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Kent’s best parks, gardens and green spaces to soak up the sun this summer

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Original article from Kent Live

With summer having finally arrived, and lockdown easing meaning we can get back out and enjoy the weather, many of us will be looking forward to hitting the beach to kick back and relax.

Kent's beaches, from Sheppey to Dungeness , are well known, well loved, and varied – but often get crowded when heatwaves hit, meaning some might prefer a different option to soak up the rays.

We are here to provide just that – with a list of Kent's best parks, gardens and open spaces to head to when the weather is at its best.

Without sandy shoes, waterproof sun cream and finding a parking space in a cramped seaside car park to worry about, going somewhere green might not be a better option for those not wedded to the coast.

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All of these selections are marked with Tripadvisor's Traveller's Choice 2020 award – meaning they're truly the cream of the crop in Kent.

Whether it's for a kickabout, a drink with friends or just a sunbathing session, here are the best parks and green spaces in Kent to visit over the summer.

1. Mote Park, Maidstone

Mote Park, Maidstone

Situated on the banks of the River Len, Mote Park in Maidstone will be well known to locals – but is a truly huge open space, well worth the visit if you're in the area.

With cheap parking at just £2 for 6 hours, as well as wooded areas, a beautiful lake and expansive green spaces perfect for a picnic, there's enough space here that you'll unlikely struggle to find a place to relax.

Some visitors said the refreshments weren't great amidst glowing praise – so it might be worth bringing food and drink from home.

That aside, the size and variety on offer at Mote Park make it a perfect summer spot.

2. Shorne Woods Country Park, Gravesend

Shorne Woods Country Park offers an eco-friendly visitor's centre alongside access to a slice of untouched nature.

Even bigger than Mote Park, though a little further from the nearest major town, Shorne Woods is an expansive 292 acre swathe of woodlands, wetlands and meadows in North West Kent.

With an eco-friendly visitor centre and restaurant, fishing lakes, trim trail and picnic and play areas, there's plenty to do here beyond sunbathing – though there is more than enough room for that if it's your ideal summer afternoon.

There are also a number of activities offered on Kent County Council's website to make your trip a little more of an event, including orienteering and a mobile phone-led geocaching exploration.

Mobility aids are also available for those who might find the trek around the park inaccessible.

3. High Rocks, Tunbridge Wells

The high rocks of Tunbridge Wells are one of Kent's most unique natural spots.

Something of a geographic oddity, the High Rocks of Tunbridge Wells is genuinely one of the most unique places Kent has to offer.

A craggy sandstone rock formation, it is noted as a site of special scientific interest and is a geological conservation site, as landscapes like these are especially rare in the UK.

Scenic and tranquil, whilst also almost imposingly prehistoric, a network of bridges and gullies run through the formation allowing you to explore this strange part of nature – which might make for something very different to the usual beach trips this summer.

There are plenty of nearby parks in Tunbridge Wells too, and multiple open green spaces in High Rocks to have a picnic or a drink in the shade – but there is much more to offer here than your ordinary town park.

4. Haysden Country Park, Tonbridge

The sun rises above Haysden Country Park

Another open, expansive country park, Haysden is an ideal spot for a slightly more relaxed day out, on the outskirts of Tonbridge.

The focal points are the lake and the river that snake through the greenery, both part of the nearby River Medway, home to swans, geese and other wildlife that make it a picturesque stroll when the weather's right.

With a café, toilets and a car park, it has all the amenities you'd need, but with so much space so close to the comforts of nearby towns, it might serve as a welcome opportunity to get lost in nature for a few hours.

There is also a substantial amount of open green space – meaning that those wanting a kick about have all the room they could ask for.

5. Westgate Gardens, Canterbury

Punting is just one of the many attractions offered by Canterbury's Westgate Gardens.

Hardly the most unknown spot, Westgate gardens deserves a mention due to its placement along Canterbury's picturesque canal – even if it's not quite as expansive as previous entries.

Surrounded by historic buildings and running alongside the river, there's even the chance to rent out a punt and push you and your friends or family along the water – though be careful not to fall in, as it's harder than it looks.

Parking is something that might need some forward planning, as you are essentially visiting Canterbury city centre.

However, being so close to civilisation itself brings the advantages of ample public amenities, refreshments, and shelter if the weather decides to return to a more traditionally British wet and windy display.

6. East Cliff and Warren Country Park, Folkestone

East Cliff and Warren country park gives excellent views of the Kent Coast

We didn't want to cheat and put the overwhelmingly famous and well-known cliffs of Dover on this list, so in East Cliff and Warren, we have the next best thing.

Just as picturesque, wild and naturally beautiful as it's more well known neighbour, East Cliff blends park, forest and beach, all whilst offering unparalleled views of the Kent coast snaking northwards.

There are also views across Folkestone from atop the cliffs, giving that same high-altitude thrill given by Dover's better known rock formations.

There are parking facilities, toilets, public transport access from Folkestone, refreshments and a signposted trail, alongside many open spaces, sport facilities and dedicated viewpoints.

If you want a whiff of sea air without the sand, or Dover's iconic cliffs without the overcrowding such a reputation brings, give East Cliff and Warren a go.

Original Article