As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Kent Downs, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of walking, cycling, wildlife-watching and art courses in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southeast England.
For those looking for a varied landscape to romp and pedal around, the ribbon of countryside that is the Kent Downs seems to have it all: rolling river valleys, lofty escarpments, chalky cliffs at Dover and dense woodlands which can be discovered via some fantastic walking and cycling routes which take in spectacular scenery, pretty Kent villages and dramatic views from clifftops. There are also plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching in the area, so why not join a guided wildlife walk and spot birds, bees and bugs – and soak up the countryside at the same time.
If you'd rather be working your hands instead of your feet, how about taking inspiration from the landscape and turning it into a work of art on a pottery, ceramic painting or spinning and weaving workshop? We show you how to get creative in the Kent Downs.
Want to tackle a long-distance route but don't fancy the prospect of lugging your bags around with you? Why not join a trek with this friendly, family-run business which specialises in self-led and guided hoildays along some of the region's finest walking routes. Choose from the Pilgrims Way, North Downs Way – a 5-day, 45-mile trek from historic Rochester Cathedral to Canterbury, passing through a swathe of the stunning Kent Downs AONB countryside – the White Cliffs Tour, which passes Napoleonic forts and Iron Age settlements, or the Discover Rural Kent Tour, as well as many other walking routes. Walks are geared to all abilities, whether you're looking for a leisurely amble or a challenging hike. walkawhile.co.uk
White Cliffs Countryside Partnership
White Cliffs Countryside offers an exciting range of wildlife courses, guided walks and educational events within the AONB. Spot wildlife on a spring walk at Folkestone Warren, encounter migrant birds at Samphire Hoe, sign up for a bumblebee identification workshop, or join a family bug walk and discover the world of the minibeast! Spread across some of the AONB's most beautiful spots, the courses and events are great fun for all the family.
This outdoor activity outfit has been organising courses in bushcraft and survival skills for nearly fifteen years. As well as offering a whole range of basic survival courses aimed at adults, families and corporate groups, they also run an animal tracking course – a 3-day event during which you'll learn how to track and stalk animals through the woodland by reading, interpreting and following signs. There's an Animal Wisdom Day specifically aimed at children where budding David Attenborough's will be taught how to identify animal prints and learn how to move as silently as a fox through the undergrowth. Plenty of fun for all the family. natural-pathways.co.uk
Kent Wildlife Trust
The Kent Wildlife Trust looks after 3,000 hectares of nature reserve land, promoting conservation and wildlife protection and generating awareness of Kent's natural heritage through events, campaigns and courses held throughout the region. Their packed events programme includes things such as beaver evenings and butterfly craft events - great ways to get children involved in nature, whilst their Living Landscape and Living Seas projects aim to reconnect local residents with their natural surroundings. Their work in managing nature reserves has seen some great results, notably the return of the Adonis blue butterfly. kentwildlifetrust.org.uk
If you've ever wanted to try your hand at pot throwing, you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to give it a go than the Aylesford School of Ceramics run by Mark and Billy, experienced, energetic, and completely potty about pottery. The pair offer courses to suit everyone, from one-day workshops and team-buildings events to longer 10-week courses. Of course you don't have to sign up for a course – visitors are welcome to pop by and watch the potters at work and browse the ceramics for sale in the studio. aylesfordpottery.co.uk
From pet portraits and ceramic sculptures to painted tiles and murals, Anne has an unwavering passion for clay and canvas. Kent born and bred, Anne studied in London before returning to her roots, taking inspiration for her work from the surrounding countryside and wildlife. When she's not creating a work of art, Anne can be found helping aspiring potters throw pots on her 'Hands at Work' workshops, held at her studio in Wingmore. Suitable for all ages and abilities, from complete novices to those with more advanced pot throwing skills, the workshops teach basic hand-building techniques. anniebegley.co.uk
This Art of Mine
You couldn't pick a more inspirational setting to get creative and crafty. Set on a beautiful flower farm in deepest rural Kent, the light and airy studio hosts ceramic painting every weekend, as well as workshops for both adults and children, corporate events and children's parties throughout the year. At the helm is mother and daughter team Gemma and Kate, who are supported by a host of talented artists and tutors teaching across a variety of mediums, from watercolour to ceramic. thisartofmine.co.uk
Sue and Bill Chitty have been in the spinning, weaving and dyeing trade since 1974 and specialising in textile equipment such as spinning wheels and loom accessories since 1990. Sue Chitty now runs spinning courses from her home in the North Downs. Whether you're an experienced weaver after some extra tuition or a complete novice, Sue will gear the class to your ability. handspin.co.uk
Wye Community Farm
Launched in 2007, this community farm was established to encourage local communities to reconnect with where their food comes from and provides volunteering and training opportunities in farming and rural crafts as well as hosting school visits, open days and farm walks. The project farms 120 acres for meat boxes, firewood, and homegrown preserves. Produce can be bought at the Wye Farmers' Market. wyecommunityfarm.org.uk
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our