Hawkwood is a hidden gem in our handsome town of Chislehurst, at the very edge of the Commons behind Coopers School and down Botany Bay Lane.
The estate is managed by the National Trust and takes in 230 acres of grazed pastures and small blocks of woodland. It borders the more famous Petts Wood but this article is dedicated to the beautiful and surprising Hawkwood.
The National Trust suggests two walks around the Estate, a “yellow” walk and a nearby “green” walk which takes in Petts Wood as well. They can be done in isolation or together if you feel like a longer ramble.
We set off on the yellow walk which is just 2.4 miles (we have young kids in tow!) and starts just off Botany Bay Lane, down a steep path opposite an open meadow. Within minutes of starting the walk, you feel you could be anywhere – this is proper rolling countryside yet so close to the urban sprawl. You can feel the grip of city life just slip away.
At the bottom of the path, we turn left through the woodlands and around a beautiful, almost hidden pond. It is really still, mystical and somewhat eerie in Winter.
Once past the pond, there is a little more woodland before you turn left to take in a gentle flat path alongside “Kyd Brook” – a shallow but active brook which in winter is ideal for strolling through in wellies if you are brave enough! My three year old was ready to jump in, we will definitely be bringing wellies next time! We see many families enjoying this lovely brook with their dogs dashing through the water with gusto. This is clearly fantastic dog walking country.
We’ve also heard that Kingfishers can sometimes be spotted at Pond Wood or along the brook. Definitely one to keep an eye out for!
Near Tong Farm, we pause for a short picnic at the low bridge and then we follow the footpath along the railway. This is probably the least picturesque part but the kids love chasing the trains and pause at the railway bridge to see the trains chug past.
From the bridge, there is a steep path into Edlmann Wood (part of Petts Wood), through further farmland and yet another pond - Flushers Pond.
The children have just enough energy to stroll back towards Chislehurst Common and we trudge to the Crown pub overlooking the Common to enjoy a quick beverage whilst the children play in the courtyard garden.
All in, this is a lovely afternoon stroll.
It is the contrast on this walk that sets it apart. From the sweeping meadows to dense woodland, views across working farmland and the gentle stroll along a babbling brook. And all just 13 mile from Central London – that’s the real surprise.
To enjoy the yellow walk, please visit the National Trust website for more information and their comprehensive map – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petts-wood-and-hawkwood
By Tamsyn Clark
Photographs by Mark Grover.
N.B. This article previously featured in December's edition of Meridian Magazine. They have kindly agreed for it to be featured on Visit Chislehurst.