Thursday, 3 May 2018

Cobham to Luddesdown Kent Circular walk 3rd May 2018

On Thursday the 3rd May 2018 I set off from home to drive to Cobham in Kent for a 7 mile walk before a late shift. After a 40 minute drive I arrive and park up in the free car park behind the school (DA12 3BN).

GPX File Here
Viewranger file here

I walk off along The Street passing The Ship Inn.

At the end of The Street where it meets Lodge Lane I pass the Cobham War memorial.

I now walk along Lodge Lane, a small road that leads down to Cobham Wood.

A new born Foal

Now I am walking through Cobham Wood on a footpath.

The woodland was part of the Cobham Hall estate, now ranger managed, and secured to prevent vehicular access. The Darnley Mausoleum, located in the wood, has been rescued and restored, and much of the woodland and the Mausoleum are now in the care of the National Trust. The woods are crossed by public footpaths.
On my right through the trees I can see Cobham Hall, now a private school.

Cobham Hall is an independent day and boarding school for girls in Cobham, Kent. The school is housed in a Tudor eramanor, which is now Grade I listed, and sits in 150 acres of historic parkland on the edge of the Kent Downs. It is a Round Square school and a member of the Girls' Schools Association.
There has been a manor house on the site since the 12th century. The current building consists of a pair of Tudor wings built for The 10th Baron Cobham in the 16th century and a later classical central block, the 'Cross Wing', remodelled in 1661–63 by Peter Mills of London for The 3rd Duke of Richmond. The attic storey was extended and other alterations made for The 3rd Earl of Darnley by Sir William Chambers, ca 1767–70 A kitchen court was added to the rear in 1771–73. The most notable feature of the interior is the two-storey Gilt Hall, designed and installed by George Shakespear, master carpenter and architect, of London, who made extensive interior alterations, 1770–81. The organ was built by John Snetzler in 1778-9.
The fourth earl, who inherited in 1781, employed James Wyatt extensively, for interiors that included the Picture Gallery and the Dining Room, and for stables and a Gothic dairy. The Library was fitted up by George Stanley Repton in 1817–20, and with his brother, John Adey Repton, in Jacobethan style, including the ceiling for "Queen Elizabeth's Room" (1817).[Their father, Humphry Repton, was hired to design a landscape plan for the estate and completed one of his famous 'Red Books' for Cobham in 1790. Cobham Hall remained the family home of the Earls of Darnley until 1957 and is now home to the school. It is open to the public on a limited number of days each year.
The building has also been used as a film set. A scene in Agent Cody Banks 2 in which Frankie Muniz fights Keith Allen in a room full of priceless treasures was filmed in the Gilt Hall. Scenes from an adaption of Bleak House were also filmed outside the building, and it was also used in a few scenes in the comedy sketch show Tittybangbang.
The Hall is used as the school 'Abbey Mount' in the 2008 film Wild Child starring Emma Roberts and as the Foundling Hospitalin the CBBC adaptation of Hetty Feather.

Now I approach Darnley Mausoleum, appearing through the trees ahead. 

The Darnley Mausoleum, or Cobham Mausoleum as it is often now referred to, is a Grade I Listed building, now owned by the National Trust. It was designed by James Wyatt for the 4th Earl of Darnley of Cobham Hall according to detailed instructions in the will of the 3rd Earl of Darnley. It was never used for interments.

