UNITING HERITAGE WITH NATURE
With 460 acres of ancient woodlands and chalk grassland, whether you’re heading for a family day out, walking the dog, riding a horse, capturing some picturesque shots, wanting to learn about the heritage of Kent, or simply looking to be inspired by nature, there is plenty of space for all at Lullingstone Country Park!
After the second world war there was great pressure to use the land that makes up the country park for food, but eventually most of the space was acquired by Kent Country Parks who maintain its specialist conservation.
The heritage of the park and its surrounding areas are displayed in many ways, for example,
Lullingstone Country Park is internationally recognised for its collection of ancient trees such as, veteran oak, beech, ash, hornbeam and sweet chestnut, some of which are thought to be an astounding 800 years old! Not only does the nature found in the park hold a lot of history, but the buildings in the surrounding areas do too! Take a walk with me to find out more…
While there are 3 alternative walking routes, I’m going to share the route I took, called the Lullingstone Loop/Circular walk which is also the longest (and most exciting) trail. Upon arriving to the park, head towards the back of the visitor centre where we will begin our journey along the Darent Valley Path following the River Darent which flows all the way from the banks of the River Thames. This is also a nice shady spot to dip your feet and dogs are free to frolic in the water to cool down from the summer heat. Continuing along the narrow pathway, you will eventually hit the first heritage site! Lullingstone Castle. It is one of England’s oldest family estates and home to The World Garden, which grows exotic plants from all over the globe. As I went last summer while we were still under partial lockdown restrictions, I wasn’t able to go inside and explore as was the intention. However, I did some extra research for you and the Castle is said to be reopening at the beginning of April this year! The castle offers a variety of events for all to enjoy throughout the year and you can even tour the historic house at an extra cost.
Once you’ve taken in all the heritage of the castle, continue walking straight off the beaten track that is also used as a road and bridle way, so be on the look-out for cars and horses attempting to pass by. You will walk past some wonderfully constructed homes depicting old time Britain, as well as farm land. You will eventually arrive to another car park and corner turn in the trail. This is where the second heritage site is based, Lullingstone Roman Villa. When I arrived at the Roman Villa, they were only accepting pre-booked visitors. However, they will be opening again from 17th May 2021, so if you’re planning a trip here, be sure to check the website for guidance, pricing and restrictions. On your visit, expect to find spectacular mosaics and prints of the rare wall paintings, a heated bath-suite and a ‘house-church’. There is also said to be a specially commissioned light show that brings the villa to life, and galleries displaying Lullingstone’s fascinating collection of Roman artefacts; the children are even encouraged to play dress-up!
Now, back to that sharp corner turn I mentioned. Behind the Roman Villa Museum is a gap in the shrubbery with a steep incline. Head through this slot and brace yourself for aching thighs when you reach the point where the ground begins to level off – leg day workout done! But once you see the views, it’s definitely worth it! Imagine those bridges you see on scenic railway journeys, acres of land, fields of lavender and blue skies… Ah, summer, I miss you!!
From here on, it’s pretty much a free for all, you can join up to one of the shorter trails (Woodland Walk or Discovery Trail) which offer different sightings. On the Woodland Walk you will come across a variety of different flowers and fungi, while the Discovery Trail will lead you to view some of the parks birdlife. Whichever you choose, there are markers enroute that you can follow. If, however you decide to carry on with the loop, or manage to get lost like we did, my recommendation is to keep left and if needs be cut across the golf course! Yes, you read that right, there is a golf course situated in the centre of the park! Whether we were allowed to cut through it or not, I don’t know. What I do know is we made it back to the carpark in one piece and there were no boundary markings saying otherwise… We did however stumble across the cutest little picnic area with benches and chairs carved out of real timber, the perfect end to a summer’s day.
GOOD TO KNOW
Location: Lullingstone Country Park, DA4 0JF
Parking: Pay and Display
Facilities: Toilets with disabled access, Picnic area, Visitor Centre, Café, Play area
Approximate trail time: 3-4 hours
Best time of year to visit: All year round
Accessibility: Easy access trails, bridle way