This walk is different to any of the others in Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent: it’s one he never took. Its significance is that it passes the scene of the Staplehurst rail crash, an accident in which Dickens could very easily have been killed, and which blighted the last five years of his life.
In 1865 Dickens was returning from Boulogne with his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother. The Folkestone to London boat train derailed while crossing the Beult viaduct, between Headcorn and Staplehurst, killing 10 and injuring 49. Dickens was terrified of the scandal that would result if he and Ternan were linked at the crash, yet still tended the injured and nursed the dying.