Beautiful bluebell walks in West Kent
There is something quintessentially British about a tranquil woodland, carpeted with an enchanting expanse of beautiful bluebells. With around half of the world’s population of bluebells growing in the UK, it’s no surprise that these pretty, little wild flowers have become one of the nation’s favourites. Offering a delicate aroma and breathtaking wave of vibrant colour, they are a clear sign that Summer is on its way!
Blooming from mid-April to late May, bluebells are a protected species, and celebrated for attracting a great array of bees and butterflies. Usually found in ancient woodlands dating back hundreds of years, the South East is a prime area for bluebells to grow, and we’re lucky to have some gorgeous spots in Kent to discover them. Here are some of my favourite beautiful bluebell walks in West Kent.
Hole Park, Rolvenden
Classed as one of the ‘Seven Wonders Of The Weald’, Hole Park in Rolvenden is one of prettiest country gardens in Kent. Owned by the Barham family for the past four generations, the estate spans 16 acres and is bursting with meadows, formal gardens and woodlands.
Though the gardens are beautiful all year around with magnolias, daffodils and rhododendrons bursting with colour, the star of the show really is their ‘Bluebell Spectacular’ in April / May. As Spring spills into Summer, the woodlands become a sea of purple as the carpet of bluebells pop up. I have honestly never seen so many bluebells in one spot and it is a sight to behold! Add in the scent of wild garlic growing, and it makes for a magical walk.
Hole Park has a tea room on site serving ice creams, sandwiches, salads and cakes which is always a treat too. The gardens are open daily (11am-6pm) from 1 April – 30 June, and then on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the Summer.
Emmetts Garden, Sevenoaks
Offering breathtaking views across the Weald, Emmetts Garden near Sevenoaks is another fabulous spot for a bluebell walk this Spring. Owned by the National Trust, the gardens themselves span 6 acres across the Edwardian estate, as well as offering a natural play area and tea room.
The gardens are well-known for their wonderful rose walk that really comes into its own in June, but visit slightly earlier and you’ll be rewarded with some stunning Spring flowers. The daffodils are currently out, and in mid-April, the forest floor of the south garden woodland area becomes an expanse of beautiful bluebells.
The walk can be slightly steep in places, but there’s a trail to follow if you’re happy to do a little bit of off-roading. The woods have been designated a Site Of Special Scientific Interest due to the array of native bluebells, so definitely worth a visit.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Sissinghurst
Grade I-listed garden Sissinghurst Castle Garden is easily one of the most picturesque spots in Kent. Owned and designed by poet and author Vita Sackville-West, and her husband Harold Nicolson, the love and romance that has been poured into the estate is clear from the moment you walk through the arched gateway.
During the Spring, Sissinghurst boasts no less than 126 million wild bluebells on its grounds, creating a wonderful aroma and visual spectacle. The majority can be found down by the lakes and woodlands of the estate, which provide the perfect habitat for the delicate little flowers to thrive. To explore them fully, I recommend doing the estate loop, before visiting the formal gardens and of course treating yourself to some tea and cake in the charming National Trust tea room.
Hurst Wood, Tunbridge Wells
Tucked away in the valley between Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall, Hurst Wood is an area that it would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there. This little hidden gem is owned by The Woodland Trust and features a meandering stream and a number of rustic bridges.
In late Spring, the woods become alive with swathes of vibrant bluebells, catching the light as it pours through the trees. Though less of a landmark than some of the other spots listed here (there isn’t any designated parking or facilities), it is a wonderful, peaceful place for a gentle stroll.
Ham Street Woods, Ashford
Positioned on the outskirts of the pretty village of Hamstreet, the ancient woodlands of Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve are another Site Of Special Scientific Interest. Spanning over 240 acres, this secluded woodland dates back 400 years and is well-known for attracting an impressive array of rare wildlife including moths, butterflies, nightingales and hawfinches.
In late Spring, Ham Street Woods plays host to a vast carpet of bluebells and white wood anemones which look absolutely magical. There are three way-marked trails (between 2.5 – 5km) to explore, with maps and an information board at the entrance. There is an easy access route, but due to the uneven nature of the woods, this may not be suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
Surrounded by ancient woodland, Ightham Mote is another ideal spot for bluebells to flourish. Dating back 700 years, this 14th century moated manor house and its gardens are appealing enough alone, but in late Spring, the estate is adorned with a splash of colour as the floor is filled with the delicate, sapphire flowers.
The Scathes Wood area of the Ightham Mote estate is the best place to see them, becoming a flurry of beautiful bluebells in late April. Take the gentle 1 mile estate walk around the woods to take in both the swathes of bluebells and spectacular views across the Kent Downs.
Pashley Manor Gardens, Ticehurst
Though technically just over the border into Sussex, Pashley Manor Gardens had to make it onto the list! These privately-owned gardens span across 11 acres, featuring herbaceous borders, artistic sculptures and a summer tea terrace.
Tucked away at the bottom of the gardens lies a sheltered woodland area, which offers a fabulous bluebell walk in April. It isn’t the biggest expanse of bluebells you may find, but it certainly is perfectly peaceful and an idyllic example of a classic English country garden.
Balfour Winery, Staplehurst
Though primarily a wine estate and vineyard, the Hush Heath estate also boasts some incredible meadows, orchards and ancient woodlands. In Spring, these woodlands become smothered in beautiful bluebells which will take your breath away.
Visitors can do a self-guided tour of the estate, picking up a map at the Cellar Door to explore at their own leisure. Balfour Winery are also hosting a guided bluebell walk on Monday 2 May with a wildlife expert to learn fascinating facts about the history of the estate and their amazing natural ecosystem.