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A Ritual Tour of Trottiscliffe

An easy circular walk passing the ancient Coldrum Stones.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 345ft (105m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Easily walked field and woodland paths

Landscape Ancient landscape of woodland and dramatic downland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 148 Maidstone & the Medway Towns

Start/finish TQ 642602

Dog friendliness Can mostly run free except in parts of Trosley Country Park

Parking Village hall car park, School Lane

Public toilets Village hall if open

1 From the car park, turn left into School Lane, pass the primary school and continue to the T-junction. Turn right up Taylor's Lane, go past the Plough pub and take the second turning on the right, which is Green Lane, a bridleway.

2 Pass the allotments on the left and follow the bridleway beside a garden. At the end of the garden your route turns left and heads north through a field with a high hedge to the left. There are good views now of the North Downs escarpment. Go through two sets of kissing gates and you'll see Trosley Country Park signed ahead. One of Kent's first country parks, this was once the estate belonging to Trosley Towers mansion. It covers 160 acres (64.8ha) of the North Downs.

3 Turn left and continue along the lane to the junction with Taylor's Lane and Vigo Hill. Turn right and walk diagonally north east to go through a kissing gate marked with a sign stating, rather mysteriously, 'Dogs on lead, sheep not grazing'. You'll know if you've taken the right path if you see a solitary silver birch ahead. Pass through three more kissing gates as you ascend towards the woodland. Continue going up through the wood until you turn right to follow the North Downs Way. Keep on this broad path, ignoring offshoots to either side.

4 Eventually your path bears left uphill and through a kissing gate. Turn right and make your way downhill, continuing to follow the North Downs Way. This is an incredibly atmospheric part of the walk. The lane is deep and the trees form a thick canopy overhead; it feels as if it hasn't changed for thousands of years. At the foot of the woodland cross the Pilgrims' Way and join the Wealdway to continue your descent through fields down to the Coldrum Stones.

5 To return to the village you can either backtrack and follow the waymarks left through the fields, or continue downhill from the barrow on the concrete track and on to the lane. Either way brings you to the junction of Pinesfield Lane and Church Lane, with the Church of St Peter and St Paul on the right.

6 Return to the village from the fingerpost in front of the church, either by following the footpath bearing left or by the bridleway straight ahead.

This walk, which starts at the car park in the village of Trottiscliffe (pronounced Trosley), takes you through a country park high on the North Downs and past an ancient burial site. The village was once the home of the Second World War artist Graham Sutherland (1903-80). Sutherland painted portraits as well as landscapes and these were often controversial, as they tended to be unflattering. He is best remembered for his 80th birthday portrait of Churchill, which Churchill famously detested.

You'll see fine examples of Kentish tile hanging and weatherboarding on the cottages to the left. Timber was the most readily available building material until the 17th-century when the forests began to disappear. Timber-framed buildings often look lopsided because builders in Tudor times used fresh, green wood, that twisted as it dried out. Tiles, made of local clay, were often hung on to houses to give extra protection against the elements, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries when they were very fashionable. Weatherboarding with wood was an alternative to tile hanging.

The Church of St Peter and St Paul is of Norman origin and boasts a large pulpit that came from Westminster Abbey. Just by the church is a picturesque cluster of buildings that once surrounded a palace of the Bishops of Rochester.

This is a neolithic burial site dating back to the 3rd millennium bc. Originally there would have been a circle of upright stones on the site, surrounding a large earthen burial chamber. This in turn would have been divided by large stones, creating interior chambers. This style of construction is similar to that of tombs found in north west Europe, but in Britain is confined to North Kent. It shows that there were close cultural links between the two areas. When the barrow was excavated in 1910, the remains of 22 people were discovered as well as the bones of a deer, an ox, rabbit and fox. There seem to be various theories about the site. The skeletons are said to have physical similarities, so they could belong to members of the same family, buried there perhaps over a number of years. Another theory is that the grave belonged to a chieftain, and that when he died his family (and perhaps his slaves) would have been killed so as to accompany him on his journey to the afterlife.

While you're there

Addington, just on the other side of the M20 from Trottiscliffe, is also the site of some ancient burial chambers. Best known is the Chestnuts, a chambered barrow that contained nine cremated bodies and two infants.

What to look for

The North Downs is a huge chalk escarpment that runs through Kent. Its steep south-facing slope is wooded and is etched with ancient trackways, like the Pilgrims' Way, which have been used for thousands of years.

Where to eat and drink

There are two pubs where you can eat in Trottiscliffe, the George and the Plough. Both have beer gardens and serve bar meals and snacks.


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