Fresh air, fun and family time are weekend staples in our house, and if we can throw in a bit of exercise at the same time then even better. Recent rambles took us about 9 miles west of Maidstone to the pretty village of Trottiscliffe where the surrounding countryside is ripe for exploring on foot with pretty woodland walks and bird’s-eye views over the North Downs from Trosley Country Park.
And as an added bonus, tucked away in the Kent countryside just down the road from Trottiscliffe is a little-known archaeological gem… The Coldrum Long Barrow (also known as the Coldrum Stones) dates back to around 4,000BC, making what’s left of these prehistoric ruins impressively older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.
On our visit in early May the bluebells were twinkling in the sunlight as we parked at the small Coldrum Long Barrow car park (ME19 5EJ, just off Pinesfield Lane near the church of St. Peter and St. Paul). Follow the signposted uneven path for about 10 minutes (watch your footing if it’s been raining) and you’ll come to the ancient sarsen stones complete with information board. Admittedly, Neolithic ruins are unlikely to capture kids’ attention for long, however the site’s extraordinary age and cultural significance makes it worth a look.
Stone Age history lesson complete, we retraced our footsteps back towards the car park. At this point we could ignore the cries of “I’m hungry, when’s lunch?” no longer and, with no picnic lunch packed, it was off to The George in Trottiscliffe (ME19 5DR) for a nibble and a frolic in the pub’s excellent al fresco play area.
Tummies full, we resumed our rambles by walking left and uphill from The George along Taylors Lane, towards the high woodland ridge of Trosley Country Park. When the road bends left (Vigo Hill), cross over and look for the bridleway sign. It’s then a fairly steep uphill calorie burn as you make your way along the well-marked bridleway before shimmying to the right to pick up the park’s blue colour-coded Downland Trail walking route.
Push on to the top and you’ll find yourself in the main park itself (free entry). You can then make your walk as long or as structured as you like: follow one of the clearly marked circular routes or simply go freestyle as we did, letting the kids run off steam in the woodland paradise with games of hide-and-seek, tree climbing, den building and nature hunting. If you need a pit stop there’s a visitor centre with toilets and Bluebell Café.
When feet are flagging you could retrace your route downhill along the bridleway which leads back out on Taylors Lane and towards to The George. Our energetic trio spent almost three hours romping around Trosley Country Park and finished up by cantering down the steep chalk downland Quarry Field (an extension of the Downland Trail blue route). We exited the park onto Pinesfield Lane; it’s then a right turn onto the historic Pilgrims Way followed by a left onto Taylors Lane, and The George will eventually be on your right.
It was one of our longest family walks so far, but given that all three kiddos slept in until gone 8 the following morning, a highly successful one.