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Marching Through Barham

A walk around one of England's most historic areas.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Village streets, tarmac tracks and field margins, 3 stiles

Landscape Lush downland interspersed with woods

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 138 Dover, Folkestone & Hythe

Start/finish GR 208501

Dog friendliness Good, several stretches to run free but keep on lead when near livestock and on golf course

Parking By Barham green

Public toilets None on route


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the Duke of Cumberland pub by the village green walk down to the main road, then turn left and walk along Valley Road - you'll get great views of the 13th-century church, with its green copper spire, on your left-hand side. Continue up Derringstone Hill, then turn left up Mill Lane.

2 Take the footpath on the right, go through an area of scrub, cross over the road, nip over a stile then go diagonally across the field heading towards the right-hand edge of the wood. Continue to eventually reach a road.

3 Follow the road through the woods. It's very easy walking here, and although it's tarmacked you don't usually meet much traffic. Pass two houses then go steeply downhill. At the bottom go left, signed 'Denton'. The track now opens out on the right and giving pleasant views over pasture. Just before the main road there are two footpaths leading off to the left; take the one that forks right.

4 This path eventually leads into the woods. Pass a house, turn left and walk down the path, with tennis courts on the right. Turn right past the courts and walk through the grounds of Broome Park. Now a hotel and golf club, the house was originally built in the 17th century by Inigo Jones for Sir Basil Dixwell, the man who signed the, unfulfilled, death warrant of Charles Edward Stuart (1720-88), popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. In the early 20th century it became the home of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum (1850-1916), the celebrated General who gained notoriety in the First World War. He featured on the famous poster 'Your Country Needs You'. Follow the path through the car park then walk in front of the house.

5 Walk up the track to the first tee, cross the green (look out for golf balls) and walk up to the marker post at the trees. Turn right here, cross the next green and go over a stile into the next field. Continue walking in the direction of Barham church. Cross another field and come on to the road, through a kissing gate.

6 Cross over to the other side and walk along the road almost directly ahead of you. At the crossroads turn right and head up the road, crossing a stile on your left to follow a footpath which brings you up to the cemetery. Continue to the road at the church, turn left, follow the road down and walk back into the centre of Barham village.

This walk introduces you to a forgotten corner of Kent. Barham's a pleasant village, but not so picturesque that it makes it on to the standard tourist itinerary; most people have never even heard of it. Yet Barham (pronounced Bar-rum) has witnessed more historic events than many major towns and cities - and they've all had a distinctly military flavour.

The village dates from Saxon times and sits snugly by Barham Downs, once described as 'the most historic mile of countryside in England'. It's a title I reckon it deserves. The Roman legions were here first in 54 bc (40,000 of them according to Julius Caesar) camping on the Downs as they battled their way across Kent. The Britons fought hard to repel them, even digging traps that they hid with trees and branches. However, they stood no chance against Caesar's mighty army - particularly after one of their leaders switched sides. Contemporary accounts claim that every single Briton was slain.

During the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Downs were again at the centre of the action, when William the Conqueror met the people of Kent, to hear them swear allegiance to him. He took a few hostages at the same time, just to encourage them to keep their word. Years later King John (1167-1216) camped on Barham Downs with 50,000 men as he prepared to go to war with France, and it was here, too, that Simon de Montfort gathered a huge army during the Barons' War. This began in 1264, after several powerful barons disagreed with the policies of the King, Henry III. Led by Simon de Montfort they took up arms and captured Henry. De Montfort, a French nobleman, then took over control of England, which he ruled until he was killed in 1265.

After that Barham was a peaceful place for a few centuries - until the outbreak of civil war, when Royalist forces assembled here in 1642 before attacking Dover Castle. And then, during the Napoleonic Wars, in the early 19th century, yes, you've guessed it, the army camped on the Downs again before heading off to fight in France. The soldiers seem to have made the most of the opportunites to meet the local women, because the church witnessed plenty of their weddings - and their children were baptised here.

Barham continued to act as a military magnet in the 20th century. During the First World War the fields were filled with soldiers waiting to go to France and Flanders. And in the Second World War, in an incident reminiscent of an episode of the television series Dad's Army, a German aircraft crashed on to the railway line. The crew, who were unharmed, were captured by the local Home Guard.

Where to eat and drink

The Duke of Cumberland pub in Barham is noted for its food and, as well as serving sandwiches and coffees, offers main dishes such as braised beef in Guinness and vegetarian choices such as spinach and ricotta cannelloni. It serves real ales too. The pub can get very busy, so if you want to eat there at weekends you are advised to book.

What to look for

One of the many ancient burial sites in Barham is said to contain a golden statue of the Anglo-Saxon god Woden. No one knows if there is any truth in this, but Henry VIII did once have a tumulus excavated and it was said to contain golden armour. So you never know.

While you're there

There is a lane on the Elham Valley Way, just to the west of Barham, leading to Heart's Delight. It is lined with an ancient hedgerow, filled with a jumble of plants such as blackthorn, dog rose, holly, spindle, wild cherry, ash and yew. The rough way of ageing a hedgerow is to count the number of species in it, each species being equivalent to 100 years.


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