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Along Appledore's Canal

A walk beside an historic canal, then across fields to a sleepy church.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Canal banks and field paths, 13 stiles

Landscape Striking views over Romney Marshes

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 125 Romney Marsh, Rye & Winchelsea

Start/finish TR 956293

Dog friendliness Keep on lead where sheep are grazing

Parking Appledore village car park

Public toilets By recreation ground

1 Park in the village car park or on the main street. Walk south down Appledore's main street and past the Church of St Peter and St Paul. Turn left just before the bridge, go through a couple of gates and over a stile and follow the footpath all the way along the Royal Military Canal. It's lovely easy walking on a grassy track and you don't have to worry about where to put your feet.

2 The route eventually takes you up to a road, where you turn left, go past Higham Farm and then go over a stile on the right. Now follow the footpath over the field, heading under the line of pylons and up towards the church tower that peers down on you. Go over another two stiles before coming into the graveyard of Kenardington church. Look behind you for great views over the fields and marshes. Keep to the left-hand side of the graveyard and go over a stile to join the Saxon Shore Way that you now follow all the way to Appledore.

3 Keep to the field edge, hop over another stile and join the road. In a few paces you'll see a broken down stile on the right-hand side, which takes you diagonally across the fields, over two more stiles and down into a sunken lane. Go over another stile and walk across the field, maintaining direction to reach the road. Cross over, pop over another stile and walk diagonally across the field, over a small bridge, then ahead over more fields. When you reach a stile on your right, don't cross it, but bear left and follow the Saxon Shore Way as it takes you on to the mound, a Bronze-Age burial site. From here you can see the chimneys of Hornes Place. The house that originally stood here belonged to the local squire and was burned down during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, when Wat Tyler's men marched through Appledore.

4 Go downhill, over a stile and a small bridge, then bear left diagonally and go through a gate. Continue to the recreation ground and the main road, where you turn left and walk back into Appledore.

Although it's about 9 miles (14.5km) from the sea today, Appledore was a busy port until the 14th century, when the sea started to retreat following extensive reclamation of Romney Marshes. It was a busy trading centre for luxury products such as wool, silk, wine and lace, and was also the hub of a lucrative ship-building industry. The main street is wide and airy, it reeks of past prosperity and is lined with the homes of former merchants and ship owners.

The Royal Military Canal is a reminder that Appledore was once strategically important. The Vikings brought 250 longships here and made the area a base for launching assaults on the surrounding countryside. During the Hundred Years War, French troops raided the coastline, sacked the village and burned down the church. An even greater threat came in the early 19th century, when it looked as if Napoleon's army might invade. Martello Towers were built along the coast and, as a further line of defence, a canal was dug between Rye and Hythe. The idea was that neither cavalry nor artillery would be able to cross the canal, so disrupting any large scale assaults. A military road was built next to the canal, behind an earthen parapet, allowing troops to move about while being protected from enemy fire. Sluice gates were also added so that, if necessary, Romney Marsh could be flooded.

The canal was never used against Napoleon, as by the time it was completed the threat of invasion had receded. It was, however, used by barges for many years and during the Second World War, when the country was once more threatened by invasion, was fortified again. You can still see pill boxes at various points along your route.

As you walk along the canal you will get great views of the marshes that stretch into the distance on your right-hand side. They are grazed by Romney Marsh sheep, the oldest of all British breeds of sheep. They have rather stocky looking bodies and short legs and are hardy animals, ideally adapted to living in damp conditions. During the summer, sheep farmers like the water level in the ditches to be high, so that their animals cannot stray from the fields, while arable farmers require water to irrigate their crops. So the sluice gates on the canal are used to raise the water level and let water drain out into the ditches.

While you're there

Steam addicts should love the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. This miniature railway was built in 1927 for a millionaire racing driver. All the locomotives and carriages are a third of the normal size.

Where to eat and drink

The Swan Inn, on the main street in Appledore, serves traditional ales and a good choice of bar meals - although they only serve food at lunchtime. The Black Lion, just down the road, specialises in fish and steaks.

What to look for

Appledore's position on the edge of Romney Marsh makes it an ideal location from which to spot corn buntings. Their numbers have declined in many parts of Britain but they still breed here. Their call is said to resemble the sound of keys jangling on a key ring.


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