Walk 8: Rochester, Bluebell Hill, Aylesford

Map: Emily Duong

Charles Dickens called this ‘one of the most beautiful walks in England.’

There may have been a certain nostalgia in the choice, for the places this walk took Dickens had featured prominently in his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, written over 20 years earlier.

We climb from Rochester over Bluebell Hill, a favourite picnic spot for Dickens, and go on to explore the grounds of Cobtree Hall at Sandling – the models, in The Pickwick Papers, for Manor Farm and Dingley Dell respectively. We finish up in Aylesford, which has a disguised role in Pickwick.

The area also inspired later fiction. The weir in Dickens’ last, unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood is based on Allington Lock, which we visit on our way to Aylesford.

This route is one of 17 in my new guidebook Walking Charles Dickens’ Kent

You can download a GPX file of the route here, and follow it on your phone.