Coronavirus Kent: The best parks and open spaces in Kent for taking a walk outside
Spring flowers are in bloom, the evenings are getting longer and sometimes the days feel warmer. But yet the advice right now is to spend more time at home.
Those who are self isolating either because they are showing symptoms of the coronavirus or are in an at-risk group must stay indoors. But for everyone else a dose of fresh air and a walk outside could be of huge benefit to our mental health in particular, providing we pay close attention to the government guidelines for social-distancing. If you want to stretch your legs, walk the dog or take the kids outside for a couple of hours we've selected some parks and open spaces where you can do just that...
Betteshanger Country Park, Sandwich Road, Deal CT14 0BF
The vast park includes walking and running routes, one of the longest cycle road tracks in the UK, bike hire facilities and a play area.
In an email to subscribers last Wednesday (March 18) the park said it would remain open to offer 'peace and quiet away from all the uncertainty' whilst it could do so.
Visitors are asked to respect the park and its facilities, the email went on to say, and follow the latest government guidelines relating to social distancing both for themselves and the safety of other park users and staff.
Betteshanger meanwhile says it is taking all the measures it can to help combat the virus including deep cleans of all facilities in the park and making hand sanitiser available at points around the site.
Cobtree Manor Country Park, Aylesford, Forstal Road, Aylesford, near Maidstone ME20 7AG.
Cobtree Manor Park has over 50 acres of parkland which stands on the site of the old Maidstone Zoo.
There is plenty of space for walkers and picnics, and a sculpture trail to enjoy. There is also a children's adventure playground and outdoor equipment dotted through the park.
As you walk through the parkland you can see parts of the old zoo still standing in the grounds including the elephant house together with information boards to help you understand how the land was once home to a number of wild animals. A great place to explore.
Maidstone council which is responsible for the parkland said all of its open spaces are very much open unless government guidelines change. Other open spaces and further information can be found here at www.maidstone.gov.uk/home/other-services/parks-and-play-areas/primary-areas/parks
Haysden Country Park, Lower Haysden Lane, Tonbridge TN11 9BB
Haysden Country Park boasts 160 acres of open space with woodland, marshland, river and lakes.
The site is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and in part a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.
The park is open every day with gates unlocked at 7.30am. Closing times for the time of year are displayed at car park entrances.
Jeskyns Community Woodland, Henhurst Rd, Gravesend DA12 3AN
This Forestry Commission-owned park just off the A2 at Cobham is a perfect place to get some air. The paths are gravel and vast. They are popular with confident young cyclists on two wheels or those with balance bikes but it may prove a trickier surface for scooter users or youngsters still on stabilisers.
Jeskyns is also popular with dog walkers with dedicated exercise areas and areas where pets are allowed off their leads are clearly signposted to other visitors. There are also tree houses and climbing equipment for youngsters to explore.
The Forestry Commission says it is monitoring government advice but aims to keep its woods and forests open for people to visit and to have the 'wellbeing benefits' of fresh air and time outdoors.
The latest information relating to the opening of its sites can be found at www.forestryengland.uk/coronavirus-visitor-information
Mote Park, Mote Avenue, Maidstone
Mote Park covers 450 acres of parkland. It includes grasslands, woodland, rives and a 30 acre lake. There is also outdoor play areas and equipment for children.
It's an ideal space for those seeking some space and fresh air with the Visit Maidstone website describing Mote Park as a 'tranquil landscape'.
Entry to the park is free but visitors will need to use the pay and display car parks for vehicles.
Maidstone council, which runs the park, says unless government guidelines or advice changes the park will remain open to visitors.
Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, St Peter's St, Canterbury CT1 2BQ
The picturesque pathways and surroundings of the Westgate Gardens can provide a welcome retreat for those wishing to escape the city and make use of some open space for a walk or the chance to sit in the fresh air.
Spring is in full bloom within the Gardens and there are carpets of flowers across all the borders at the edge of the River Stour.
Families taking a walk through the Gardens and along the river, can cross the bridge and walk through the underpass to find additional space, football goals and the Toddler's Cove playground.
Canterbury City Council says that all of its gardens, parks and open spaces are open and will continue to be during the virus outbreak unless government advice changes.
Gravesend Promenade, Gravesend, DA12 2BS
Stretch your legs beside the river at the Promenade in Gravesend.
Also known as Gravesend's Riverside Leisure Area there are plenty of flat paths for all walkers as well as parents who may be pushing prams and pushchairs or bringing children on bikes and scooters. The neighbourning Fort Gardens, just behind the river area, is also worth a visit with a lake, pathways and plenty of planted fresh flowers. There are also playgrounds and climbing equipment for children in both spots.
The promenade offers parking at a number of neighbouring council-run car parks and the riverside area is also just a short walk from the town centre.
The Leas, Minster
Over on the Isle of Sheppey is hundreds of metres of pathway by the sea just perfect for some time away from the house. The exceptionally flat surface also makes it an ideal spot for all ages looking to escape the indoors, including those using mobility scooters, prams and pushchairs, scooters or bicycles.
Parking is free along many parts of the seafront.
Tankerton Slopes, Tankerton Road near Whitstable
The pathways in Whitstable can sometimes be a little busy and congested but head further along the seafront to Tankerton and there is far more space for everyone.
Wide paths that stretch along the coastline will offer walkers ample space to stretch their legs or for children to throw some stones into the water's edge or get out on bikes and scooters.
It can be very windy so wrapping up warm is advisable. Parking is also free along many roads in Tankerton.
If fresh air is what you're after then a bracing walk along the seafront between Hythe and neighbouring Sandgate should do the trick.
A wide promenade, which runs along the side of the pebble beach, stretches for miles between the two towns and is the perfect place for all walkers.
There is pay and display parking in both Sandgate and Hythe as well as some on-street parking also.
National Trust sites, countywide
The National Trust in Kent is to open its parks and open spaces for free so that people can still get out and enjoy some exercise.
The news comes as the charity, which is marking its 125th anniversary this year, will close its pay-for-entry sites including houses, cafes and shops in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In Kent the Trust's sites are:
- Chartwell near Westerham where gardens and parkland will remain open Monday to Friday, while observing social distancing measures, for a trial period.
- Smallhythe Place near Tenterden, the wider estate will be kept open, though the gardens will be shut.
- Scotney Castle at Lamberhurst is keeping its estate open with access via public footpaths as the car park will be closed.
- At the White Cliffs of Dover site, which is popular with walkers, the car park and countryside walks will remain open, but the visitor centre will be shut.
- Knole near Sevenoaks is keeping its parkland open to pedestrians. The car park and all other facilities will be closed.
- At Sissinghurst Castle the estate walks will remain open while the gardens, shop and restaurant will be closed.
- At Ide Hill near Sevenoaks, Emmetts Garden's footpath will be open, but all other facilities will be shut.
- South Foreland Lighthouse at Dover will be closed along with Stoneacre near Maidstone and Quebec House near Westerham,