Readers of our Visitors Book have shown some interest in the
Whitstable-Canterbury cycle path and, eventually, we will produce an
illustrated article on the facility. However, for now, we thought it
would be useful to provide a basic map to aid our discussions.
Although the path is
often considered to be "synonymous" with the old and now defunct Crab &
Winkle Railway line, it actually utilises the rail track for only part of
its route. For much of the journey, it links assorted forestry and
farm paths that "shadow" the line from a few hundred
yards away. This can be seen from our map which shows the path in orange and
rail line with a black/purple dotted line. Black dots represent
stretches of track that still exist. Purple denotes track that has
The path starts at Ivy House Road, Whitstable (close to All
Saints Church) and utilises the old railway track as far as South
Street - passing under
the art deco bridge of the Old Thanet Way (A2990). This section is
signposted "Invicta Way" - a name that celebrates the
first locomotive to be deployed on the line. It is an apt title.
The Invicta only operated on this flatter northern section of the
C&WR. From the incline into Clowes Wood, coaches and trucks
were hauled by a system of cables and static engines until more
powerful locomotives became available.
In the distant
past, South Street was a separate, rural community with a level
crossing at its junction with Millstrood Road and its own railway
station (South Street Halt) located on the NW corner of the
crossing. Sadly no evidence remains of these features today.
the Millstrood Road junction, users of the cycle
way are now forced on to the South Street road because the railway
line has long since disappeared under an access road that serves a
small business park at the rear of Brookland Villas. However, it
is only a short distance before we get to resume our country walk.
Brooklands Farm, the cycle path follows an old farm track down the
northern slope of the valley of the Chestfield/Swalecliffe brook.
Tantalisingly, the route of the old railway line is little more
than 150 yards to the west but, now, it has disappeared under farmland.
Both the railway cutting (that clipped the brow of the hill) and
the embankment (that carried trains across the valley floor) have
Those that remember the old farm track will
recall that it traversed the brook by means of a ford and
pedestrian bridge. Both have disappeared and the course of the
brook has been changed. This work was undertaken as part of the
construction of the New Thanet Way (A299) - a motorway standard
road serving the North Kent coast. The cycle path crosses the road
via a modern hump-back bridge and starts the steep ascent
into Clowes Wood. At this point, the railway embankment makes a
reappearance - shrouded in a thin line of trees just 150 yards to
the west. Lurking amidst this finger of greenery is the
Bogshole Bridge (aka the Old Red Bridge).
The cycle path
now makes its way up the incline via a narrow tunnel of deciduous trees.
At the top of the hill, it emerges into the sunlight and gains a
more "open" appearance as the wood has been cut back
away from the track and the fringes support ferns, grass and wild
flowers. The trees are now a mixture of deciduous and
The path undulates and then
veers to the right where it joins the old rail track. Now,
it utilises the old raiwlay embankment as far as the old Winding Pond. Not
section of the path is "arrow straight" and it cuts a
route through the
heart of Clowes Wood. On its eastern side, several paths lead through
the trees to the woodland car park at Gypsy Corner on the
The winding pond supplied water for one of the
railway lines static steam engines. Nowadays, it is accompanied by
a picnic area complete with a wooden table and seats.
worth taking a general look at the map at this point to see why
the scenery is such a delight. The cycle
way is now following a route midway between the main roads to
Canterbury (via Blean and Tyler Hill) and will eventually bissect the
gap between the
two villages. This means no traffic and a chance to enjoy scenes
that you may not have seen before.
At the winding pond, the path
leaves the railway track for the last time by taking a sharp 90
degree turn to the west. From here, it will follow a combination
of forestry and farm tracks for the remainder of its route. The
railway line continues southward for a few hundred yards before
disappearing under agricultural land once again. It will
eventually re-emerge on the south side of the Tyler Hill Road and
make its approach to the old Tyler Hill tunnel... but that is too
late to serve as a route for the cycle way. In any event, the
tunnel remains permanently sealed and the track to the south of it
now forms part of the playing field of Archbishops
The cycle path
eventually completes another 90 degree turn to align it with
Canterbury before emerging from the trees and into open farmland
devoted to livestock. As it makes its way through the
outbuildings and greenhouses of Amery Court Farm, it enters
"fruit" and "market gardening" country - with
orchards and fields supporting crops such as asparagus. (NB If
you have young children with you, take care with this farmland
section of the route as you will cross a couple of country lanes
including the Tyler Hill Road that links Tyler Hill with Blean.
They are not busy thoroughfares but they do appear somewhat
suddenly and unexpectedly).
Eventually, the cycle way passes close to Blean Church and dips down the north side of
the Sarre Penn valley amidst more general arable land. Its ascent
of the southern incline takes it onto the manicured campus of
the University of Kent before reaching the main Canterbury-Whitstable
road opposite Kent College. Its gateway back to reality is no more than
an inauspicious gap in the hedgerow - a somewhat downbeat end to
one of Kent's pedestrian delights!!!.