Octavia Hill was a co-founder of the National Trust, and in honour of the 100th anniversary of her death, ten miles of centenary trails have been created in her memory, following paths through the landscapes she would have walked in the late 1800s and passing by her resting place in Crockham Hill, Kent.
Octavia Hill was an artist, writer, environmentalist, social reformer, pioneer of affordable housing - and a radical campaigner for open spaces.
She spent the last years of her life living with the views she and her family had acquired for the trust towards the end of the 19th century, land she was determined that others should enjoy long after she would no longer be around to appreciate it.
This natural paradise in the Weald of Kent encompasses Chartwell House, home to Winston Churchill from 1922 until his death in 1965, and centres on Toys Hill, Ide Hill, Crockham Hill and Mariners Hill, to which Octavia’s mother and sisters donated large sums of money which allowed it to be preserved forever.
The Sight of Sky and Things Growing
It is largely thanks to the Hill family that this tract of countryside remains today what Octavia called ‘an open-air sitting room,’ dedicated to those who crave access to nature and beauty - “the need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise and the sight of sky and of things growing.”
The 16 kilometre centenary walk can be done in two separate stages, or together as one in the shape of a figure-of-eight.
The six-mile Centenary Trail West is a three-and-a-half hour walk across moderate ground which includes rough pathways through woodland. This pilgrimage to Octavia takes you through Crockham Hill, where she lived, to the churchyard where she is buried under a yew tree near the church porch, and goes on to pass by Churchill’s Chartwell, much of it preserved as it was in his lifetime.
The Centenary Trail East is a gentler, four-mile walk likely to take around two-and-a-half hours, and takes in equally spectacular views over Kent’s famous ‘Garden of England.’
Both walks start and finish at Toys Hill car park, Chart Lane, Brasted, near Westerham, KentTN16 1QG.
- During her lifetime, Octavia Hill helped save London’s Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields for the nation, was a member of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, and was one of three founders of the National Trust in 1895 to preserve places of historical interest or natural beauty.
Nicki Williams is an outdoor enthusiast who loves walking and history - and adores combining the two.
She works for Gear-Zone, stockists of all the major outdoor brands including The North Face, Rab, Berghaus, Scarpa, Brasher and Thermarest.
Picture source: Compfight