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Along the Medway

A relaxing walk beside the banks of the Medway from West Farleigh.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths and river walkway, some road, 12 stiles

Landscape Lush pasture and busy riverbank

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 148 Maidstone & the Medway Towns

Start/finish TQ 721526

Dog friendliness Keep on lead near livestock, popular with local dog owners

Parking Good Intent pub car park - ask landlord's permission

Public toilets Teston picnic site

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1 From the Good Intent pub at Farleigh Green go left, then left again down the footpath. The right of way has been diverted so, just before the garage, veer left then follow the path in front of you. Nip over a stile on the left and cross the field (ignore another stile), keeping the fence on your right-hand side until you reach the main road. Turn right and walk to the road junction, then cross to the Tickled Trout pub. Resist the temptation for early refreshment and go through a kissing gate on the left, immediately before the pub.

2 Walk down the field, cross a stile and bear right. Follow the path down to the bottom of the field and cross the stile that lies to the right of the wartime pill box. Turn left and pass Tutsham Mill Cottages, then follow the signs ahead for the Medway Valley Walk. Bear to the right in front of Tutsham Hall and then walk through the farmyard. Go over a cattle grid, cross a stile into a field and follow the Medway Valley Walk right down to the river bank.

3 Nip over the stile and into the woods, then walk through the trees until you come to a small bridge that crosses a particularly muddy piece of ground. Keep walking by the river and then bear to the left to cross a small stiled bridge into the next field. Make for the right-hand corner of the field, cross a stile and squeeze through a kissing gate. Continue ahead until you reach the road, where you turn right and cross Bow Bridge.

4 Immediately after crossing the bridge turn right, walk down to the river and join the tow path. You can't get lost now, just keep following this path, going through several gates until you come to Teston Lock, a pleasant, lively affair with a rushing weir. Go under the stone bridge, over a stile and on to the road.

5 Turn right and cross the bridge, then walk up some steps on the left and follow the wooded track until you cross a stile and come into a field. Walk ahead to cross another stile, which brings you out by Farleigh church. Turn right and walk down to the main road. Walk left along this road then turn right up Charlton Lane and back to the pub at Farleigh Green.

When William Cobbett (1763-1835) travelled through England in 1823 he fell in love with this part of the Medway, describing it as 'the finest seven miles that I have ever seen in England? across the Medway, you see hop gardens and orchards two miles deep?'. Although there are far fewer hop gardens or orchards today, the area is still well worth exploring. This walk takes you through the little village of West Farleigh, then across lush pasture before bringing you down to the banks of the Medway, the river that runs through the heart of Kent.

The Medway rises in Sussex then flows through the Weald of Kent and into the county town of Maidstone, before making its way up to Rochester where it flows into the Thames Estuary. The river valley's fertile soils have made it an important focus of settlement for thousands of years and many neolithic burial chambers have been found in the valley. The river's name is thought to derive from the Celtic word 'medu' or mead, meaning that the waters were sweet and clean. The Romans, who called the river 'Fluminus Meduwaeias', also settled by the river and the sites of several villas have been discovered on its banks, including one at East Farleigh.

The Medway was an important transport route for many years, although it was only navigable from Maidstone, and was an important factor in developing the local economy. Kentish corn, iron, wool and timber would regularly be taken along the river to be sold in London. Another important product of the Medway valley was ragstone. This was quarried by the Romans to build the walls of London, used by the Normans for the Tower of London, and later used for such buildings as Westminster Abbey and Eton College. It's even used today, by the Environment Agency, in the construction of tidal defences.

A distinction is often made between men born east and west of the Medway. Those from the east are known as men of Kent, while those from the west are Kentish men (to confuse the matter some sources claim that it's the other way around). It seems to date back to the early Saxon settlers who divided themselves into East Kentings and West Kentings. Whatever the truth is, it serves to show just how important the river was to the life of the Kentish people.

What to look for

In the spring some marshy areas by the river are used by frogs for spawning. Frogs are no longer the common creatures they once were, partly because the wetlands they inhabit are fast disappearing. Frog spawn should never be collected and taken away - even if you've got a garden pond.

While you're there

Maidstone is the county town of Kent and although it now has a truly ghastly tangle of roads at its heart, it does have some historic buildings worth investigating. There's the former Archbishop's Palace, built in the 14th century for archbishops travelling between London and Canterbury; All Saints Church on the site of a Saxon place of worship, and the College of All Saints, which was originally a medieval college of priests.

Where to eat and drink

The Tickled Trout pub at West Farleigh is very popular and serves meals and snacks, as well as tea and coffee. You can also try the Good Intent pub at Farleigh Green.

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