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Top winter walks in Kent revealed by The National Trust

A winter walk after Christmas provides the perfect antidote to those days spent indoors unwrapping presents and eating festive feasts. National Trust rangers in Kent have pulled together their top trails to blow away the festive cobwebs and walk off that Christmas excess.

It’s time to wrap up warm, throw on some wellies and get out on an invigorating woodland walk around Emmetts Garden.The frosty countryside around Ightham Mote offers trails for all abilities, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as robins and snowy squirrels on an estate walk around Scotney Castle. Whichever route you choose, there is something to suit all tastes.

With the help of National Trust members, supporters and volunteers, the conservation charity looks after some of London and the South East’s most beautiful countryside and coastline. The National Trust offers access to extraordinary outdoor places so people can get up close to nature and wildlife and are moved to help the Trust look after them.

Here are some of the best local walking trails and events to put a spring in your step during the cold winter months:

Scotney Castle, Kent

Parkland trail

Take an outsiders view of the medieval ruin from the parkland trail, which loops around the estate. In winter, stark views open up across the moat and up towards the house, giving a different view of the historic landscape.

Wrap up warm and turn right into bare-branched Kilndown Wood. Despite the chilly weather squirrels scuttle between the majestic trees, and red berries add a splash of festive red.

Loop back up to Scotney’s house and take a detour into the gardens. The moat is stunning on a clear winter’s day, with light morning mists giving way to calm reflections in the water.

Pop into the café for a festive treat before you go – it’s Christmas after all.

Ightham Mote, Kent

Ightham Mote’s walk to Shipbourne and Fairlawne

This circular walk begins with a wander through ancient Scathes Wood, before taking in some wonderful views of the Kentish countryside on the way to the neighbouring estate of Fairlawne and on to Shipbourne.

The trail passes beautiful churchyards, across fields and into sheltered woodland. There are some stunning views of the Kent countryside to be had along the way, framed by frosty bare branches.

A full circle will bring you back to Ightham Mote and the cosy Mote Café, with warming festive drinks and seasonal treats in store.

Emmetts Garden, Kent

Weardale Walk

Enjoy a brisk winter walk from Emmetts Garden to neighbouring Chartwell. You’ll be walking in the heart of the Kent countryside, steeped in history with fascinating landmarks to see along the way.

The Weardale Walk is fully waymarked, and passes through the woodland areas of Toys Hill and Hosey Common, as well as the pretty hamlet of French Street.

Allow time to pause and take in wintry views across the Weald of Kent, almost uninterrupted by man-made landmarks.

The trail will return you back to Emmetts Garden, passing the Old Stables tearoom back to the carpark.


For more winter walks visit:

Father Christmas and his elves return to Bewl Water this December for a magical Christmas Experience.
As well as meeting Father Christmas in his waterside grotto, youngsters will have the chance to embark on a treasure hunt aboard the Santa Express land train to help the resident elves find their missing Christmas items.
“Father Christmas enjoyed his stay at Bewl Water so much last year, he insisted he had to return,” said Andrew Daniells, Chief Operating Officer at Markerstudy Leisure, owners of Bewl Water.
“Unfortunately, his elves have mislaid a lot of items that make Christmas such a magical time and they need as much help as possible to track them all down.”
The Waterfront Café will be open for warming drinks and snacks for children and grown ups alike.
The Bewl Water Christmas Experience is open on December 9, 10, 16 and 17 and from December 21-24 inclusive.
Tickets cost £16 per child, including a gift from Father Christmas, and £8 per adult.
Booking is essential and can be done online via

– Featuring the West End’s Disney’s THE LION KING  –

Tunbridge Wells is set to become a colourful showground for world-class puppetry when the popular Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival (TWPF) returns to the town this October.  Promising an even bigger, more varied and more colourful line-up of puppetry fun and entertainment for everyone, organisers are also excited to announce their partnership with global theatrical phenomenon
Disney’s THE LION KING.  In a first for the county, members of the cast and production team from the landmark musical will be travelling from their West End home to host a series of unique and exciting events as part of this year’s line-up.

