Canterbury's Villages

Whether you explore Canterbury's countryside on foot, by bike or in a car, take time out to get to know the many villages that help to give the region its unique appeal.

From tiny hamlets to the smallest town in England at Fordwich, the district's villages offer an enticing recipe for visitors. Cricket on the village green, summer fetes, sheepdog trials, pub lunches or an evening meal with dusk falling outside - villages offer a timeless appeal and the chance for visitors to slow down, stay a while and recharge the batteries in the pleasantest of surroundings.

the church spire in Barham, located in the canterbury district


Barham lies four miles south-east of Canterbury and whilst a relatively small village, has a long and important history. It was on 'Barham Downs', the area north of the village, that many armies camped, from the Romans - the Britons were said to have been defeated by Caesar here in 54 BC - to the British Army at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the church of St John the Baptist was often used for the baptisms and marriages of soldiers encamped on the Downs.

Nearby Broome Park (c. 1635), now a golf and country club, is a fine example of a Carolean mansion and was once owned by the celebrated Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.

The neighbouring village of Kingston meaning 'kings manor', lies towards the north end of the Nailbourne valley. The Black Robin public house is reputed to have been named after a highwayman of the same name.

Excavations in the 19th century opened up 300 Saxon graves and the Kingston brooch, a unique Anglo-Saxon crafted piece of jewellery, was discovered in 1771 in a burial mound on the nearby Barham Downs.

Walking Route: Elham Valley Way



The village of Bishopsbourne lies in a wider river valley to the south of Canterbury. 

The parish church of St Mary, with its Norman doorway and stoop and huge chestnut tree, keeps vigil over this charming village, which was home to famous Polish fiction writer Joseph Conrad. A former seafaring man, Conrad swapped ocean life for the quieter life of a writer and settled in 1919 at Oswalds, a delightful period house adjoining the church where he spent his last five years. The village hall is named after him.

Walking Route: Elham Valley Way


houses and church in the village of bridge


One of the larger villages in the district, Bridge takes its name from what is now an 18th century brick bridge carrying the Roman Watling Sreet over the Little Stour river.

It was once an important centre, heading a union of 25 surrounding parishes. It also offered a welcome rest and shelter for those who drove their carts and carriages on the centuries old road between London and Dover.

The restored parish church of St Peter has two Norman doorways and other work dating from the same time in the tower and chancel.

Walking Route: Elham Valley Way


fordwich town sign and cinque port sign


Fordwich, two miles north-east of the city, was once the port of Canterbury with large wharves lining the river banks. The stone used to build Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey was shipped to Fordwich from Caen in Normandy. Although it is no longer a port, Fordwich claims its right as the smallest town in England.

The best way to explore this ancient town is on foot where its charm, history, and archaeology can be fully appreciated. The river still plays an important part in the life of Fordwich with its quay and riverside paths. The timber-framed town hall with its court room, gaol and stocks, is reputed to be the smallest in England. The gaol was last used in 1885 when three men were tried for poaching in the river. They were convicted and their nets burned in front of the town hall.

Nearby Sturry was one of the most badly bombed villages in England during the Second World War, the greater part of the High Street being destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941, which also killed 15 people. Since then, Sturry has been completely rebuilt.

Westbere, one mile east of Sturry, lies on a steep slope overlooking the Stour Valley and, although small, contains a fine grouping of medieval hall-houses.

On the 'mainland' side of the Wantsum Channel, bordering the former Isle of Thanet, is Chislet. The parish includes a large area of marshland. Until 1970 when it closed, Chislet coalfield was the northernmost of Kent's coal mining industry.

Walking Routes: Fordwich to Reed Pond    Elham Valley Way   Stour Valley Way


village sign post for harbledown in canterbury


One mile west of Canterbury, lies Harbledown, with arguably the finest and most impressive views of the city of Canterbury, particularly from Golden Hill.

Chaucer's last Tale was told here as the pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas caught their first glimpses of the cathedral. The Black Prince, a regular visitor to Canterbury and who is buried in the cathedral, is said to have stopped en route to drink from a well at Harbledown, thought to contain water with magical curative powers. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, water from the well was bottled and sent to invalids. Harbledown has two churches, St Michael and St Nicholas Chapel. The latter, still known locally as 'The Leper Church', has a sloping floor, supposedly so that it could be washed down after service for lepers. The Leper Hospital, founded by Archbishop Lanfranc in 1084, was rebuilt in 1674, and is now almshouses.

