Published: 15:10, 07 January 2015
Distance: 4 miles
In a nutshell: “In the footsteps of Dickens.”
Start point: Cobham War Memorial, DA12 3BN.
Directions: From the war memorial, continue along Lodge Lane to reach Lodge Farm. Continue straight ahead following the track to reach Darnley Mausoleum, noting Cobham Hall school on the left.
Continue past the mausoleum, pass through a metal gate and turn left and follow it down to the railway (CTRL).
Turn left and follow the path to reach a road. Cross the road and pick up the path that continues to follow the railway. In spring the path is rich in orchids and other plants that like wet ground – probably created by the run-off from the railway.
On passing the ponds, on the left, take the path on the left that gently climbs – crossing a roadway in the park – to reach Halfpence Lane.
Turn left and follow the road back to the war memorial and Cobham.
Points of Interest
Cobham Hall is one of the largest and most important houses in Kent. Charles Dickens would walk from Rochester, through Shorne Woods to Cobham Park with his father.
He subsequently became friends with the 4th Lord Darnley and had a key to the grounds within which he walked. Lord Darnley and Dickens would walk from Cobham Hall along the Avenue of Limes to the Leather Bottle pub where Dickens would occasionally read his stories. The pub is still there today.
Now a private school, Cobham Hall was owned by Ivo Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley, who captained the English cricket team whose first loss to the “colonialist” led to the first tongue-in-cheek presentation of the “ashes”.
Ivo went on to marry Florence, one of the Australian girls who presented him with probably a perfume bottle containing some ashes.
During the First World War, Florence opened a hospital in Cobham Hall for wounded Australian officers. Cobham Wood and the Darnley Mausoleum are now owned by the National Trust.
The woodland was part of the park landscaping undertaken by Humphry Repton. The 3rd Earl of Darnley commissioned James Wyatt to build of the mausoleum but it was never used for interments.