Following the success of the first TWPF held in 2015 that drew huge crowds and brought the magic of live theatre to the town, this year’s festival takes place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October.  A packed line-up where all ages can come together to enjoy the work of celebrated puppetry, animation and object theatre artists from around the UK at venues across the town centre.

Funded by Arts Council England, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council, and with thanks to many local sponsors1, TWPF’s exciting partnership with Disney’s THE LION KING will get underway the week before the official festival launch with a series of exclusive activities that offer a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the acclaimed stage musical which features more than 232 puppets.

THE LION KING festival programme

  • Workshops for local primary schools (9–14 October) – NOW FULLY BOOKED.
  • ‘From Inspiration To Realisation’: featuring some of the complete costumes, full-scale puppets and masks with costume sketches and behind-the-scenes photographs, this fascinating exhibition will bring to life the journey of how the legendary production made the transition from screen to stage (Trinity Theatre Gallery 9-14 October)
  • Discover The Inspiration: An on-stage masterclass to officially launch the festival.  Join some of the team behind the London production of THE LION KING in this interactive presentation and Q&A session, and learn how puppetry from around the world is used to bring the Serengeti to life on stage (Trinity Theatre Friday 13 October)

Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October –a diverse programme of world-class puppetry, animation and entertainment for all ages:

  • Twinkle Twinkle by Touched Theatre at the Assembly Hall.  A beautiful adventure in music and light, featuring high quality puppetry, magical interaction and live music making for all (this show takes place on Thursday 12 October)
  • Old Saw’s Duvet Day for babies, toddlers and their families is a magical show taking place at the Assembly Hall
  • For primary school children and their families there’s Finger and Thumb Theatre’s charming shadow puppetry versions of The Carnival of the Animals and The Ugly Duckling with live music at Trinity Theatre
  • Indefinite Articles’ Claytime and Norwich Puppet Theatre’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier will perform at the Adult Education Centre, suitable for children aged 3 and over
  • In the evening for adults and teenagers there’s Smoking Apples’ In Our Hands and Clementine’s Fabulous Road Show by Mark Mander both at Trinity Theatre.  Plus a saucy, fun Puppet Cabaret can be seen at The Forum!

Saturday 14 October – a programme of FREE outdoor events taking place on
The Pantiles from 10am to 5pm

  • Robert Styles will bring his traditional Punch & Judy to the Bandstand
  • Squashbox Theatre’s The Sea Show and The Fetch’s Clapper Box interactive puppet booth experience will perform at intervals during the day
  • Vamos’ Midwives on Call is a fun and colourful, mask theatre walkabout show that will start at The Pantiles, encouraging members of the public to take part as they travel throughout the town!Circle of Two’s Bambolina and Dodo will present a short show at 11.45am and provide a spectacular 45 minute finale of the programme on The Pantiles at 4pm.

TWPF is dedicated to bringing world-class puppetry to new audiences and enthusiasts, supporting both established and emerging talent.  The inaugural festival in 2015 was the vision of local, Tunbridge Wells-based theatre producer, Linda Lewis2, which drew thousands of local people and live theatre fans who enjoyed the many sights and sounds, including the striking image of War Horse Joey trotting through The Pantiles to the delight of onlookers.

