Walk 2: Cobham, Shorne circuit

Map: Emily Duong

Cobham was Dickens’ favourite village, and contains his favourite pub, the Leather Bottle (A on the map). He would often stay here in the years before he bought Gad’s Hill Place at nearby Higham, and visited it regularly with friends once he was living there. He also loved the neighbouring village of Shorne, and this walk takes in both.

It is one of 17 routes in my new guidebook Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent, available here

The Leather Bottle, Cobham

In The Pickwick Papers, Dickens’ first novel, Cobham plays a key role. Samuel Pickwick and companions come here in pursuit of one of their number, the love-lorn Tracy Tupman, who has sought solace in Cobham after the maiden aunt he was wooing at Dingley Dell eloped with the slippery actor Alfred Jingle.

The lovely old church of St Mary Magdalen (B) has reputedly the finest collection of monumental brasses in the world dating from the 1300 to 1529. Tucked behind the church is The New College of Cobham (C), which dates from the thirteenth century and which was another of Dickens’ favourite places.

New College, Cobham

Leaving Cobham, our walk takes us to another of Dickens’ favourite villages, and uses a familiar route of his between the two, along ancient byways and through Shorne Woods. As John Forster, Dickens’ friend and first biographer says: ‘for a shorter summer walk, he was… fond of going round the village of Shorne, and sitting on a hot afternoon in its pretty shaded churchyard.’

Shorne churchyard, where Dickens wanted to be buried

This church, St Peter and St Paul (D), was almost Dickens’s final resting place. When his son Charley and son-in-law Charles Collins were seeking to fulfil his wish for a quiet burial in a place he loved, they approached the vicar here, and it was agreed he should be buried on the eastern side of the churchyard. The plan was abandoned in the face of national demands that he be buried in Westminster Abbey.

It certainly makes a very pleasant spot to rest before the walk back to Cobham, as does Shorne’s pub, the Rose and Crown (E) another hostelry that Dickens knew well.

This downloadable GPX file https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1616777 will let you follow the route on your phone.

You’ll find full step-by-step walking instructions for this route in Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent Buy the book from Amazon here.