The village of Blean is scattered along the main road from Canterbury to Whitstable. Blean Woods has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest; further to this, approximately one third is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

The village of Chartham has a 13th century church (St Mary the Virgin) with a magnificent oaken roof and the oldest set of five bells in Kent. The houses of Chartham are attractively grouped around the village green. The paper mill, an important source of local employment, has been on the same site since the 14th century because of the excellent water supply from the Great Stour, which divides into two as it passes through the village.

Walking Routes: North Downs Way  Chartham Walk    

Chartham South Lost Landscapes   Chartham North Lost Landscapes


houses in Herne village


Herne, inland from Herne Bay, on the A291 six miles north-east of Canterbury, is a pretty village which takes its name from the Saxon 'hyrne', meaning hook or corner. Herne became affluent in the 18th century, as the nearby bay was an important outlet for trade to and from Canterbury and its hinterland; Herne village acted as the control for goods passing through from the bay to the city.

In the 18th and early part of the 19th century, wealthy families from Canterbury migrated to Herne to lead a healthier life near the sea. The first foundations for the town now known as Herne Bay were laid as a result of this migration to the coast.

On the eve of the Reformation, when parts of church services were being translated from Latin into English, the Te Deum was first sung in English at St Martin's Church.

The twin towers of the former Roman fort of Reculver are a well-known landmark on the North Kent coast (two miles east of Herne).

Walking Routes: Herne and West Blean Wood Walk 

Herne, Tyler Hill & Broad Oak Walk Tyler Hill and the Sarre Penn Valley


thatached cottages in Littlebourne near Canterbury


Littlebourne lies four miles to the east of Canterbury and is bordered on one side by the Little Stour. The village is home to oast houses, a wide village green, water mill and fully-restored tithe barn.

The 13th century church, St Vincent of Saragossa, is thought to have been founded by the monks of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury and contains an ancient wall painting showing St Christopher, patron saint of travellers.

The nearby village of Bekesbourne was once a borough itself and also a member of the Cinque Ports of Hastings. Nowadays, it is home to Howletts Wild Animal Park - the renowned wild animal park established by the late John Aspinall.


timbered house and hedge in patrixbourne, canterbury


Patrixbourne, where the river is forded by the main village street, is a beautiful small Kent village. With its well preserved timbered houses and thatched cottages, it lies in undulating countryside, well away from main roads and is crossed by the North Downs Way and Elham Valley Way long distance footpaths.

Patrixbourne is in the heart of typical downland landscape and the woods around the village are rich in wood anemones and celendines.

The Norman church of St Mary's built in flint and Caen stone is well-known for its beautifully carved stonework and windows - particularly the elaborate decoration on the south doorway. 

The neighbouring village of Adisham is crossed by the Pilgrims Way. In AD 616, Christ Church, Canterbury was granted a church in Adisham.

Walking Routes: North Downs Way  Elham Valley Way


church in Wickhambreaux village


One of the smallest villages in the district, Wickhambreaux is a delight. With a small, daffodil-fringed village green bordered by a church and tall white clapboard mill, it provides an enticing retreat from life in the fast lane. The 14th century church includes Art Nouveau stained glass from the 19th century.

A former pub, The Hooden Horse, took its name from the practice of 'hoodening' carried out in the village by labourers who went from door to door collecting funds for their Christmas festivities. The tradition is now long gone although has been immortalised in the routines of modern-day Morris dancers.

Just off the A257 Sandwich Road five miles from Canterbury, the village is a neighbour to Ickham. A typical Kentish village centred around a single thoroughfare and 14th century church (St John the Evangelist). The name Ickham derives from the Saxon 'Yeok' a yoke of arable land. Many of the houses in the village are very old (one dates from 1200) and well preserved.

Walking Route: Elham Valley Way

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On Your Bike

A network of cycle routes passes through some of the region's most beautiful countryside and woodland. 


Walk This Way

Canterbury's countryside is best explored on foot. Leave the car behind, side-step into the slow lane, and enjoy life at a more relaxed pace. Take time to savour the sights and sounds of this glorious part of East Kent.


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