What is now Brockhill Country Park is actually a legacy of Norman times. If you come up the hill from Hythe, you reach the pretty village of Saltwood, and just a little further up the hill is Brockhill Country Park – an oasis of streams, waterfalls, a lake, meadows, picnic and play areas and a fabulous on-site café.
The Brockhill Park Estate was most likely used as a game estate during Norman times, supplying Saltwood Castle with meat, fish and timber. Owned by the de Tournay family for over 500 years, the final member of the family, William, died in 1903. William is reputed to haunt the old manor house, which is now the main building of the school next door to the park, Brockhill Park Performing Arts Academy. William played a huge hand in how the park is today, and his Victorian romanticism is displayed in the pretty lake and waterfalls surrounding it.
WHAT TO DO AT BROCKHILL COUNTRY PARK
Where do we begin? There are walks of differing lengths – with waymarkers to follow, nature to spot, five brass rubbing sites to find in celebration of the park’s native creatures, a brilliant childrens’ play area, an area of steep slopes to scramble up and down (with tables below for grown-ups to supervise from!), a willow bothy, picnic tables, and the Brockhill Café with a broad range of homemade vegetarian soups, hot foods, paninis, salads and snacks, icecreams and fresh ground coffee.
Brockhill Country Park is managed carefully to ensure that wildlife of all sorts thrives here, and the park has its own team of rangers. There are three distinct areas just ripe for exploration.
The Deer Paddock, at the top, is a wide grassy space with mature trees such as walnuts and variegated sycamores. Lots of rabbits live here too! The playground is just as you reach the bottom of the Deer Paddock.
The Lake, surrounded by overhanging trees, is a shady oasis enjoyed by local wildlife and visitors alike. Ducks paddle round the edges and swim serenely across the lake, and the sight of ducklings in the spring enchants everyone. On a hot summer’s day, the shade and water are a tonic.
The Valley is the park’s largest space, where an avenue of alder trees line the Brockhill Stream as it makes its way into the Royal Military Canal. There are very often sheep grazing here, so dogs must be kept on leads in the Valley. Marbled white butterflies, green woodpeckers and blue and orange kingfishers can be spotted, and the park is certainly home to larger wildlife such as foxes and badgers.
VISITING BROCKHILL COUNTRY PARK
There are 2.5km of Easy Access pathway which allows access to the central areas, such as the café, playground and amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Be warned though, the hill from the playground down to the lake is pretty steep and coming back up could be exhausting!
Dogs are welcome throughout the park, but must be on leads near the car park, café, and the Valley, and are not allowed in the children’s playground. There are ample bins, so please pick up after your dog.
Brockhill Country Park, a gift from the Normans for us to enjoy today.
Sandling Rd, Hythe, Saltwood CT21 4HL
Photo credit: Kent County Council