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The Tudor Way Walk: Day 1

Explore how 500 years ago this unlikely area echoed with the noise of industry, and dripped with the intrigue of political upheaval. The architect of this mayhem was none other than the towering figure of England's most fascinating monarch - Henry VIII.

Click on the following link to download the complete 4-day walking guide and read on to explore Day 1: Penshurst to Cowden.


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Day 1 Walk: Penshurst to Cowden

Via: Penshurst Place, Chiddingstone Village, Hever Castle

Distance: 8.5 miles (approx)

Route: Our walk begins just 10 miles south of the M25, in the village of Penshurst, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, lying between the North and South Downs of Kent and East Sussex. Starting at the Leicester Arms in Penshurst village, follow the road in a northeasterly direction passing Penshurst Church and Leicester Square, to the main entrance of Penshurst Place. Head though the stone gateway and follow the road into Penshurst Place.

Penshurst Place

Henry VIII famous for his fearsome rage and many marriages, transformed English society - in particular he changed the make-up of the royal court. This shakeup began here, at Penshurst Place, in the early years of Henry's reign. At this time the medieval manor house was owned by prominent Tudor courtier Edward Stafford, better known as the Duke of Buckingham. In 1519 Buckingham hosted a lavish party at Penshurst Place costing the equivalent of almost £1 million. It was one of the great events of the age and he invited Henry VIII as the guest of honour. A powerful aristocrat, Buckingham had a pedigree stretching back centuries, but this demonstration of his wealth and influence, was a terrible mistake. Henry witnessed how powerful Buckingham was, and his paranoia that the old order, the aristocracy that had links to the royal family, might challenge the throne got the better of him. A year or so later Buckingham was found guilty of treason and beheaded, and Henry seized Penshurst Place for his own! Buckingham was one of the first to fall foul of Henry's ability to find treason in his own court. His execution was a demonstration of how things would now be, because by 1520, the confident young king was becoming a suspicious, brutal monarch.

Originally built in the 14th century Penshurst Place is one of England's greatest ancestral homes. Once inside we head for the star of the show, the Baron's Hall a fine example of medieval gothic architecture built in 1341. This hall would have housed Buckingham's 1519 bash. Leaving Penshurst Place by the northwest exit we briefly take the road back towards Penshurst village, before joining the Eden Valley Walk heading west. This path links Penshurst to Hever and is known locally as 'The Coach Road', but the routes origins are from a time long before coaches. In the Tudor age this road was the main line of communication between Penshurst Place and Hever Castle. We follow the Eden Valley Walk from Penshurst to Chiddingstone, a stunning Tudor village owned by the National Trust, boasting a post office and tea room, set in a manor house once owned by the Boleyn family. From here we continue on to the hamlet of Hever and Hever Castle. Please note there is an entrance fee for both Penshurst Place and Hever Castle.

Hever Castle

500yrs ago Hever Castle was one of the burgeoning powerhouses of Tudor England. A place firmly linked to the new order rising in Henry's court. Henry chopped and changed his court, cutting down the old aristocracy and promoting men of lesser nobility, men from trade backgrounds - men like Thomas Boleyn. Hever Castle was the family seat of the Boleyns from 1462-1539. Hever Castle was also the childhood home of Henry's most famous squeeze Thomas' daughter - Anne Boleyn. Whilst still married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII reputedly made trips to Hever Castle to woo Anne. Thomas was fast gaining power in the royal court, but his daughter, or rather daughters were his secret weapons. In the early 1520s, it was daughter Mary, who first became the king's mistress. But later Henry's attention came to settle on the younger Boleyn sister and they embarked on a courtship that lasted 7 years.

Route: We stop at The King Henry VIII Inn to quench our thirst, before heading south on the road to Markbeech, taking the footpath south, crossing Markbeech Tunnel, past Pyle Gate Farm before finishing Day 1 at Cowden village.

OS Maps

OS Explorer 147, OS Explorer 135, OS Explorer 123, OS Explorer 122 (1:25k) OS Landranger 188, OS Landranger 198, OS Landranger 199 (1:50k)

Next... Explore the walking route for Day 2 Walking Through History: The Tudor Way - Cowden to Hartfield