Linda Lewis comments, “There are only a handful of puppetry festivals in the UK and ours is the only event in the South East region, so we are very excited to be bringing such a broad range of artists to Tunbridge Wells and are thrilled to have Disney’s The Lion King as our partner this year.  Our aim is to bring contemporary puppetry into the mainstream and give local people an opportunity to experience something different.  Our first festival surpassed all expectations and with an even bigger line-up of performers this year we hope we might encourage those who haven’t previously considered a puppetry show to come along, take a chance and give it a go.“

2017 festival tickets are priced from £5 and will be on sale from 4 July.  All outdoor events on
The Pantiles on Saturday 14 October are free.  For full details visit


  • Penshurst Place is shortlisted in new Visit Kent Tourism Awards 2017
  • Public are invited to vote for winners – starting today and closing on 20th October
  • Each public vote automatically entered into a free competition to win six days out in Kent*

Penshurst Place and Gardens is shortlisted in the “Happy Family Award” category in the newly introduced Visit Kent Tourism Awards 2017.  Having been chosen from nearly 100 entries, the West Kent family favourite is now relying on the public to vote for it to win the title by registering their support before voting closes on 20th October.

The Kent Tourism Awards scheme comprises seven categories and has been introduced by Visit Kent to recognise and reward exceptional standards of customer service and outstanding visitor experience within Kent’s tourism industry. This is the first year the scheme has run, and competition to win one of the prestigious new awards has been fierce with 97 companies entering and just 22 tourism businesses making it through to the final shortlist. The winner will be decided by public vote and announced on 24th November.

Lucy McLeod, Head of Marketing & Events says “There are so many fantastic things to see and do in Kent so it’s wonderful to have to be shortlisted in the first Visit Kent tourism awards. Penshurst Place is at its core, a family home, and we work hard to ensure those families values are reflected in what we offer our visitors. We look forward to providing many more years of exciting experiences for families to enjoy and hope the public get behind the scheme and votes for us.”

Penshurst Place runs annual events committed to providing families with educational and entertaining trips and experiences. There are eleven walled ‘garden rooms’ that offer a fantastic backdrop for hide and seek and, and during special events, can be seen concealing secret clues to garden trails. Families who visit the estate can also enjoy the huge adventure playground, historic house, and woodland trail, as well as yearly events including crafts, insect experiences, falconry, historical re-enactments, storytelling and the summer maize maze.

Visit Kent CEO, Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE said: “The judges were really impressed with the number and standard of entries in our first year of running the awards. All of the finalists in the family friendly category demonstrated how they’re continually delivering exceptional experiences for the family market and showcasing Kent to families as part of the visitor experience and through their marketing. Do make sure to cast your votes for your chosen finalists, and make your choices count.”

To vote simply go to Visit Kent’s website or and choose your favourite from each category.  Anyone who votes will automatically be entered in to a free prize draw to win six sensational days out at a range of Kent attractions in 2018, worth approx. £300 (*terms and conditions apply). You’ll need to enter your email address and your full name to enter the competition. A winner will be selected at random on Monday 23rd October.

About the Visit Kent Tourism Awards

A new scheme introduced this year by Visit Kent, The Kent Tourism Awards sets out to recognise exceptional standards of customer service and outstanding visitor experiences within Kent’s tourism industry. With seven categories of awards up for grabs, the scheme attracted 97 entries and 22 of which have been shortlisted.

The Kent Tourism Awards Scheme was created to further motivate the county’s tourism businesses to create even more compelling experiences and adopt best practice.

Finalists will receive an official award, accreditation and feature in a Visit Kent social media and PR campaign. Winners will also get the chance to go forward to the national Awards for Excellence operated by Visit England (subject to Visit England eligibility criteria).

 Kent Tourism Awards finalists 2017

Rest Your Head Award, sponsored by M Assessment Services (Small Accommodation Provider of the Year)

  • Elmley Nature Reserve
  • House of Agnes
  • Coastal Mill Cottage – Mulberry Cottages

Happy Family Award, sponsored by Quinn Estates (Family Friendly Business of the Year) ‘Best Family Day Out’ or Happy Family Award?

