More about Hucking Estate

Bluebells in springtime at Hucking Estate, Kent

This large and engaging site offers a mix of ancient woodland, planted secondary woodland and open grassland; together with woodland archaeology remains, wonderful walks, interesting wildlife and breath-taking views – set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Hucking Estate is one of our Top Ten bluebell woods. If you’d like to visit and see a superb bluebell display, check our live map for bluebells at Nature's Calendar as flowering times do vary around the UK. However, mid-April to early-June is usually an ideal time for most woods.

This 573 acre (282 hectare) site offers an engaging and varied mix of habitats, set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Ancient and newly planted woodland, carpets of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer, open rides and chalk grassland areas are all home to a wide variety of wildlife. These include twenty one species of butterfly such as the rare purple hairstreak which is regularly seen feeding on aphid honey dew throughout July. Three species of bat live in the old chalk pits in the ancient part of the wood, and ten bird species listed on the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan make their home here, including the turtle dove, skylark and song thrush.

Take a guided tour of our Hucking Estate with site manager, Clive Steward. Video production funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

In spring, carpets of bluebell, wood anemone and dog’s mercury add to the vibrancy and colour of the ancient woodland areas, while across the estate the spring and summer months bring a variety of other flowers including lords and ladies, early purple orchid, primrose, rosebay willow herb and yellow archangel. 

Hucking’s a great place for walks and for enjoying stunning scenery across the Weald of Kent, with two way-marked trails, a network of permissive footpaths and a bridleway. Meander through the ancient woodland with its oak standards, areas of coppiced stools, and fine 200 year-old specimens of small leaved lime and beech. Or enjoy the verdant splendour of the 180,000 broad leaf trees planted in the late-1990s, which include many of the pre-existing species but with the addition of yew, whitebeam and wild cherry.

And for those interested in archaeology, there are interpretation boards and leaflets on-site which explain what features  to look out for – such as the wood banks, chalk and marl pits and an ancient drove road – and how these fit into the site’s history.

Prior to the acquisition of the Hucking Estate by the Trust in 1997, it was known as the Howe Court Estate, but was re-named Hucking Estate after the nearby village of Hucking. The name Hucking was first recorded in 1195 as Hugginges. The ‘inges’ part of the name is Old English for family or followers, and the first part of the place-name is probably a personal name. The village of Hucking therefore probably started off as a settlement of ‘Hucca’s family’.

Enjoy the breathtaking aerial views of our Hucking Estate. Video production funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

Fighting ash dieback at Hucking Estate

The arrival in the UK of ash dieback is having a real impact on our woodland. It is predicted that the disease will spread in the years ahead, threatening populations of ash trees. At Hucking Estate, we are working with the Forestry Commission and Forest Research trialling plantations of young ash trees to find out which ones are naturally resistant. Identifying which trees have a natural resistance will be used in breeding programmes so that we can save ash for the future.

Austin Brady explains how we are researching ash dieback resistance at our Hucking Estate. Video production funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

Setting

The Hucking Estate (574 acres/232.3 ha) is located around the village of Hucking, with Hollingbourne just over two miles to the south and the centre of Maidstone approximately nine and a half miles away, in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Estate runs to the escarpment of the North Downs along the southern boundary, which on a clear day affords fantastic views across the Weald of Kent.

OS Explorer 148, Landranger 188, TQ843575

Nearest amenities

Public conveniences
The nearest public conveniences, with disabled and baby changing facilities, are located at the M20 Maidstone Services off Junction 8  approximately four and a half miles away from Hucking Estate car park.

Refreshments
Food is available at The Hook and Hatchet Inn in Hucking, where visitors to the wood can park in the pub car park and enter the wood through an all access kissing gate beside the pub. Hollingbourne’s three pubs also serve food: The Windmill and The Sugar Loaves, both in Eyhorne Street, and The Dirty Habit in Upper Street; as does The Ringlestone Inn which is two and a half miles east of Hollingbourne. Visit Information Britain for more information.

Shop
Nearest is Christopher’s village shop in Hollingbourne where you can pick up a leaflet on walking opportunities in the area.

Accommodation and tourist information
Guests houses and hotels can be found at Hollingbourne (two miles away) and Maidstone (9.4 miles away). Visit Information Britain or call Maidstone Tourist Information Centre 01622 602169. 

(Photo: WTML / Nick Spurling)

Access and walks

There are 13 possible entrances into Hucking Estate, seven of them on Public Footpaths with pedestrian only kissing gates for access. The main entrance points are from the car park off Church Road, Hucking where an all access kissing gate leads onto the path network.

There are two way-marked trails to follow – a short one and a longer one. The short ‘blue’ route is just over a mile, takes approximately 30 minutes and starts from the Hook and Hatchet Inn where visitors can also park and gain entry on to the estate via an ‘all access’ kissing gate.  The longer ‘red route’, known as The Landscape Trail, is just over 3 miles and takes around 1½ hours, starting from the Woodland Trust’s car park.

The whole of the Hucking Estate is open access, and a network of permissive footpaths and Public Rights of Way enable visitors to wind their way through the mature woodland, new planting areas, and across the chalk grassland. A bridleway passes through the estate, accessed from a horse stile beside the Church at Hucking, to the track or Drove Road which links Colyers Went with Allington Farm on the Pilgrims Way.

All paths within the fields and the woodland are of unmodified grass and earth surface, which can get slippery and muddy when wet. The majority of the paths have gentle inclines and visitors may encounter cattle or sheep in the fields at various times during the year.

The North Downs Way National Trail also passes through Hollingbourne and the local area. For more details of this route and other walking opportunities, visitors can pick up a leaflet at Christopher’s village shop in Hollingbourne or the Maidstone Tourist Information Centre on 01622 602169.

Directions

By bus
The nearest bus stop is at Hollingbourne Church, approximately one and a half miles walk along road and footpaths to the closest entrance at Hucking. From Hollingbourne, the road climbs up a very steep hill onto the North Downs, but once at the top, the road to Hucking Estate is reasonably flat with some gentle inclines to negotiate. The walk will take approximately 35 minutes.

By train
The nearest railway station is at Hollingbourne – about a 35 minute walk away. For details of train services call 0871 200 2233 or visit traveline.

Directions from the station: Take the path from the car park up the bank immediately opposite the old station building and turn right over the stile and join the public right of way. Follow this into the field and carefully cross the railway – using the kissing gates. Follow the public right of way straight ahead across the fields, heading towards Allington Farm at the foot of the Downs. On reaching the road (Pilgrims Way) turn left and then immediately right at the entrance to Allington Farm. Follow this track (which is part of the old Droveway) past the cottages and up onto the Downs. When you reach the top of the hill you will be at Hucking Estate.

By car
From Junction 7 of the M20 – take the A249 towards Sittingbourne for approximately 7.1 km (4.4 miles). Turn right following the brown tourist signs for Hucking Estate. Remain on this narrow road for approximately 3.2 km (2 miles) turning left onto Church Road opposite the Hook and Hatchet Inn where there is parking available for visitors to the Hook and Hatchet. The Woodland Trust car park is a further 1.2 kms (0.75 mile) to the east of Hucking village on Church Road which has space for around twelve cars. This has a height restriction barrier at the entrance. From here, access to the woods can be gained via a kissing gate, where there is an information board and a leaflet dispenser.

The road network within the area to access the Hucking Estate is mostly single track and twisty narrow lanes not suitable for high volumes of traffic or for large vehicles or coaches.

Entry into our woods is free but please donate now to help us care for them.

More on Hucking Estate

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