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Storming Round Toy's Hill

You'll see many reminders of the Great Storm of 1987 on this short walk.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Well-signed woodland paths, 7 stiles

Landscape Ancient woodland, with views stretching across the Weald

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 147 Sevenoaks & Tonbridge

Start/finish TQ 469517

Dog friendliness Good, lots of smells but will need to be kept on lead

Parking Toy's Hill car park

Public toilets Emmetts Garden

1 Start at the left-hand corner of the car park and follow the signs for Octavia's Well. It is named after Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, who had it sunk for the villagers in the 19th century. Prior to that they had to collect water in buckets from the Puddledock stream. Follow the track through the woods. You soon enjoy panoramic views over the Weald of Kent.

2 Turn left at the waymarker and, in a short distance when the track divides, take the right fork. Pass through a barrier and enter a large grassed area. A tree planted here celebrated the late Queen Mother's 100th Birthday (and Toy's Hill's 80th). Follow the track as it branches to the left, and go down steps to Puddledock Lane. Turn left, cross the road and walk down Scords Lane.

3 Pass the house called Little Chart on your right, after which your route becomes a track, then widens and bears left along a bridleway leading into Scords Wood. This area of woodland is famed for its thick carpet of bluebells in the spring. At the post in the middle of the bridleway, take the right-hand path. When the track splits, turn right and continue to another marker post. On your way there are good views of Bough Beech reservoir. Around 60 species of bird breed here each year and it's a great place to see wildfowl such as teal and goosander, and wading birds like the green sandpiper.

4 Take the track that bears right, cross a stile and turn left. Walk along the top edge of this field, nip over another stile, then bear right and head for a gap in the tree line, where you cross another stile. Make for the bottom right-hand corner of the field and go over a footbridge. Turn left and walk up the left-hand side of the field. Your way now takes you over two more stiles and up into the village of Ide Hill.

5 With the green on your right, walk through the village and fork left to pass in front of the Cock Inn. When the road ends continue ahead along a track, cross a stile in the hedgerow on to a lane. Turn left and, when you reach the road, turn right and walk towards Ide Hill Cricket Club. Take a footpath on the left and follow it to Emmetts Garden.

6 Take the track that runs to the side of the toilets into the woods. Cross a stile and at a crossing of tracks turn left. Continue ahead at two more track crossings, passing a wooden barrier on your left. Bear right at the next crossing and continue. Go left just before the path climbs sharply upwards and continue until you come back to the car park.

Toy's Hill is the highest point in Kent and a beautiful area of woodland, owned by the National Trust. The area was devastated by the hurricane or 'Great Storm' of 1987, which ripped through southern England in the early hours of 16th October. The Met Office famously failed to predict the storm. A trainee meteorologist called Anita thought that she'd spotted a hurricane on its way and rang the London Weather Centre to see if they had noticed it. They hadn't. BBC weatherman Bill Giles said that it would be 'breezy in the Channel' and that evening on the BBC TV Forecast, Michael Fish reassured Anita with the words: 'don't worry, there won't be a hurricane'. But there was - and 18 people died. During the night a staggering 15 million trees in the south were uprooted, some of them up to 400 years old. The landscape was changed forever. However, the storm did serve to open up some of the panoramic views over the Weald of Kent that can be enjoyed on this walk.

The term Weald is derived from the Andredsweald, the name the Anglo-Saxons gave to the extensive, thick woodlands that once covered a large part of Kent. One of the reasons so many trees were lost is because the storm occurred in October, when the leaves were still on the trees, presenting a greater resistance to the wind. In addition, the ground was waterlogged and the roots of the trees did not have a secure hold in the ground.

In the woods at the end of the walk there's a sign letting you know that the area has been deliberately left untouched after the storm of 1987. You can see natural regeneration taking place as saplings spring up in the cleared areas.

While you're there

Knole House, the largest private house in England, is a mixture of medieval and Jacobean architecture and was the birthplace of Vita Sackville-West. It is owned by the National Trust and is full of fine furnishings that once graced royal palaces such as Whitehall, Kensington and Hampton Court. The house is surrounded by a vast expanse of parkland where deer graze.

What to look for

You pass Emmetts Garden on this route and it is well worth a visit. It was created in the late 19th century by the banker Frederick Lubbock and is now owned by the National Trust. The garden has plenty of mature trees and rare shrubs, including camellias, magnolias, Japanese maples and ginkgos.

Where to eat and drink

You've got lots of choice on this walk. In Ide Hill village there's the popular tea house and coffee shop at the Elan Arts Centre, which offers soup, sandwiches and good cakes. For a beer or a bar meal try the Cock Inn. There's also a tea room at Emmetts Garden.

Kent

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