Walk 7: Lower Higham, Cliffe and Cooling

In Great Expectations Charles Dickens describes the landscape covered on this walk as: ‘A most beastly place. Mudbank, mist, swamp… swamp, mist, and mudbank.’ Do not be put off! In fact, this is an incredibly atmospheric place, and wonderful walking country.

Lower Higham church
Lower Higham church

As William Gadd wrote in The Great Expectations Country, his 1929 exploration of the places in the novel, this has always been a neglected part of Kent. ‘Yet,’ he writes, ‘this piece of country has a charm and interest peculiar to itself, unlike any other part of Kent. Perhaps it is the ever-present marshes and the wide rivers bounding the prospect on either hand; the scarcity of human beings; the unchanged quaint little churches and taverns in the scattered villages and hamlets; or perhaps it is because the Spirit of Dickens and Great Expectations pervades the land.’

The spirit of Dickens the serious walker is definitely here. This route is one of the longest regular walks he took, at a hardcore 20.25miles. I promise you, it’s worth it. But if you prefer a shorter route, which still takes in the key locations of Great Expectations, you’ll find a 18.2km/11.3miles alternative route also outlined in my new guidebook, Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent, available from Amazon and all bookshops.

This GPX file, which you can load onto your phone, follows the shorter version outlined in the map above:

Whichever option you take, there are some unexpected discoveries along the way.