Hever to Leigh

Two of our favorite activities post-move are walking and day-trips. Evening walks, day walks, city walks, wilderness walks – anything.  We have found that it is the fastest and most relaxing way for us get our bearings and learn about our new home.  (And for the first time, also the only way for us to explore…we have no car!)

IMG_5337A recent afternoon rainstorm had us ducking in and out of the shops on the local high street, trying to stay dry as we slowly made our way home.  We went from BabyGap to the coffee shop and finally settled in at the bookstore.  I was in heaven.  Troy was not.  I love books. He swears solely by the internet.  We headed straight for the travel section to wait out the downpour and much to my surprise, Troy and E were sitting in the window with a pile of travel guides within minutes.  For about an hour, we dreamt and did our research, and ultimately, left with a single book – Time Out Country Walks: 52 Walks Near London.  The book provides hikes for every weekend of the year ranging between 7 and 15 miles long with various levels of difficulty. It seemed as though someone who knew us had pre-planned 52 adventures and bound them together in book form for us! Troy was determined to try our first excursion the very next weekend.

By Friday evening, our path had been chosen and we were all set to head out first thing Saturday morning.  Walk #19. Hever to Leigh. Length: 14.2km (8.8 mi). Time: 3 hrs 40 min. *Allow 8 hrs 30 mins for the full outing.  Toughness: 2 out of 10. Perfect!

Everything went downhill from there.

E decided she’d rather not sleep that night, and for the first time ever (yes, we have been blessed), she was awake and ready to play from 1am to 5:30am Saturday morning. Exhausted, but committed to our plan, we finally made it out of the house around 10:00am to find out the local underground train was not running that day.   By the time we made it to London Bridge Station, we’d missed the second train for the day, and now weren’t scheduled to arrive at Hever Station until shortly after 1pm. We had considered cancelling the trip on multiple occasions that morning, but we’d already planned for it, and I just couldn’t say no when Troy was so excited. We would just have to walk a little faster to make up for lost time!

The train ride to Hever was beautiful, melting away any tiredness and frustration we’d had that morning.  We were dropped off in a tiny, country village and immediately set out on the path outlined in our book.  20 minutes later, and we were already lost in the middle of a meadow with only one (very muddy) way out.  Not believing it could be the right path, Troy walked the perimeter of the field and came back with a nervous look on his face.  Troy and I, the jogging stroller and baby, and all of our gear would be slip-sliding our way through the mud and past the sheep.  They laughed at us. We laughed right along with them.

Our first stop was Hever Castle, the stately home of Anne Boleyne, the second wife of King Henry VIII.  The lush landscape, refreshing waterways and vast fields invited visitors to picnic and play on the castle’s grounds.  Knowing we would likely never make it back to Hever, we stopped to take in the site.

From there, we continued on our journey through fields, pastures, woods and backyards, enjoying the quiet countryside and time together.  After all, we hadn’t had much “quality” time in the last 7 months with Troy travelling most weeks and a newborn at home.

A few hours (and cows, and wild turkeys) later, we arrived at Penshurst Place, an unfortified manor house built in the 1500’s.  Think opening scene of a Downton Abbey episode – the magnificent rolling hills, green trees, and grand estate with a picturesque village at the edge of the property – only a little bit less magical (I’m sure that was just due to the lack of dramatic music and tv editing…).

We opted out of touring the grounds and instead headed in to the village in search of a place to sit and have a drink…and after much discussion, a taxi.  It was nearing dinner time and with a number of detours (it took us a while to find each “stile” as the definition of the word varied greatly throughout the walk…) increasingly uncomfortable baby, and a very long trip home (we were still two trains and another taxi ride away…) it was time to throw in the towel.  We had made it about 2/3 of the way through the walk and were ready to see cars, people, and shops again.

The walk was very beautiful and peaceful, and we’re glad we gave it a try, but I think it will be a while before Troy pulls his book out again to plan another excursion.

Lessons learned?  No “prams”/”buggies”/ strollers on country walks. No matter how rough, tough and sturdy they are.  “Village” does not mean there will be food, water, or an ATM available.


  1. Lisa Smith

    Loved reading your blog. The photos are wunderbar. My friend, Sarah and her family, live in London. She has 4 children. Her first was born in the U.S. and the other 3 in London. They have enjoyed traveling all over Europe. They do not have a car either. She thought it would be a 2 year stint but I think now they have decided to call London their real home. Jessica and I visited her several times when we went to Germany. I will share your blog with Sarah.
    Sei herzlich gegruest.

    • tomasik.carina@gmail.com

      Thanks, Mrs. Smith! I do recall that you had been to London to visit friends over the years – glad to hear they’ve decided to stay a while. Hopefully you can make another trip over soon!

  2. Hahahahaa love it! Well, that’s good to know about the jogging stroller – I guess that’s strictly for the London sidewalks, eh?

    I would LOVE to see where Anne Boleyn lived! Because the last time we were in London, we saw where she died. So ya know, I’d love to fill in the blanks.

    Your muddy shoes and sweet sleeping babe are the best.

  3. […] left to wander! (We weren’t so fortunate with our last hike through the English countryside. Read here, if you missed that story!) The evening ended with a cold drink at the top of Floyen before […]

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