Now that the UK is slowly opening up and we are able to leave our homes more freely, we have been looking for unexplored places to head outdoors for a bit of exercise and where the kids can run around safely. I thought I would share some of these with you, to inspire you to get out, get active, and further explore our wonderful local area. While I did a blog post on My Top 5 Summer Spots in and around Ebbsfleet Garden City last year, we’ve recently found quite a few more places that are right on our doorstep but previously unknown to us, and that we may never have visited had we not been in lockdown!
The closest spot of natural beauty to us is Castle Hill Lake. This has been previously inaccessible; however, you can now get down to a little viewing platform near the Taylor Wimpey development at the bottom of Cherry Orchard Road. The lake sits at the bottom of white cliffs with the M2 running along the top, however with the thick trees in front blocking most of the noise, it’s really peaceful. It’s my kids’ favourite place to cycle to for a bit of duck or swan spotting! We are so excited for this area to open up a bit more, and for the walking and cycle paths that are planned for the future.
Swan-spotting at Castle Hill Lake
There is also a fantastic ‘secret’ path that runs along the top of The Observatory, which you can access from the pavement by the B259, just further up from the Ackers Drive entrance to the Redrow development. The hiking path takes you up along the top of Castle Hill Drive, down through the undergrowth alongside Redrow, and back up to the M20 where you can walk all the way along the top of the white cliffs to Bluewater. While this route isn’t particularly kid-friendly (and definitely not for pushchairs!) it’s a great active walking track and my husband and I went on a 1.5 hour long round hike on our own.
View of Castle Hill
Slightly further afield, we have only recently found the way to Swanscombe Heritage Park, which is a 15 minute walk (20 mins with toddlers on scooters!) from the top of Castle Hill. There is a cut-through that has opened up at the very top of Whitecliffe Road to Durrant Way, and the entrance to the park is just by Swanscomeb Leisure Centre. It’s a great place to go for a cycle, with wide paths and a combination of wide open fields and magical woods with ‘caves’. Swanscombe Heritage Park is famous for being one of two sites in the UK where human remains from the early Stone Age have been found. Three separate fragments from the same skull were found in the 1930s through to 50s, which is colloquially called ‘Swanscombe Man’. The history of the park is noted along its walking paths, where you can find plaques on the ground depicting different animals that used to be found in the area – my boys particularly like finding the Cave Lion one!
Exploring the ‘fairy forest’ at Swanscombe Heritage Park
While before lockdown we had frequently visited Shorne Woods Country Park, however in two years had never gone to Jeskyns Community Woodland. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long (and a pandemic) to check out this outdoor treasure of woodlands, meadows, orchards and walking trails. It is a 5 minute drive from Ebbsfleet Garden City, with a large carpark and a café (this was closed when we went due to Covid-19).
Walking trail at Jeskyns Community Woodland
If you have a dog, this is definitely the place to head out for a good long walk – there is even a dog swimming pond! They also have dedicated fenced areas where you can let your dog off the leash to frolic and make some friends. Although when we went the children’s play areas were closed off, they contain wooden Gruffalo characters for your kids to spot on your walk. There are also plenty of picnic benches so it’s the perfect place to bring a packed lunch.
Jeskyns Dog Paddling Pond
I hope this blog post has given you some good ideas of outdoor places to head out to in the local area – especially as this week is looking to be an absolute scorcher! Don’t forget to wear suncream, bring water bottles and enjoy! I’d love for you to tag me on Instagram stories at @lydias_layton_life in any photos you want to share of your adventures, or if you know of any other nearby spots I should check out!