Iron men of Brenchley




7.25 miles (11.7kms)

312ft (95m)

About the walk

This walk starts in Brenchley, an atmospheric village with several old, timbered houses, a church, pub and – a working forge. The forge, a rare sight these days, is a reminder that Kent once had a thriving iron industry and Brenchley was once at its heart.

Even before the Romans came to Britain, iron had been produced in the Weald (meaning 'forest') of Kent. Ore was extracted from the clay soil and roasted with charcoal (made from the trees) in a small furnace. The resulting molten iron was then hammered into shape. In the 15th and 16th centuries technology improved and large-scale, water-powered blast furnaces and hammer forges were introduced, revolutionising the industry. Large ponds were created to provide water power and were given workmanlike names such as Hammer Pond, Pit Pond and, as in the case of the one you pass on this walk, Furnace Pond. The industry grew rapidly and brought prosperity and employment to the Weald. Iron foundries flourished until the 18th century when the industry moved to the coal producing regions of the North.

A blacksmith called Wat Tyler reputedly once lived at Brenchley and gained notoriety by leading the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. This rebellion, which originated from the introduction of a poll tax, began in Kent and Essex but spread throughout the country. Tyler and his men marched to London, took control of the Tower and murdered unpopular people including the Archbishop of Canterbury. The authorities were unable to take control and a semblance of calm was only restored when Richard II, then just 14 years old, rode out to meet the rebels. He agreed to many of their demands and promised freedom from serfdom. However, Tyler made further demands and was consequently executed at Smithfield. The authorities rapidly regained control and crushed the rebellion. The King went back on his word, serfdom was not abolished and little was gained from so much bloodshed.

Walk directions

From the car park turn left to the war memorial. Turn right, then, at the top, cross the road and go up some steps into an orchard. Walk ahead, turning right through a gate and follow the path, turning left on a tarmac drive to pass some cottages. Pass through a gate and enter an orchard. Turn right and follow the orchard edge to a kissing gate and then pass through it.

Walk down the slope bounded by fences on either side and skirt left around the wood, through a kissing gate and bear right to follow the field-edge. Before the end of the field take the unmarked path right, keeping left of a house and on to the road.

Turn right, then,in a few paces, turn left into and across a field. Keep right at a fork to follow the path towards Biggenden Farm. Pass through the gap in the fence and cross a stream, and then a stile before turning left along a track passing Springfield Cottages on your left, and an orchard on your right. At the road, turn right and then take the path on the left of a cottage, cross a stile and make for the ditch, then turn right alongside it. Turn left over the ditch, and follow another ditch and eventually go up steps onto Knowle Road.

Turn left, and where the road bends, take the path on the right. Head across the field towards the hedge line, maintaining direction to cross a bridge. Walk ahead and follow the field-edge round to another bridge hidden in the trees on the right. Turn left around the field-edge to a stile and road.

Turn right for 0.25 miles (400m) and take the path left opposite Woodside Cottage into an orchard. Walk ahead between copse and orchard and then turn right across the field to the road. Turn left down the road for 450yds (300m) and take the path beside Temple Farm.

Pass cottages and follow the right-hand field-edge to a white timbered cottage. Cross a stile, walk down the drive and follow the path turning left behind the garage, down the slope, alongside another garage and then onto the road. Turn left for 0.5 miles (800m) to a parking area at Furnace Pond.

Turn right at Lake Cottage, right again across the bridge and walk around the pond. Turn right after a gate and walk up the side of an orchard, across a tarmac drive and alongside a high beech hedge. Near the top, turn left across the orchard to a tarmac drive, emerging near a B & B. Turn left down to Hononton Farm, and turn right after the farmhouse. At a line of telegraph poles turn left towards a wood. On reaching a fence turn right and follow on to a kissing gate, then cross a stile to get onto the road.

Take the path almost opposite and pass through a gate beside a converted barn. Turn right over a bridge and follow a path between fields to a stile, then cross a paddock to another stile. Follow the track between a large pond and some buildings to a road, go through a gate and then turn right to join the road at the Halfway House pub. Turn left, then, halfway up the hill, cross a stile on your right, head across the field and exit via another stile to rejoin the road. Turn right to go back into Brenchley.

Additional information

Orchard tracks, field margins and footpaths, many stiles

Varied, rolling landscape of orchards and arable land

Good, can run free in many places

OS Explorer 136 High Weald, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Car park (free) in Brenchley

At car park

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About the area

Discover Kent

The White Cliffs of Dover are an English icon – the epitome of our island heritage and sense of nationhood. They also mark the point where the Kent Downs AONB, that great arc of chalk downland stretching from the Surrey Hills and sometimes known as ‘the Garden of England’, finally reaches the sea. This is a well-ordered and settled landscape, where chalk and greensand escarpments look down into the wooded Weald to the south.

Many historic parklands, including Knole Park and Sir Winston Churchill’s red-brick former home at Chartwell, are also worth visiting. Attractive settlements such as Charing, site of Archbishop Cranmer’s Tudor palace, and Chilham, with its magnificent half-timbered buildings and 17th-century castle built on a Norman site, can be found on the Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional route for Canterbury-bound pilgrims in the Middle Ages. 

In the nature reserves, such as the traditionally coppiced woodlands of Denge Wood and Earley Wood, and the ancient fine chalk woodland of Yockletts Bank high on the North Downs near Ashford, it is still possible to experience the atmosphere of wilderness that must have been felt by the earliest travellers along this ancient ridgeway.

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