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Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains

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Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains
Author: Claire, Published: 26 Jul 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide star1 Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide star1 Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide star1 Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide star1 Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide
Kent, Hythe
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide boot Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide boot Lympne: Roman Remains and African Plains Walking Guide
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A 3 mile circular walk from the fascinating village of Lympne (pronounced Limm) in Kent. This walk is ideal for those that like to find surprises around every corner. There’s a beautiful church, an old castle, a stunning sea view, Roman remains, an old military canal and glimpses of the animals in Port Lympne Wildlife Park including giraffe and ostrich.

The walk includes one long descent and one long climb, both of which are quite steep. The paths are unmade for the most part and can be muddy and slippery and also very uneven underfoot, with rutted parts and tree roots. Some sections are narrow and so can be prone to becoming overgrown in the summer. You will not be sharing any of the paths with livestock, as all the paths are fenced away from adjacent pastures. You will need to negotiate one kissing gate (which is quite tight) plus some steep steps, but there are no stiles on route. Allow 1.5 hours.

Lympne village is located about 2 miles west of Hythe in Kent. The walk starts and finishes in the village car park, directly alongside the village hall on Aldington Road. Approximate post code CT21 4LF.

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Walk Sections

Start to Lympne Castle
Start to Lympne Castle

Start point: 51.0743 lat, 1.0252 long
End point: 51.0727 lat, 1.0241 long

Leave the village hall car park via the vehicle entrance, cross over to the far pavement with care and turn left along this. After just 50 metres, cross back over the road to turn left onto the signed public footpath. Head up the steps and go through the kissing gate then follow the tarmac footpath with a horse paddock on your left.

At the end of the narrow path, keep ahead along the tarmac driveway, passing some houses on your left. You will come to a T-junction with a quiet access lane. Turn left along this, passing some impressive stone walls and ornate windows on your right. This is the outer wall of Lympne Castle. At the end of the lane you will come to the main castle entrance gate on your right (there is no public access but you may get a glimpse of the inner courtyard if the gates are open) and the lychgate for the church ahead (which is worth a visit). Above the castle entrance gate is the Latin motto, Nil Sine Labore which translates as Nothing Without Labour.

Lympne Castle is a Grade I listed building dating back to the 1200s. It was originally home to Archdeacons of Canterbury, including Thomas Becket. Today, it is used as a private venue for weddings and other functions. Beneath the foundations of the castle are the remains of Portus Lemanis, part of a Roman fort (more about that later). Much of the stone to build the castle and the church next door came from this Roman fort.

Lympne Castle to Footbridge
Lympne Castle to Footbridge

Start point: 51.0727 lat, 1.0241 long
End point: 51.0671 lat, 1.0184 long

When you have finished, turn around and retrace your steps back along the lane, passing the footpath driveway from which you emerged on your right. Continue beyond this and, where the lane swings sharp right (with Old Castle Stores directly ahead), turn left to join the public footpath which is part of the Saxon Shore Way.

Follow this path downhill between walls and then bearing right to pass through some woodland. Go ahead through the staggered barrier to continue on the waymarked footpath which soon swings right with a fence running on your left. Very soon beautiful views open up to your left, across the south coast and out to sea.

This is the perfect place to pause, enjoy the view and understand the history of this area. In Roman times, Lympne was the point where the River Rother met the sea and you are standing on what would have been the sea cliff. The village name, Lympne, comes from the Celtic name for the River Rother, the Limen. Within the sloping cattle pasture, you will be able to see some stone wall remains. These are the remains of a Roman shore fort, Portus Lemanis. The port was ideally positioned, being a natural sea haven and having good onward routes to Canterbury and London. The fort was left to decay after the Norman invasion and the stone was reused to build the castle and church. You will also be able to see the meandering route of a canal beyond the pasture, the Royal Military Canal that you will be walking alongside later.

Continue along the path with a fence on your left and woodland on your right. About 20 paces after the fence on your left ends (as you enter trees), take the left fork down a steep unmade slope to reach a set of steps with a wooden handrail. NOTE: The whole of this next stretch of route, as you descend the former cliff, can be narrow, slippery and uneven underfoot so take your time and take good care.