  • Penshurst Place and Gardens
  • Diggerland
  • Nethergong Camping

Big Sleep Award, sponsored by Sleeping Giant Media (Large Accommodation Provider of the Year)

  • Eastwell Manor
  • Hotel du Vin
  • The Yarrow Hotel

Big Day Out Award, sponsored by Brachers (Large Visitor Attraction of the Year)

  • The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
  • Turner Contemporary
  • Dreamland
  • Leeds Castle

Hidden Gem Award, sponsored by Southeastern (Small Visitor Attraction of the Year)

  • Battle of Britain Memorial
  • Copper Rivet Distillery
  • Go Ape Bedgebury

Raising the Bar Award, sponsored by Shepherd Neame (Tourism Pub of the Year)

  • Buoy and Oyster
  • The Dog at Wingham
  • The White Horse

Lasting Impression Award, sponsored by Pillory Barn (Ultimate Tourism Experience of the Year)

  • Champing – Churches Conservation Trust, St Mary’s Fordwich
  • Canterbury Medieval Pageant – Canterbury BID
  • bOing! – Gulbenkian, University of Kent

New literacy project in Kent and Medway to deliver more one-to-one support for struggling readers in primary schools

National children’s charity Beanstalk has launched a new project in Kent and Medway to double the number of children supported by trained volunteer reading helpers in primary schools by the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Launched at Mote House in Maidstone to local schools and education leaders, Beanstalk announced how the ‘Read and Achieve’ project will help tackle children’s illiteracy across the county, which continues to be a persistent problem. According to the latest SATs results, more than 4,300 primary school leavers in Kent did not reach the expected standard in reading. In Medway, this figure was just over 1,000.

 The project, which is being generously funded by Kent Community Foundation, will identify and work with primary schools in areas of Kent and Medway where reading levels are at their lowest among children aged 4-11. The aim is to recruit an additional 360 volunteer reading helpers, taking the number of children supported in Kent and Medway to over 2,000 by the end of the academic year 2018-19.

 Speaking at the launch, Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Area Manager for Beanstalk South East, said: “The launch of the Read and Achieve project is extremely significant in Kent and Medway, because it is going to directly benefit so many children who struggle with reading. Over the last 25 years that Beanstalk has been working with schools in the county, we have achieved a great deal. However, there are still so many children who find reading a challenge and we need to ensure they leave primary school with the best possible chances of leading successful lives.”

Beanstalk is now urging volunteers to come forward from all areas of Kent and Medway to help read with children in schools for just three hours a week.

“As a Beanstalk reading helper you will be trained by us and will have access to our fantastic resources to help pass on your love of reading to help a child read, grow and thrive. We are also currently reaching out to primary schools to sign up to the project and urge Head Teachers to get in contact with us if they would like their school to benefit from this new programme. Beanstalk provides trained reading helpers who each support three children, twice a week for a year and ultimately promote reading for pleasure to children who have fallen behind,” adds Malou.

The ‘Read and Achieve’ project has been made possible thanks to a generous grant awarded to Beanstalk by Kent Community Foundation, a charitable foundation which connects generous people, families and businesses with local causes that make a genuine difference in the community. Funds have kindly been donated by the Crown Charitable Fund and the Amity Fund both administered by Kent Community Foundation.

Speaking at the event at Mote House Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive Kent Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Read and Achieve project. This will help to turn around the life chances of children who are already struggling and will really make a difference to their long term opportunities for education and employment. Both the Crown Charitable Fund and Amity Fund are passionate about supporting this type of local education initiative and we hope schools and volunteers from around the county will be keen to take part.”

Beanstalk is a national charity and has supported children in schools in Kent for 25 years. It places trained reading helpers in local primary schools. Each volunteer supports three children and sees each child for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. Reading helpers tailor resources to the individual child’s interest and play games with them so they can develop their reading skills and wider language acquisition in a fun and engaging way.

Get involved

If you would like to get involved in the ‘Read and Achieve’ project, either to volunteer as a reading helper or to become a Beanstalk partner school, please contact 0845 450 0307

or visit the website

NCT is celebrating the success of its latest practitioner, Laura Souber, to qualify to lead Early Days postnatal courses. Our 5 week courses start running in September in Otford. They will then run on a regular basis throughout the year. Laura has been studying and training for the last two years, ensuring she is already highly skilled and able to provide researched and evidence-based information.

