History Walks, Talks and Books by David Clarke – more than just footsteps on a path. Inspiring, exploring and discovering unique walks with a sense of history. Long walks and short walks, there’s something for everyone.
Share in the history of 1066 and the night before the Battle of Hastings with walks to King Harold’s Camp on Caldbec Hill, Duke William’s camp on Telham Hill and to the infamous site of the ‘Malfosse’, the Saxons last ditch attempt to defeat the Norman horde.
These two walks form a figure of eight that is designed to allow a little recovery time from the magnificent views and the sometimes steep terrain around Battle.
They also form the ideal basis for two short Pub Walks with Walk 1 finishing at either The Kings Head or The Bull and Walk 2 completed with a pint at either The Senlac (handy for the station), The Chequers or The Abbey.
Catch the train or bus home and it would be the perfect end for a couple of perfect weekend walks around Battle.
The Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake Visitor Centre and Café
Cobtree Manor Park
Once the tea and coffee, soft drinks and burgers and the sandwiches were all served from a wooden hut and drunk and eaten on picnic benches outside. No worry about muddy boots or muddy dogs and on good days it was a pleasure.
But when it was damp or there was a cool wind blowing, it was less than relaxing after the climb over the North Downs from Rochester and there was still an hours walk to Maidstone along the Medway River.
Now there is a ‘posh’ new visitors centre and café serving all sorts of treats from things on toast to soup and chilli and when wet, space to sit inside but ‘wipe your feet first’.
It is a good café for dry days and days when children play on the magnificent fort or follow the trails through the park but for muddy walkers it may still be the picnic tables outside!
Cobtree Manor was once the home of Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake (1881-1964), twelve times Mayor of Maidstone and also a High Sheriff of Kent. The estate housed his private zoo, the largest in the country, and included lions and tigers and bears and elephants. On his death, he bequeathed the estate for the benefit of the people of Maidstone of which part has evolved into the Country Park.
If you do catch a glimpse of a lion or a tiger, don’t worry, it’s carved from wood.
Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake Visitor Centre and Café will be No 40 in Beer Notes
Lancaster Bomber, Courage Best, Betty Stogs, Hardy Hanson’s Old Trip and Fuller’s Brit Hop were all on offer this week in the L-shaped Bar of the Old Mill.
The pub was built around an 18th century windmill which still stands aloof above the roof next to Plumstead Common and the Old Mill has an enviable reputation as a good beer and music pub that regularly appears in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
The small part carpeted bar is popular with what CAMRA’s WhatPub describes as ‘characterful and conversational locals in residence’ who on warm and busy weekends overflow onto the street outside in high spirits that can cause somewhat of an imaginary barrier to outsiders and as a result, on my Saturday walks, I have never been tempted inside.
It is very much a locals pub.
Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Old Mill, Plumstead Common will be No 22 in Beer Notes
Thames Barrier View Cafe & Information Centre (21) – halfway point
At the half way point on the walk between Greenwich and Lesnes Abbey, the Thames Barrier Café makes an ideal stop for coffee and tea and even a snack lunch, warm and cosseted from the river’s winter chill. In summer, the tables and chairs and picnic benches allow time to wonder at those great steel barriers that would swing up from the river bed in times of flood.
The adjacent Information Centre has a working model of the Barrier, films showing inside the Barrier, its machinery and construction, boards on the Environment Agency, flooding and past, present and future of the Thames Barrier and flood defences, but it is not always open.
The Thames Barrier Café does what it says on the tin – it is a café after all with limited opening times. However, it is a welcome break after the Thames Path, before the climb up into a green London courtesy of the Green Chain Walk, especially when there is little opportunity for a ‘loo’ stop or a drink from the Thames Barrier until the end of the walk at Abbey Wood. Be warned.
Open Thursday – Sunday 11.30 am – 3.30 pm (Winter hours)
Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Thames Barrier View Café will be No 21 in Beer Notes
For the last six years The Stage Door has always been my pub of choice to finish walking the section from Abbey Wood to Dartford.
It is a warm and welcoming place, the beer is good, it is only five minutes from the station and is worth stretching those weary legs just a little further.
It is a Shepherd Neame house with Masterbrew, Spitfire and a third ‘guest’ which on my January visit was Spitfire Gold, light and hoppy but one that I enjoy more in summer.
My Masterbrew was good, the perfect refreshing pint.
For the moment, there is no food on offer but there are plans for the future.
In good weather there is the bonus of a great outdoor area at the back that in spring is bathed in pink and white cherry blossom that adds that little touch of colour after walking the Cray Marshes.
For a 150 years it was the Smith’s Arms but after a restoration in 1982 the name changed to link the pub to the Orchard Theatre behind and it provides relief for those looking for a pint at ‘half-time’. Just to reinforce its proximity to the theatre, there are publicity photographs of actors and it can be fun for some trying to put names to faces – I usually have little success.
What surprised me on my visit yesterday was that Paul the landlord knew all about 1066 Harold’s Way and happily confirmed that the many walkers and walking groups on route to Battle had finished the walk from Abbey Wood in The Stage Door – there can be no better affirmation.
Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Stage Door, Dartford will be No 26 in Beer Notes