Follow the steps zig-zagging steeply down the hillside. At the bottom of the steps, the enclosed path bends right and then bends left (with the fenced cattle pasture on your left). Further down you will have close-up views of the Roman ruins within this pasture. Soon afterwards, keep your eyes peeled for a view through the hedgerow and (secure!) fence on your right (into Port Lympne Wildlife Park). The enclosures on your right are home to a pack of African Painted Dogs. This highly social species is one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores with fewer than 5,000 left into the wild. If you do get to see the dogs, they will probably also be getting a good look at you – quite a moving experience! More about the park later…

At the bottom of the hill, the path swings left (with fine views of the castle up to your left) and then swings right to cross a footbridge over a stream.

Footbridge to Wildlife Park Drive
Footbridge to Wildlife Park Drive

Start point: 51.0671 lat, 1.0184 long
End point: 51.0715 lat, 1.0079 long

Keep ahead for a few paces to reach a crossroads with a surfaced footpath. Before we turn right to join this, there is a short detour. Go ahead up the opposite bank and turn left for a few paces to reach a bench, with a great view of the canal.

The Royal Military Canal stretches for 28 miles, hugging the old cliff line that borders Romney Marsh, once home to the sea and now reclaimed land. It was conceived and built at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, as a way to ensure that an invasion by the French could not use the marsh as a bridgehead (a military foothold and stepping stone). It was completed in 1809 and a military road (that you will be following for the next stretch) was built on the inland side of the canal.

When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the surfaced footpath (alongside the waste bin) and turn left to join this (as though you had turned right when emerging from the footbridge). Follow this path, the former Military Road, ahead with the concealed canal running to your left and the outer fence of the wildlife park on your right. This is the best stretch for enjoying tantalising glimpses of the exotic wildlife.

Port Lympne Wildlife Park covers 600 acres and is home to more than 700 animals across 80 species. The park is dedicated to conservation, many of the animals are endangered in the wild and are part of important breeding programmes. The big cats (lions, cheetahs and tigers), baboons, bears and wolves are held in the northern and western enclosures (out of sight of this walk), but the area to your right is the African Experience enclosure. Keep your eyes peeled and you are likely to see giraffe, ostrich, wildebeest, rhino, zebra and lots of species of deer.

Continue for about 800 metres to reach the first junction of paths, with a wooden waste bin on your left and a footbridge on your right. Turn right here (signed as the Saxon Shore Way), crossing the footbridge and following the wide enclosed footpath uphill. Beyond the fences and hedgerows each side, you will have more tantalising glimpses of the animals of the African plains. The wide path leads you steeply uphill and, part way up, you will cross one of the access drives that connect the two halves of the park, so be sure to wait for both side gates to be closed before you proceed.

Wildlife Park Drive to Private Road
Wildlife Park Drive to Private Road

Start point: 51.0715 lat, 1.0079 long
End point: 51.0734 lat, 1.0154 long

Keep climbing up the wide enclosed path. Towards the top, the path swings left and then right to become a tarmac track, still climbing. You will pass some of the wildlife park facility buildings on your left, where we were lucky enough to see the wolves’ lunch being loaded into a vehicle! At the top, you will reach a junction with the road. Immediately before the road, turn right onto the signed public footpath.

Follow this footpath through the elegant beautiful beech trees, between wire fences. Cross straight over the tarmac driveway of Lympne Place, a complex of buildings over to your right that is now a residential care home. Go straight ahead to continue on the woodland path. You will emerge to a junction with a second driveway, a private road that gives access to French House and Combe Farm.

Private Road to End
Private Road to End

Start point: 51.0734 lat, 1.0154 long
End point: 51.0745 lat, 1.0249 long

Cross over this private road driveway and walk straight ahead to join the footpath through the staggered barrier (between the two wide gateways). Follow this enclosed path between fences and hedgerows and then entering a section of woodland. At the middle of the woodland you will come to a single waymarker post, marking the junction with the path that you used on the outward leg.

From this point, you will be retracing your steps back to the car park. Go straight ahead on the woodland edge path, soon enjoying the fine sea views on your right. Follow the path bending left, passing through a staggered barrier and crossing the woodland to reach the alleyway.

Bear left along this and then turn right along the access road. After just 40 metres, and just before the start of the castle walls, turn left into the access driveway signed to Lympne School. At the end, join the narrow tarmac footpath ahead. Follow this all the way to the end, passing through a kissing gate to reach the village road. Turn right for just 50 metres to reach the village hall on your right where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


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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