Cycling & horse riding

If you don’t happen to bring your own bikes, hiring one in the Blean is very easy. You can hire from Canterbury Cycle Hire in Canterbury, or Whitstable Cycle Hire in Whitstable, both owned by the same company (who also have an outlet in Herne Bay). The company has a large fleet of bikes for hire in sizes to suit all riders, male, female and children, as well as tandems, tag-alongs and trailers for the really little ones. Hire rates are per day, but better deals can be had by hiring for a week or longer, and all bikes can be returned at any of their 3 outlets. All bikes are supplied with padlocks, pumps and puncture repair kits. They also offer guided rides of major local routes if arranged in advance.

• The 7.5 mile Crab and Winkle Way links the cathedral city of Canterbury with the harbour in Whitstable. The path follows the route of the Crab and Winkle Line which was the first regular steam passenger railway in the world, opened on third May 1830. The route passes through Clowes Wood, and is mostly traffic free all the way to Whitstable Station. Overview route information can be downloaded from the Explore Kent website and more detailed guidance and a full leaflet can be found at the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership website. Downland Cycles have also produced their own route guide to the Crab and Winkle, as has Canterbury Cycle Hire (with images) – so you have no excuse for getting lost!

• West Blean & Thornden Wood: New Road is a roughly surfaced forestry track running some two miles through Thornden Wood. Cycling & horse-riding are permitted courtesy of Kent Wildlife Trust from Thornden Wood Road to Bleangate on Braggs Lane.

• Victory Wood, nr Dargate: The Woodland Trust have opened a multi-user, unsurfaced trail from the Victory Wood carpark at Lamberhurst Farm. The trail is open from spring to autumn, dependent on surface conditions, and links to Denstroude Lane and the bridleways of Ellenden Wood.

• The 139 mile Garden of England Cycle route, using National Routes 1 & 2, follows the coast to the Cinque ports of Sandwich and Ramsgate to the north of Dover, and to Hythe and Romney to the south. The main route passes through Canterbury and then up the mostly traffic free Crab and Winkle Way to the North Kent coast, thereafter following the south bank of the Medway and then the Thames estuaries. It follows the Thames Cycle Route from Dartford past the Thames Barrier finishing in Greenwich.

• The Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership has published two ‘Bike Trails by Rail’ in the Canterbury Area which take in parts of the South Blean from Chartham and Sturry stations.Contact the office on 01233 813307 to purchase copies.

Downland Cycles has compiled a number of routes in the area, utilising national, regional and local routes and a lot of local knowledge!

•‘A visit to Herne Bay & Whitstable’ (23 miles) – Starting and finishing in Canterbury this is a ride to the seaside resorts of Herne Bay and Whitstable and giving you the option of visiting the ruins of the Abbey and Roman Fort at Reculver. On the ride you will pass through the villages of Broad Oak, Sturry, Hoath before riding along the esplanade at Herne Bay and on into Whitstable . The return route uses the dedicated cycle route called the Crab and Winkle Way, following in parts the second oldest passenger railway line in the world.

• ‘Mount Ephraim Gardens’ (18 miles) Again starting and finishing in Canterbury this ride takes you out of the city and on a wide gravel track through the heart of Blean Woods NNR, and over hills and valleys (with some great panoramic views) to Boughton and Mount Ephraim Gardens. The return route runs via the villages of Hernehill, Dargate , through Denstroude and back to Canterbury via Tyler Hill.

•’Oysters & Hops’ (23 miles) – This route lets you see two things Kent is famous for, its hop fields and Whitstable Oysters. The route follows the valley of the River Stour past Chartham to the picturesque village of Chilham and then through orchards and the villages of Boughton, Hernehill, Dargate and Yorkletts to the North Kent coast and the port of Whitstable. Your return route uses the Crab and Winkle Cycle Path.

Canterbury Cycle Hire have also published some online route guides for:

•The Oyster Bay Trail – a relaxing coastal ride from Whitstable as far as either Herne Bay or Reculver, which can then join the Viking Coastal trail for those looking for more of a challenge!

Explore Kent provides information on published cycling routes in Kent on their website where you can also download the brochure entitled Explore Kent by Bike and the Cathedral to Coast brochure which feature more information about cycling in the Canterbury area.

• The national cycling charity Sustrans also provides information on all national and regional cycling routes.

East Kent BMX operates from the international standard track at Broomfield. They regularly host race meets and welcome riders of all ages.

Promoted horse-riding routes:

• Information on riding routes, facilities and services throughout the county is available at Explore Kent and in their downloadable brochure Ride Kent.

Riding schools and centres:

If you would like to either learn to ride or hone your skills, there are a number of riding schools in the area including:

• High Elms Equestrian Centre, Hoath – riding school and livery

Brenley Farm House, Boughton-under-Blean – riding school, hacking and livery

Accommodation for riders and horses:

Brenley Farmhouse in Boughton-under-Blean offers B&B for horses. Grass livery is available (occasionally full livery). Wonderful hacking on the farm and in the surrounding Kent countryside. Brenley also offer a 60m equi-sand arena, jumping clinics and dressage training by prior arrangement.

Public Bridleways. Horse riding and cycling are permitted on any public bridleway but be aware that there is no obligation under law to make these bridleways cycle friendly. Bridleways are best seen on Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps.

Horse Riding in Clowes Wood, Toll Rides (off road) Trust. A network of TROT trails exists in Clowes Wood and elsewhere in Kent for subscribing members. Contact TROT for details.

Partners of The Blean Initiative are working together to integrate access for walkers, cyclists and riders. Please do ride or cycle responsibly. Free riding and abuse of unsurfaced woodland paths can disturb wildlife, walkers, woodsmen and our conservation teams and so greatly delay any development of additional permissive routes.  Please respect our woodsmen and conservation teams who do require vehicular access. However, illegal use of motor vehicles including motorcycles can be reported to the Kent police.