Maidstone West rail trail
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The Archbishop’s Palace sits proudly on the banks of the River Medway as it winds through Maidstone. This beautiful 13th century building was built on land owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury from the 8th century.
The riverside path offer sightings of vetch, meadowsweet, fool’s watercress and comfrey and birds and small mammals can be seen hiding among the traveller’s joy and brambles.
The river soon leaves the town and winds through open orchards and fields. The ground beneath the apple trees is blanketed with plants like clover, fat hen, buttercup and cranesbill.
Step by step guide
Turn right as you leave Maidstone West train station and walk diagonally across the car park, exiting through the tall iron gates then walk straight ahead. When you get to the end of Hart Street turn right into Barker Road past the 1970s County Court building on the left. Continue towards the cinema until you see a paved footpath across the road to your left just after the court property ends. Turn down this path towards the river.
Turn right on the towpath keeping the river on your left. Follow it round the back of the cinema (where a market is held twice a week) and beyond the new flats. Pass under the old bridge. Follow the river until you reach a tunnel under the railway on your right. Turn right into Unicumes Lane.
There's a stream to your left and the path itself is stony and rutted. Fant Nature Reserve is on your right but continue up the path past the allotments until you reach the main road. Turn immediately left down the track between the orchards and a red brick wall. There are good views across the valley from here. Blackbirds and fieldfares amongst other birds thrive on the hedgerows that provide them with food and shelter.
Take the right hand fork at the concrete trough and enter the leafy hawthorn tunnel. When you emerge take an immediate left turn into an open field with views past an oast house to the countryside beyond.
Continue ahead keeping close to the hedge on your right and turn right at the first row of apple trees on your left. Go between the two posts and turn left following the path until you reach Farleigh Lane.
Turn right and walk along the pavement alongside the road. Goldcrests and long-tailed tits can be found in the hedgerow. Cross the road at The Old Rectory and a little further up the hill turn left into open orchards again. The footpath goes through the orchard towards a majestic veteran cedar tree often with starlings gathered on it. Between the fruit trees you can find plants like clover, fat hen, buttercup and cranesbill.
Cross Rectory Road at the cedar tree and follow the track straight on through the orchards. The high hedges contain hazel, oak, beech and hops. Follow the path to the left of the ragstone outhouse and turn left into South Street past the old cottages and go under the railway bridge.
Turn left onto the riverside towpath before Barming Bridge. Wrens, jays, herons, cormorants and moles can be found here along with Ramsons, comfrey, horsetail and cobnuts.
Continue along the river (with the river on your right) for 1km. Eventually when near the boat yard you'll see East Farleigh bridge ahead of you. Said to be the finest medieval bridge in the South of England.
Turn left at the end of the picket fence and follow the footpath to East Farleigh Lane. Turn left and you will see East Farleigh train station. For an extension to this walk, why not follow the Kettles & Crossings rail trail from East Farleigh train station.