to Canterbury ...
...with their canine companion!

The North Downs (with the North Downs Way) rose above us on our left and gaps in the trees on our right gave us occasional splendid views of the Medway Valley below us. Wood carvings, ornamental seats and a few wild flowers, such as Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima), that grows on calcareous soils, Ox Eye Daisy and Wood Woundwort added interest.

About one and a half kilometres from the start a beautifully carved wooden seat gives a splendid view southwards across the Medway valley. We paused here briefly then took the adjacent path down hill through Boarley Farm and over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, then passed under the M2 towards Sandling. At the bottom of the hill we observed the emergence of springs near Abbey Gate where water that had penetrated through the porous rock of the hills above met more solid ground lower down.

After a brief circuit of Sandling we returned towards Abbey Gate, turned left into Tyland Lane, right into Chatham Road, then back to our starting point.

We thank Anne for her planning and preparation; and for the maps, geological data and quiz that she prepared as handouts to round off a most enjoyable walk.

A few more general pictures of the walk are shown below:-

Return to Top

Ox Eye Daisy Medway Valley Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima
Ox Eye Daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare
The Medway Valley from the Pilgrims Way
Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima
North Downs from the Pilgrims Way Mare with Foal Hedge Woundwort, Stachys silvatica
North Downs from the Pilgrims Way
A Mare and her Foal came to greet us!
Hedge Woundwort, Stachys silvatica

Return to Top

Access and Safety

The Pilgrim's Way is a public right of way maintained by Local Councils and therefore presents little or no hazards. However, after periods of rain the path may develop significant puddles and become quite slippery. Be alert for branches and twigs, particularly bramble, overhanging the path; they can grow quickly in summer. Appropriate, sensible clothing and footware should be chosen for the occasion.

This walk started from the layby off the A229 Chatham to Maidstone Road, just below the Shell Garage and Caravan Sales compound south of Bluebell Hill; Grid Ref TQ 752600.

This section of the Pilgrim's Way may be accessed from the path beside the Caravan Sales compound and is signposted. The walk heads eastwards.