Being a parent for the first time can bring joy but also fresh challenges too. NCT can offer you support to cope confidently with the huge life-style changes that a new baby brings with Early Days postnatal courses. These explore different parenting styles and tackle issues such as coping with baby’s feeding, sleeping and crying patterns. During the course you are also encouraged to share your ideas, enjoyment and experiences to help support others and enable you to understand more about your baby and your skills as a parent. NCT Early Days courses are designed to help new mums adjust to parenthood and enable them to feel confident in their new role. Meeting others in a similar situation is also reassuring and helps parents to realise they are not alone in the joys and challenges they face.

Laura says; “Whilst everyone is aware that having a baby will change their life, exactly how the change will affect them varies from one person to another. NCT Early Days courses offer you help in learning how to care for yourself in your new role and explores some of the issues surrounding what it’s really like and how to cope. I’m really looking forward to being able to support new mums during this exciting time of their lives.”

NCT is renowned for its range of postnatal courses favoured by parents with babies and young children in their thousands. With a goal of making all courses accessible to all parents we offer up to 90% discount on all of our courses and you’d be surprised who qualifies! Please speak to our Parent Service Administrator, Rachel Johnson on 0208 752 2385 to book NCT courses or contact her on [email protected]

For more information about the work of the NCT or the local branches please see

Relate Mid Surrey is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its community funding scheme, which sees grants of £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 – all raised from the 5p bag levy – being awarded to local community projects.

Three groups in every Tesco region have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant.

Relate Mid Surrey is one of the groups on the shortlist.

Relate Mid Surrey is an independent charity managed and funded locally. Their young peoples’ counselling is a specialist counselling service for children aged from 10 years. They deliver over 2000 hours of young persons counselling every year, a third of their service delivery.

An analysis by Oxford University psychiatrists has shown that serious mental health illness reduces life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, a loss of years that is equivalent to or worse than that of a heavy smoker. Recurrent depression was found to reduce life expectancy by 7 to 11 years. Early intervention and help is key to addressing mental health problems.

Children may be facing difficult times for many reasons including their relationships with parents, family or friends, bullying, exam stress and social media. They may be feeling isolated, lonely, angry or resentful. Counselling offers these children a space where they are listened to without being judged and enables them to look at their situation differently. Counselling helps the children feel supported and gives them coping skills, enabling them to build resilience and improve relationships. Over the last year 84% of the young people who have received counselling from Relate Mid Surrey said that they had improved after the counselling, with 98% saying that their relationships had improved.

The Relate Mid Surrey Young Persons Counselling Project  is looking for funding so that they can increase the number of hours of counselling provided to young people in 2017/2018.

Janine Fuller, CEO, Relate Mid Surrey said “we are thrilled that our Young Persons Counselling Project has been selected for the public vote in July & August. We are so pleased that the hidden pain suffered, especially by young people, is becoming more widely and openly spoken about. With 75% of mental health conditions developing by the age of 18, encouraging young people to access counselling services when they need to is absolutely vital. With the help of our local residents voting for us we can secure funding which will enable us to continue our work supporting young people in our local community.”

Voting is open in Redhill, Caterham, and Edenbridge Tesco stores throughout July and August. Customers will cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

Tesco’s Bags of Help project has already delivered over £30 million to more than 4,600 projects up and down the UK. Tesco customers get the chance to vote for three different groups every time they shop. Every other month, when votes are collected, three groups in each of Tesco’s regions will be awarded funding.

Lindsey Crompton, Head of Community at Tesco, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to open the voting for July and August. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see them come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“We’ve been thrilled to see the diversity of projects that have applied for funding, ranging from outdoor classrooms, sports facilities, community gardens, play areas and everything in between.

“We’re looking forward to learning the results of the customer vote and then supporting each group to bring their project to life.”

