accommodation Higham Kent uk

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Beacon Wood

Beacon Wood has a varied and interesting history. During the Napoleonic Wars, beacons to alert London of any invasion attempts on the south coast were erected on the hill. In 1885, the EC Powder Company began manufacturing smokeless gunpowder at the site, taking advantage of its isolated position. From the 1930s until 1964, Blue Circle extracted four million tons of London clay from the site.

Several relics of the site's industrial history can still be seen, such as the foundation blocks of the gunpowder buildings, gravel heaps from clay washing and the routes of the railway lines used to transport the clay. Rumour has it that the locomotives used here are buried somewhere in the park.

The majority of the clay was extracted, leaving beds of sandstone, sandy clays, and fossils. The Woolwich beds contain areas of rock made up almost entirely of marine animal shells. Sharks teeth are often found along the cliffs in the centre of the pit. There are also good examples of fossilised animal burrows.

The vegetation indicates the many past uses of Beacon Park over the years. The outer parts of site, which have not been disturbed, are covered in native trees like oak, ash and sweet chestnut with the occasional wayfaring tree and spindle. Growing beneath the trees are bluebells, dog's mercury, wood anemone and stinking iris. Areas where clay was extracted have been colonised by silver birch and aspen. A number of seasonal ponds can be found in the lower part of the old pit, creating excellent breeding grounds for amphibians and colourful dragonflies.

Blue Bell Hill Picnic Site

Blue Bell Hill Picnic Site is set on the chalk downland with panoramic views over the Medway Valley. It forms part of the 10 kilometre stretch of chalk escarpment between Wouldham and Detling that has been classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Here you will find areas of woodland, scrub and chalk grassland and a diverse number of rare plant species. The plant lover will observe the bulbous buttercup, salad burnet, hairy violet, meadow vechling, false brome grass, bee orchid, wood sage and wild strawberry. These plants support a variety of specialist insects, particularly those characteristic of chalk downland such as the dingy skipper, grizzled skipper, chalk hill blue and brown argus butterflies.

Blue Bell Hill is an ideal spot for walkers and picnickers. The North Downs Way passes along the northern edge of site, giving further opportunities to explore the Downs.

Close by is Kits Coty House, the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber, estimated to be 5,000 years old. The three upright stones with a mighty capstone form the entrance although the barrow has disappeared with time. Little Kits Coty and White Horse Stone of similar age and significance are also located nearby.

Brockhill Country Park was previously part of a large estate dating back to Norman times. You can still see the old manor house, now part of Brockhill School, adjacent to the park. A large man-made lake forms the centre of the site and the largest of the two islands is the final resting place of William Tournay, the last lord of the manor, who died in 1903. The rest of the park is dominated by a large grassy valley, bisected by the Brockhill Stream as it makes its way to the Royal Military Canal at Hythe and excellent views to the English Channel.

There are good facilities for the family - a children's play area and a modern visitors' centre with displays, information and a refreshment kiosk. There are two sign posted trails around the park. The lake trail will take up to 30 minutes (accessed by a sloped path), whilst the valley walk takes about 45 minutes and offers a scenic route around the valley at the southern end of the site.