Walkers unite to celebrate 40th anniversary of the Wealdway

Walkers from Tonbridge and Malling Ramblers and other walking groups across Kent and Sussex joined together in September 2021 to host a walking festival to mark the 40th anniversary of the Wealdway long-distance trail. The Wealdway stretches for 82 miles through Kent and East Sussex, from Gravesend to Eastbourne.

Each of the 26 Wealdway40 festival walks included a section of the Wealdway. Distances ranged from a 1.5 mile stroll around Tonbridge Park to a 15 mile ramble from Tonbridge to Groombridge and back to Tunbridge Wells. The walks were open to everyone, not just Ramblers members. We hosted seven free guided walks during the festival. One of these walks took us to the site of the original opening of the Wealdway at Camp Hill in Ashdown Forest in September 1981. You can see our group pictured at Camp Hill, and walk leader John Capeling standing by the original plaque.

21/09/21 Camp Hill © Nicola Brown
An impressive 388 walkers took part in the Wealdway40 festival, walking a total of almost 1,800 miles along the Wealdway (and more miles on other paths).

The highlight of the festival was the 40th anniversary ceremony on 26 September, by Tonbridge Castle where the Wealdway meets the Medway bridge in the centre of the town. The Mayor of Tonbridge, Councillor Roger Roud, told the story of the Wealdway and its significance to Tonbridge and the surrounding area. He acknowledged the contribution of our late member, Geoff King (formerly of Tunbridge Wells Ramblers and then with Tonbridge and Malling Ramblers) who was instrumental in the creation and subsequent maintenance of the Wealdway. Malcolm McDonnell, member of the Ramblers’ Board of Trustees, spoke about the importance of protecting public rights of way and thanked local Ramblers members for their contributions to maintaining the extensive footpath network in Kent and East Sussex.

Neil Whittall, Chairman of Tonbridge and Malling Ramblers, co-ordinated the 26 walks and spoke at the Tonbridge Castle ceremony. “We were delighted with the enthusiastic response from the volunteers who planned and led the Wealdway40 walks”, said Neil. “For Ramblers members, it was an opportunity to discover footpaths beyond their usual walking routes – and to make new friends. For non-members, it was an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of walking with a group, and we look forward to welcoming new members during the autumn as a result of our ‘flying the flag’ for the Wealdway.”

See the full gallery of Wealdway40 photos at www.kentramblers.org.uk/wealdway40 or Weadlway40 pictures on this website.