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit


Bewl Water’s popular kids camps return for the Summer Holidays with plenty of outdoor activities on offer to keep youngsters fit and entertained and to help them make new friends.

Running on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from July 24 to September 1 inclusive, activities include bike riding, nature hunts, walks, Mini Rover safaris, as well as sports and games, such as rounders, Frisbee and Laser Tag Challenge.

“Our Kids Camps are open to children over the age of four and offer a safe, educational and adventurous environment for them to enjoy both on and off the water,” said Kids Camp Leader Nicholas Hammond, a qualified sports coach.

“There’s not really a typical day, as each one is different, but generally they will include discovery or learning sessions, along with outdoor activities.

“Our unique setting offers endless opportunities for exploring and letting children’s imaginations run wild.”

Full day activities are from £37 per child with a drop off between 8.30am and 9am and collection between 4.30pm and 5pm.

Half-day activities are from £19.50 per child. Morning camp drop-off is between 8.30am and 9am with collection between 12.30pm and 1pm, while afternoon camp drop-off is between 12.30pm and 1pm and collection between 4.30pm and 5pm.

Those booking a week’s camp receive a 15% discount.

All Kids Camp staff are Disclosure and Barring Service checked.

For more information or to book places, call 01892 890000 or email [email protected]

For details of what’s on at Bewl throughout the year visit

Help raise funds for Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance

This Easter, Bluewater, Europe’s leading retail and leisure destination is set to delight guests by hosting a series of fun activities and events for the whole family to enjoy whatever the weather.

From Monday 3rd to Thursday 6th April, families are invited to enjoy Story Time with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The classic tale will be brought to life with a free, 20-minute theatre performance. Children will be invited to take part in a craft activity after the show. Places are limited so, to reserve a slot, guests should head to the event box office in-mall, opening everyday at 9am from Monday 3rd April.

Bluewater will also be hosting an Easter Egg Trail from Saturday 1st to Monday 17th April. Hunt for 12 giant eggs hidden throughout the mall in order to claim a yummy chocolate prize.

The chocolate fun continues, as the iconic Lindt Gold Bunny is back to welcome shoppers arriving at Bluewater. From Friday 7th to Saturday 15th April, children are invited to discover the magic of Easter as they count gold bunny figures, crawl through a grass-covered warren and enjoy delicious treats from Lindt. Head to the Lower Guildhall to enjoy this free, family friendly activity. For eggstra fun, don’t forget to stop off for a photo with the giant Easter eggs, located by the Entertainer.

Embark on a spring walk to explore the 50 acres of stunning Green Flag parkland and lakes surrounding Bluewater and enjoy the many species of flora and fauna. Enjoy the new and improved Nature Trail, which now features interactive games. The great outdoors at Bluewater is also home to three kid’s playgrounds, including sandpits and climbing areas. 

At Pirate’s Cove Adventure Park, guests of all ages can navigate their way through two adventure-filled 18-hole mini golf courses, featuring a pirate ship, cascading waterfalls, a castle and sunken boat.

Head back inside Bluewater, where little ones can enjoy Splat, the soft play zone where children up to the age of seven can leap about to their heart’s content.  A small Splat play area for under threes is also available offering lots of fun for tiny tots.

For a more relaxing afternoon, book a seat at Showcase Cinema De Lux and enjoy the latest family friendly movie releases, including Beauty & The Beast, The Boss Baby and Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience. For bigger kids, sci-fi thriller Life and action-packed Fast and Furious 8 are amongst some of the films hitting the big screen over the Easter break.

Guests can also choose from over 60 places to eat and drink, with plenty of family favourites including TGI Fridays, Bella Italia and Nando’s.

For retail therapy, Bluewater has over 300 stores, offering the latest brands and must-haves, such as New Look Men, H&M, Mint Velvet, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser. There’s plenty for kids too with stores including LEGO, The Entertainer, Early Learning Centre and the Disney Store offering the latest toys, games and merchandise.