Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Bewl Water & Rupert Bear

Low water levels at Bewl Water
The Kent/Sussex area has some beautiful landscapes and walks and one of the walks I enjoy the most is around Bewl Water (not to be confused with Bluewater the shopping centre, although I am partial to a long walk around there as well!)  Bewl Water is a reservoir on the Kent/Sussex border created between 1973 and 1978 by building a 900 metre long and 30 metre high dam.  The perimeter of the reservoir is 17 miles, making it the largest inland water area in the south east.  The official walk around Bewl Water however is less at 13 miles.  It has over recent years become an excellent centre for watersports, fishing, biking, conservation and what are termed “adrenaline activities”.... The mind boggles!  I confess however I did lead a team a few years ago to build a raft out of wood, empty plastic cans and rope that we then had to take out on Bewl Water to make sure it floated.  Only a few of us were brave enough to try it. I am relieved to say it did float, despite the best efforts of the rest of the team (who were not brave enough to get on it) trying to sink it from a motor boat!  Happy days!

Sailing boats near the Visitor Centre
The day of the walk was cold and a bit cloudy but dry and the views for the whole walk were excellent (the advantage sometimes of low-level walks).  I started from a small lane on a bridge over the Reservoir and headed off towards the visitor centre, about two miles away.  As you can see from the photos, the water levels were really low for the time of year, which does not bode well for the summer months.  The Reservoir is usually fed from the River Teise at Goudhurst and the River Medway at Yalding during winter months.  Despite being low however, there was still a lot of activity on the water with canoes and sailing boats and the memories of the raft I was on came flooding back!
Crossing the bridge over a cascade

The water tower and dam
The walk takes you over the dam, which is superb with the water tower right next to it, so you get a view of the main part of the Reservoir.  The overall shape of the reservoir is rather odd, particularly when it is low with lots of inlets.  As I went through the gate to get onto the dam, I noticed a sign on it that said “Bewl Water round the lake walk 13 miles”.  This was a shock to me....I had cycled the route back in the summer but it has been a while since I walked it and in my head, thought it was about 10 miles.  To find out it was 13 was a bit disheartening as the difference between 10 and 13 miles for me is tired legs!  But onwards towards the Visitor Centre I went.  There was not a lot of activity at the Centre itself at this time of year but there still seemed to be a lot of boats going on and off the water.
View from the dam
Path through the woods at the edge of Bewl Water
Once past the centre, the walk follows the ins and outs of the Reservoir for a few miles.  The trick here is to keep an eye out for cyclists as the route is shared between walkers/runners, horses and cyclists.  It seems to work well though.  This part of the walk is my favourite – there is nothing tricky about it, with clear paths, beautiful woods and extensive views across the Weald and the Reservoir and the gradients are easy.  The Weald of Kent and Sussex were partly the inspiration behind the Rupert the Bear stories and drawings by Mary Tourtel, who lived in Canterbury.  It is thought Nutwood (Rupert Bear's home) was set it the Sussex Weald.  The character was then continued by Alfred Bestall who created the famous annuals.
Rupert Bear & Badger
About a third of the walk is on the road and away from the Reservoir.  Whilst it seems a long way, it is all on very small country lanes with hardly any traffic and with some excellent views back towards the reservoir, including a flock of Canadian Geese at one point!  It also means you can make progress quickly on this part.  There are some lovely cottages and houses around and about and you really get to see a lot of oast houses, which are a unique part of the Kent and Sussex landscape.  

Canadian Geese from the road
When back towards Bewl Water, if there has been rain it can be quite muddy so take care!  Whilst I managed to stay upright, (with a few acrobatics) I did see someone else walking the other way who did not appear to be so fortunate and on occasion for me it was touch and go!  There are no bogs however, which is a relief to me otherwise I definitely would have been less fortunate.  

I have to say the final two miles were extremely tiring as I had kept up a fair pace but when the car came into sight, it was not a time to be optimistic as there was still another large inlet to negotiate and probably another mile to walk.  It felt rather like getting to what you think is the top of a mountain, only to find where you are there that the true top is another 100 feet climb away!  It is a challenging 13 miles, despite being mainly flat but the views are superb in that part of the county and it is well worth the effort.

I will write about Bluewater another time!
The final part of the walk

Follow Heelwalker1 on Twitter


  1. Your blog always offers a diverse narrative which I really enjoy although I would rather walk in the Lake District. Excellent piece and I love Rupert Bear!

  2. I've heard a lot about Bewl water but have never been there. Thanks so much for this terrific description and I particularly like the look of the path through the woods.
    13 miles round trip eh? Guess I could do that but think I'll wait for spring weather and the bluebells!

  3. Thanks Peter and I agree with you about Rupert Bear! Although Winnie-the-Pooh is still my favourite!

    Thanks Chloe - you are right about the bluebells and I am looking forward to walking the route again in the spring. It is tiring but mainly flat at least!

  4. *sigh* Loved this! Please forgive me being so late. This week has been crazy. Had I been smart, I would have come by for a visit sooner. As usual, your pics are lovely. They make me miss the park trails in Ohio.

    We have a lovely park close by here in Florida called Honeymoon Island, perhaps I'll make a trip up there soon.

    Bless you for sharing your adventures. Hope your day is fun and magical. ;D

    ~ Aithne

  5. Thanks Aithne - appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
    I wish the sun had been shining for the photos!
    I haven't walked anywhere in the US - I don't think cities count! Honeymoon Island sounds lovely.
    Have a fab evening...

  6. Reservoir walks are usually a good alternative for when the clouds are low on the tops. They nearly always substitute a good distance over lack of climb!

  7. Yes it was a good distance and uses different leg muscles than hill/mountain climbing which I was reminded of the following morning!
    I did it again a few days later and the sky was much bluer.