The Earls of Darnley had been buried at Westminster Abbey, but after the death in 1781 of John Bligh, the 3rd Earl, spaces at the Abbey were no longer available. James Wyatt (1746–1813), a fashionable and extremely prolific[ architect of the time, was commissioned to design a mausoleum to hold the coffins of the Earls and their family members. Wyatt exhibited the design at the Royal Academy in 1783. A slightly modified design was completed in 1786 under the supervision of George Dance the Younger (1741–1825), perhaps fortunately as Wyatt had a poor reputation for supervising the execution of his work.[For obscure reasons the mausoleum was never consecrated so no bodies were laid to rest there. However, shortly after it was completed, Humphry Repton (1752–1818) started to redesign the landscapes around Cobham Hall for the 4th Earl in the 1790s and subsequently over nearly 30 years. As a result the mausoleum became an important landscape feature, sitting at the highest point of the Darnley estate.
The mausoleum is built of brick faced with Portland stone, is square with projecting chamfered corners, and surmounted by a pyramid. The form is an unusually grand classical temple, using Roman Doric order, fluted columns in antis on the face, prostyle on the angles. The mausoleum is a high point of the neo-classical period in Britain, which was much more concerned than the preceding baroque period that classical architecture should be used correctly according to ancient Greek and Roman precedent. However, the pyramid-shaped roof, the mausoleum's most distinctive feature, while usual in classical architecture may have been derived by Wyatt from a painting by Nicholas Poussin rather than directly from antique precedents. There is a flying staircase to the piano nobile. There are lunette openings above the cornice filled with amber glass to create an ethereal light inside. Tomb chests are above the angle architraves. On the piano nobile, there is a circular chapel with Tivoli variant Corinthian order columns of rose marble and a coffered dome of stone. The crypt at the lower level is accessed by steps at the rear and is lined in stone. It has 32 coffin shelves under a shallow stone dome.The mausoleum is important because of its architect, its situation in parkland at a predominant position on the North Downs, and as a demonstration of 'the Age of Enlightenment's preoccupation with a 'classical way of death'.

The Darnley family sold off the hall in the 1950s though they kept the mausoleum and some of the land.

In 2001, Gravesham Council purchased the mausoleum and its surrounding woods from the liquidators with funding from Union Railways, which built the High Speed One railway nearby, as part of the environmental remediation programme for the new line. The Cobham Ashenbank Management Scheme, known as CAMS, was formed as a consortium comprising the National Trust, English Heritage, Cobham Hall, Natural England, Kent County Council and Gravesend Council. CAMS carried out the restoration of the mausoleum and the parkland around it with the help of a £6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Fortunately, some original drawings exist .

I walk on along the path through Norwood Grove, part of Cobham Woods.

After a bit of woodland walking I reach a gate that lead out into Kitchen Field , a part of the Ranscombe Farm nature reserve.

I walk down the hill that then starts to climb back up.

Here I should have taken the path on into the woods, but I walk on a bit further than I should and up another hill, before realising my mistake and walking back.

On reaching the top of this hill, I realise I'm on the wrong path and head back.
Now back on the right path, I am walking through another wood of beautiful Bluebells.

As I walk along this path I can hear nothing but birdsong, lovely to be away from the noise of the A2 I could hear earlier on the walk.

Cattle grazing in the woods.
Grazing cattle have been introduced to help restore the woodland pasture, enabling the mosaic of grasses, herbaceous plants and scrub, which are characteristic of this important environment. Currently the cattle grazing are highland cattle, which were historically grazed in Cobham Park.

Now was I walk along the path views open up to views across Kent.

I turn a corner and head down the footpath leading to Cobhambury Road passing through a tunnel beneath the railway.

I am now walking along Cobhambury Road towards Luddesdown. A relatively quiet road so pleasant enough.

I am now approaching Lower Luddesdown after a bit of road walking.

I pass the Golden Lion Pub and up Luddesdown Road.

The Old Parsonage
I now reach Luddesdown and its church of St Peter and St Paul.
Luddesdown is first recorded in 975 as Hludes duna (Hlud's hill); in 1186 it was Ludesdon and in 1610 Luddesdowne. It is pronounced Ludsdun. In 939 there was a mound nearby called Hludes beorh - suggesting that Hlud was a prominent citizen.

The church, originally belonging to the local manor, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul has only II listing status; it is part of the ecclesiastical parish of Cobham to the north. The church school now operates as a village hall.

