Knole 4.5-mile deer park walk
Experience the history and wildlife of Kent’s only remaining deer park, which has remained substantially unchanged since medieval times. This walk has been produced with the permission of Lord Sackville.
Front of Knole house, grid ref: TQ542539
From the front gate of the house, facing out, turn left onto the drive. Follow it round and leave it by the second footpath on the left, which is narrow with a wooden rail set into the ground on each side. Continue to a steeply sloping metalled path, passing a brick-domed ice-house on the left. Please take care when encountering the deer who graze freely in the park. Although they might appear tame, please don't feed them.
The Knole ice-house
Ice-houses were designed to store ice in bulk for summertime use in the days before refrigerators. By the 19th century most country estates had an ice-house, the one at Knole is from the 17th or 18th century. When ice is packed together it melts slowly and lasts even longer when protected by walls insulated by earth. Ice collected in the winter could last well into the next summer in the ice-house. People living on seasonal produce found food could be kept fresh by being packed in ice. Physicians also used ice to treat fever and inflammation and even advised swallowing ice to cure indigestion.
At the bottom of the slope turn left and walk along the floor of the big valley. Just after you pass the second path on the right, take the path up a small valley to the left. You can recognise this path by the cedar tree, which is on the far corner of the junction of the two valleys.
This valley, now called the Gallops, was formed by a river in prehistoric times. In medieval and Tudor times it was used for show hunts; visitors would place bets on which hound would reach the end of the Gallops first. Today you may still come across horses here (please take care).
Continue up this little side-valley until you reach the top of the slope. Carry straight on, skirting a small wood on your right, and you will shortly arrive at a road. Look out for ant hills: the bumps on the bank of the western side of the Gallops are nests made by yellow meadow ants and are an indicator of ground that has not been ploughed.
Turn right onto this road, which is long and straight, and then almost immediately left and downhill onto another, smaller road. Follow it past woods, two branching roads on the right and views towards the golf course on the left.
Fallow and Sika deer
Knole Park has been home to the same fallow deer herd since at least the 15th century and home to some Japanese sika deer since the 1890s. They roam freely in the park and may appear tame, but please do not approach, pet or feed the deer. When they become too familiar with interactions with people, they can become dangerous to visitors, particularly small children.
When you reach a road running across, turn right. Walk along this straight road for some time until the landscape opens up and there is a junction with a similar road which joins from the right. Look out for the Chestnut Walk, whose trees might have come from the 18th-century tree plantation you will see on the next stage.
Don’t enter the gate, but take the steep path down into the bottom of the valley and then follow the line of the valley. Look out for the 18th-century tree nursery. If you look closely, you will make out the grid planting pattern. At least some of the trees along Chestnut Walk, which you saw on point 5 of the walk, are likely to have come from here.
After a considerable time, you will pass a quarry on the right with several larch trees. Take the next path on the right, going up past a spreading oak tree and back to the front of the house.
The central parts of the house date back to the 15th century. Often said to be the largest private house in Britain, it houses the fullest collection of Royal Stuart furniture in the world, one of England’s two oldest portrait galleries and an extensive and very rare set of solid silver furniture.
Front of Knole house, grid ref: TQ542539
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