The grassy south-facing slopes of the Medway Valley are strewn with huge standing stones and Neolithic burial chambers, marked by boulders like fallen soldiers. Collectively, they are known as the Medway Megaliths and include the Coldrum Longbarrow, the Chestnuts, the Countless Stones and Kit’s Coty House.
Samuel Pepys, a 17th-century MP famous for his detailed diary, described the latter as: “Three great stones standing upright and a great round one lying on them, of great bigness, although not so big as those on Salisbury Plain.”
Although none are on the scale of Stonehenge, the Medway stones are the east of England’s answer to the megaliths of the Salisbury Plains and, collectively, are really quite impressive.
1 Blue Bell Hill
The Medway stone sites are fairly close together and you can visit at least two in an afternoon’s walk. I’d recommend joining the North Downs Way at Blue Bell Hill, four miles north of Maidstone.
Walk south to Kit’s Coty House, which is over 5,000 years old and is thought to have been once covered by an earthen mound. The four stones, almost 3m tall, are actually the entrance to a destroyed 70m long barrow. Recent excavations in advance of the new High Speed Rail Link have revealed the remains of a Neolithic longhouse here.
Further south you’ll find a pile of boulders known as the Countless Stones (or Little Kit’s House), which are thought to be the remains of a collapsed burial chamber.
2 Saxon Warriors
Continuing east on the North Downs Way towards Boxley, you reach the White Horse Stone, thought to be a fragment of a Neolithic burial chamber and, according to legend, the site where a Saxon warrior died.
Alternatively, return to Blue Bell Hill via woodland and quiet lanes and then walk west. Cross a patchwork of chalk grassland nature reserves known for their butterflies and specialist plants.
3 Pub Finish
After Burnham Down, climb steeply north to The Robin Hood pub where a Sunday roast awaits.
Coldrum Longbarrow, west of the river near Trottiscliffe, is just a short drive away. One of the most intact burial chambers in the area, the tomb is marked by 15 stones on a raised mound and once contained the bodies of 22 humans. The remains are housed in Maidstone Museum.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are several train stations near to Blue Bell Hill, including Aylesford (2 miles). Car parking at Blue Bell Hill (off the A229).
FIND OUT MORE
St Faith’s Street, Maidstone
The Robin Hood
364 Common Road,
Blue Bell Hill
A cosy pub at the end of a secluded lane with an open log fire. Good, traditional pub dinners, including fish and chips and roasts.
The Green, Bearsted, Maidstone
Grade II listed manor house, with charming ancient beams and inglenook fireplaces, overlooking a pretty village green.
Maidstone ME17 1PL
As any local tourist leaflet will tell you, Leeds Castle is “the loveliest castle in the world”, with its dreamy moat, extensive parkland, maze and tremendous 12th-century buildings. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area.