Friday, 13 January 2012

Driving to the Wye Crown, Kent

The Stour is the second largest river in Kent, draining most of the east of the county. In fact this is not one river, but three rivers that join to flow into the sea together near Sandwich. This drive follows the longest of the three rivers, the Great Stour. The Little Stour is about 9 miles long and the East Stour 10 miles long.

Ths drive starts just outside Lenham, named for the River Len which also rises nearby but which flows west to be a tributary of the Medway. Find the White Horse by leaving the A20 at Lenham and heading south out of the village on the lane to Leadingcross Green and Boughton Malherbe. The pub stands on the Sandway crossroads just after the lane crosses a railway and before it crosses the M20.

Leaving the pub drive north to the A20, then turn right toward Ashford. Just after the junction with the A252 the village of Charing will be to your left. Enter the village to find the church. This charming place appears to be more of a small town than a village. The ruins of what was once a palace owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury lie just outside and are worth a visit.

Return to the A20 and continue into Ashford. This was a relatively unimportant village until the railway was built through here in the 19th century. It was chosen to be a major repair and maintenance centre for the railways, and the little village grew rapidly to become a town. The East Stour flows into the Great Stour just south of Ashford. At Ashford turn northeast along the A28 toward Canterbury.

About three miles outside Ashford turn right along a lane leading to Wye. This village has houses that date mostly to the Georgian period. For some reason the local builders chose to include grotesque heads and figures on many of the houses. It is a pleasant enough place, and the church is worth a look, but the real attraction lies along the lane east of the village to Hastingleigh. The hill above the lane is dominated by a huge white crown about 180 feet tall. The hill figure was formed by hacking through the green turf to reveal the white chalk underneath.

From TEASHOP DRIVES IN KENT by Rupert Matthews

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