St Peter and St Paul is the small and ancient church of the tiny downland parish of Luddesdowne in north west Kent. The church, with a late Norman house and attendant farm, clustered among old trees at the head of two, long, raking valleys, is still a focal point of a scattered community of some two hundreds souls, little larger than it was when the Domesday surveyors of 1086 recorded 'a church here'.

The history of Luddesdowne Church, post-Conquest, is poorly documented and has to be read against the fate of the Norman knights and their successors who acquired the manor.
Following the church reforms of Henry III, many noblemen rebuilt their own small, cramped manorial churches, and this probably happened in Luddesdowne, where the earliest verifiable fabric, seen in the north and west walls, dates from the thirteenth century.

The tower and south aisle were then added in the 14th century, and so the church acquired the basic form in which it stands today. However, in 1865 the nave roof fell in requiring a major rebuilding. The reconstructed church was consecrated in 1867. Over the course of the next three decades the rector the Revd Alfred Wigan and his family furnished and decorated the church in accordance with their high church Oxford Movement tastes. Notably, they employed the firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne to install stained glass windows and the fine set of wall and ceiling paintings which survive to this day.

Other historical features of note surviving in the church include a 14th century log ladder in the tower, three medieval bells, a 15th century brass, and a fine Caen stone reredos depicting the Last Supper installed in 1873 and designed by Ewan Christian.

I now cross the road and onto a path that leads next to the Village Hall and uphill past the Cricket Club.

Looking back downhill to the cricket club and village hall.

I have a quick breather at the top of the hill on a bench before heading through a gate into a muddy field.

The path crosses over in another field with horses on my left before  I am in Henley Street.

I cross the road in Henley Street to a path opposite taking me through more fields and paddocks.

Which path?

I head off onto Batts Road and cross over the railway again.

Now I'm back on a path and heading back into Cobham.

Amongst the dramatic chalk downland of the Kent Downs where ancient villages and settlements nestle in hidden dry valleys Kent’s heritage stands dominant; the orchard.

The Kent Downs is characterised by its geological soil type where the chalk on the scarp is more evident yet covered with good brick earth on the dip slope. On this side of the Kent Downs, both traditional and commercial orchards dominate the landscape, an area known for its fruit production. In the distant past, this area was once a thriving industry, where Kentish cherries were first mentioned growing in Kent orchards during the 12th century under the auspices of the monasteries and church. During the 16th century, Henry VIII’s head fruiterer Richard Harris established a mother orchard in the area of Teynham close to the Kent Downs. Cuttings were taken from this orchard to produce fruit trees which were planted in the surrounding area. Today, there are remnants of old traditional orchards, similar to those which would have been planted; most of these have been superseded with modern dwarfing trees.

I now reach St Mary Magdalene Church in Cobham.

The parish church is 13th century and is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, and has monumental brasses which are reputedly the finest in England. Thirteen of the brasses belong to the years 1320–1529 and commemorate members of the Brooke and Cobham families. Next to the church in the village is Cobham College, a one-time home for secular priests, and now acting as almshouses.

Cobham College

The Grade I listed church, best known for homing the largest collection of medieval monumental brasses in the world.

Table tomb of alabaster and black marble with well sculpted effigies of Lord Cobham and his wife dated 1558. Restored 1860.

Cobham does not appear as a separate manor in the Domesday Book, so the village and parish were probably established later than 1086. The Cobham family was established here before the reign of King John (who reigned from 1199). Cobham Parish was originally in the ancient hundred of Shamwell.

I leave the church and walk back onto The Street.

The Leather Bottle is known to many as Charles Dickens' Favourite Ale House in Cobham, Kent. The great man himself not only used the inn and often stayed in Rooms 2 & 6, but he also featured it in The Pickwick Papers, for it was here that the lovelorn Mr Tracy Tupman fled after being jilted by his sweetheart Rachel Wardle, where he drowned his sorrows in Mr Pickwick's company.

I walk back up The Street heading back to the car.

I reach the car with just under a 8 mile walk due to a couple of navigation errors, a great walk but now off to work!
GPX file had been amended to erase my errors.