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Boxley and the North Downs

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Boxley and the North Downs
Author: Claire, Published: 07 Sep 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guidestar1 Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guidestar1 Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guidestar1 Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guidestar0 Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guide
Kent, Maidstone
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Boxley and the North Downs
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guide boot Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guide boot Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guide boot Boxley and the North Downs Walking Guide
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A 4.5 mile circular walk from the pretty village of Boxley near Maidstone in Kent. The route visits the nearby Boxley Abbey then climbs to the top of the North Downs for a long stretch before descending back to the village. There is plenty of wildlife to enjoy plus an atmospheric woodland of ancient yews and some beautiful views.

The route includes several climbs and descents throughout including one fairly steep climb up to the top of the downs, and an equivalent descent. The surfaces are a mixture of field and woodland paths which can get fairly muddy in winter and after periods of rain. There is one section of road walking so take care of any traffic. There are a few gates plus four stiles on route, the final one of which is enclosed and quite tall so dogs may need a lift over (although there is a stone wall at the side that they could jump onto). One of the fields is likely to be holding horses and another holding sheep so take care with dogs. Allow 2 to 2.5 hours.

The small village of Boxley is located about 4 miles north east of Maidstone in Kent. The walk starts and finishes from outside the village church on The Street, opposite the Kings Arms. There are about six parking spaces in front of the church, otherwise park in the village with consideration for the local residents. Approximate post code ME14 3DR.

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Walk Sections

Start to Channel Tunnel Rail Link
Start to Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Start point: 51.3024 lat, 0.5431 long
End point: 51.3032 lat, 0.5287 long

To begin the walk, stand with your back to the church, cross over the main road and take the gravel driveway footpath which runs immediately to the right of the Kings Arms. At the junction of tracks go straight ahead, following the straight track with large crop fields over to the left. As you reach the hedge line, go ahead, again staying on the track as it crosses straight over the centre of the crop field.

Continue through the field over the brow of the hill and down the short slope to reach the next hedge line. Pass through the gap in the hedge and then turn immediately left along the field edge. Follow this field boundary as it swings around a woodland to the left, heading steadily downhill. At the bottom of the slope, follow the grass path as it swings right following the line of a ditch on the left, with a smaller field beyond this. At the foot of the field you will see the fenced rail line ahead of you, part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link to Boxley Abbey
Channel Tunnel Rail Link to Boxley Abbey

Start point: 51.3032 lat, 0.5287 long
End point: 51.301 lat, 0.5232 long

Swing right along the grass track which runs along the bottom of the field, with the rail line on the left. Ahead you’ll reach some timber steps, climb these and then follow the path left to emerge to a T-junction with the road.

(If you do NOT wish to visit the 13th century Abbey Barn, turn right along the road until you reach the sign for Boarley Cottage and then jump to the section Boarley Cottage to North Downs Way'. Otherwise continue with the directions in this section.)

Turn left and follow the road edge passing over the rail line. Pass through a gate on the left into the next crop field – over to your right you’ll see a pair of typical Kent oast houses, originally used for drying hops as part of the brewing process. Cross the field at 11 o’clock, pass through the next gate and go down the slope into the next field. Cross this field at 1 o’clock and at the far side you’ll reach an ivy clad wall – the original outer walls of the abbey. Turn right along the field edge, following the line of the walls on the left.

In the corner, pass through a (muddy!) tunnel of trees and you’ll emerge out to a tarmac lane. Turn left along this, passing a pretty row of terraced cottages. At the end of this lane you’ll come to the old stone pillars, part of the old arch which was the original entrance gate for Boxley Abbey. The grounds are now private but you can see them from this point and over to the right you’ll see the original long abbey barn.

Boxley Abbey to Boarley Cottage
Boxley Abbey to Boarley Cottage

Start point: 51.301 lat, 0.5232 long
End point: 51.3061 lat, 0.5262 long

This Cistercian monastery was founded in 1143 and became infamous thanks to a scam run by the monks here. They created the Rood of Grace, a wooden cross, the Jesus-like figure upon which would miraculously move, shed tears and change facial expressions. Pilgrims flocked to the abbey to see the cross and, thinking they had seen a miracle, would leave the monks a hefty donation. After the dissolution of the monasteries the Rood was exposed as a mechanized contraption of wires and rods that was operated by the monks. It was paraded around several towns and finally burned in London.

The abbey barn is 57 metres long , with its axis aligned east-west. It was used as accommodation for the visiting pilgrims (known as a Hospitium) and is now a Scheduled Monument and is Grade I listed.

You now need to retrace your steps back to the bridge over the rail line. To do this: walk back along the row of cottages and turn right through the tunnel of trees to reach the field corner. Keep ahead along the right boundary until you reach the footpath signpost. Bear left here to cross the field at 10 o’clock, pass through the gate, cross the next field straight ahead and go out through the gate to the road.

Turn right, crossing back over the rail line and keep ahead on the quiet tarmac lane. Follow the road as it swings right and you’ll reach the signs for Boarley Cottage.

Boarley Cottage to North Downs Way
Boarley Cottage to North Downs Way

Start point: 51.3061 lat, 0.5262 long
End point: 51.3142 lat, 0.5297 long

Keep ahead and beyond the handful of properties and farm outbuildings, go straight on as the path narrows between tall hedgerows. Follow this path for some distance climbing steadily. At the top of the long slope you’ll emerge to a T-junction with a track, the Pilgrims Way long distance path.

This ancient track runs along the natural causeway on the southern slope of the downs. It is thought to be the route that pilgrims took between Winchester and Canterbury (hence the name), but in fact was used long before this – as long ago as the Stone Age.

Turn left along the track and after about 300 yards look out for a metal kissing gate in the hedge on the right. Go through this, go over the small footbridge and continue into the woodland. Skirt to the right of a large mound to join the main wide path heading steeply uphill (taking care as the path can be slippery) between ancient yew trees. These magnificent trees are an excellent distraction from the exertion of the climb!

Some way up you’ll reach a major fork in the track, keep right, still climbing steeply uphill on the wide sunken track. Near the top (before you emerge from the trees) you’ll reach a path signed to the South Downs Way on the right (but this is in fact the North Downs Way). Turn right onto this.

North Downs Way to Harp Farm Road
North Downs Way to Harp Farm Road

Start point: 51.3142 lat, 0.5297 long
End point: 51.3115 lat, 0.5439 long

Follow this path and to your left you’ll have a thin strip of trees with crop fields beyond. Continue for some distance and then swing left up the short slope, and then keep right to merge with a wide stone and mud track, with lines of trees each side. The track soon swings right, across the top edge of the fenced horse paddock on the right. You will reach the outbuildings of Harp Farm. Follow the track which passes to the left of these and pass through a metal kissing gate and bear left to reach a T-junction with Harp Farm Road.

Harp Farm Road to Downs Descent
Harp Farm Road to Downs Descent

Start point: 51.3115 lat, 0.5439 long
End point: 51.3074 lat, 0.5533 long

Cross over the road and keep straight ahead along the right-hand edge of the large crop field, with a small woodland to the right. At the end of the field, swing right through a gap in the hedge line and keep right along the grass verge for just a few yards. When you reach the side road, turn left to cross over the main road with extreme care to take the narrow fenced path opposite (signed as the North Downs Way to Detling).

Cross the timber hurdles, then keep left onto the stone path through Boxley Wood. Continue for some distance until you reach a waymarked crossroads of paths. Turn right here onto the footpath to begin your descent of the Downs.

Downs Descent to End
Downs Descent to End

Start point: 51.3074 lat, 0.5533 long
End point: 51.3025 lat, 0.5432 long

Take care as you descend as the path can be a little loose with scree and slippery when wet. At the bottom of the woodland, dog-leg right then left to continue on the path downhill with horse paddocks to the left. At the end of the path, cross over the small tarmac road and take the stile opposite into a horse paddock.

Keep straight ahead down the right-hand edge of the paddock. In the bottom corner, cross the stile on your right and then cross this next field diagonally to reach the opposite corner. Boxley Church will be clearly visible on the far side. The name Boxley is thought to derive from the Anglo Saxon name ‘Boc Leah’ meaning a glade in woodland where box trees tend to grow.

Cross the stile into the next field (which may be holding sheep) and keep ahead along the right-hand fence line, heading to the right of the church. Cross the next stile which is directly alongside the church to finish your walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.

5 comments for "Boxley and the North Downs"

Very pretty walk through fields and woods with excellent directions

By srb52 on 12 Apr 2015

My first walk using ifootpath. I found it very well described and easy to follow and little chance of going wrong.
The walk had a lot of climbing and a steep descent. I made it even with old knees and ankles but it coul have been much harder inth wet.

By culverjones on 13 Sep 2015

Pretty walk, great directions, even we didn't get lost!😄

By bilbobaggins on 14 Mar 2016

Superb walk. Loved it❤️

By AndreaBarbar on 11 Sep 2016

Completed this on New Years Eve 2016 on a damp and foggy day. My Springer and I loved it. Great directions, easy to follow and predictable muddy. Took us 1:45 including the detour to the old Abbey. 2nd ascent is very steep and wouldn't be suitable for youngsters. Dog was off lead for 75% of the time. Free parking at the church. Imagine the views would be great on a clear day.

By tilly6850 on 31 Dec 2016

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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