“ Alkham Road / Dover / CT14 / Tel: 01304 820727 „
I live in Dover, Kent and Kearsney Abbey is a 10 minute drive up the road from me, so I often walk my dogs in these lovely gardens.
Kearsney Abbey has an interesting history which can be traced back for years but the first record of it being owned by a local person is between the years of 1445-1449 when it was owned by Ralph Tokes, Mayor of Dover. Since then, it has been rebuilt by the various owners and throughout the 19th Century it was a private boarding school, an Augustinian convent, a nursing home and also used as a private residence. In 1973, Kearsney Abbey Gardens were set in 27 acres and included in this area was a dairy, an orangery and a laundry. There were 10 cottages and farm buildings as well as stables and a garage. The rest of the area was taken up with gardens.
After the Second World War Dover Borough Council bought the Abbey and it has remained in their hands ever since. Sadly in 1959 the Abbey had to be knocked down as it had rotted, the only part to survive was the billiards room which is now used as a restaurant / café for visitors.
Inside The Gardens
Kearsney Abbey is split into two sections with a large lake and small streams separating the two sides. On one side of the park, dogs are allowed off the lead and the park is quite hilly. At the top of the hill, there is a wooded area which runs along the top of the park. You can enter the wooded area at any point and you will find a path running through the wood, with smaller paths that lead deeper into the woods. Unfortunately to go any further into the woods you have to climb an extremely steep hill so you dont find many people doing this, although the walk along the bottom is pleasant enough.
Also on this side of the park, there is a BBQ / Picnic area with BBQs stands provided. There are a few picnic benches surrounding the BBQ area and there is plenty of grass space for people to have picnics. The BBQ area is located in the second car park (which is this side of the park).
At the far end of this side, you will find a stepping stone path in the water which has been made by kids in the area over the years. You can step stone your way through the river and end up in some more woods which makes for a nice walk as long as you dont mind getting wet if you slip.
There are a couple of seating areas on this side of the park. You can take a seat on the bench by one of the smaller rives and watch the water flow past and relax.
There is a small entrance which comes from the local village of River and there is a direct path which leads you to the footbridge meaning that this park is quite accessible for people with wheelchairs.
Separating the two sides of the park is the large lake. There is a footbridge about half way inside the park which connects the two sides. The lake is about 65 metres by 325 metres and in the middle is an island where the many swans that live here make their nests. In the summer, they hold Model Boat meetings here where people get together and display and sail their model boats.
On the other side of the park, there is a restaurant/café; toilets and a childrens play area. This side of the park has pathways that lead up to the café and to the footbridge. There are plenty of grassed areas and during the summer Kearsney Abbey gets absolutely packed with people enjoying the sunshine. This side of the park tends to attract the children where they play football, rounders and many more ball games. This side of the park is better for balls games and anyone who does not like dogs as they have to be kept on a lead on this side.
The childrens play area is quite large and has all the usual amenities such as a slide, swings and climbing frame. The area is fenced off with two entrance gates. The flooring inside the play area is rubberised matting which makes for a softer and less painful fall than concrete.
In the middle of this side there is a huge Lebanon Cedar Tree which is fenced off for safety reasons as these trees shed branches annually. This tree is believed to be between 400 500 years old.
There is a large car park attached to this side of the park and this is where the toilets are situated. There is disabled access to the toilets, with a disabled toilet, as well as male and female. These toilets are cleaned on a regular basis and to a very high standard.
The restaurant is also on this side of the park. It is fairly small and overpriced but its quite pleasant to enjoy their homemade snacks whilst relaxing in the park. They have a good selection of snacks and also serve hot drinks and cold drinks, including slush puppies. There is also an ice cream section.
All around the park there are various birds such as swans. geese, ducks, coots and morehens. Many people come here to feed them over the summer. You will also see many grey squirrels here who are surprisingly tame.
Although I would not place this on the top 10 list of things to see in Dover, if you are looking to spend a relaxing summers day in picturesque scenery then this is the place to go. Its also popular with local people walking their dogs and would be good for anyone with a travelling pet to take a welcome break. It is free to get into the park.
Kearsney Abbey Gardens is a fairly large park, technically speaking located in the village of River, which is now really a suburb of Dover (and arguably the nicest area of town altogether). It's not exactly a "proper" attraction, but it's a very pleasant park with quite a bit of variety and if for some reason you are stuck in Dover for a day or two with nothing to do, it's a nice place to visit.
There is a car park adjacent to the park, this is where the public toilets are located too. It's walkable from Dover, and the best way to reach it is to try to follow the course of River Dour (after which the village is named). It's quite a shlep, though,about three miles, and not all of it that nice.
If you use public transport, take a bus to River and get off at the end, then walk along Chilton Way and enter the park through a back gate, or go down Minnis Lane straight down from the last bust stop and take a shady path along the river.
The park itself is quite varied, with the river and a couple of ponds separating it into two parts: one more woody and less cultivated (dogs are allowed off the leash here) and the other more cultivated, with large expanses of lawn, reasonable children's playground and some interesting trees (a guide to those is available from the cafe for 10p). There are ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl on the ponds.
The best tree is an amazing cedar of Lebanon, in the middle of the park - it's old, huge and truly impressive. It's been fenced off as branches fall off it every so often causing a safety hazard, but it's still a major feature of the park.
There is a little cafe near the car park which sells basic snacks, cakes, ice cream, tea and coffee. It's not particularly impressive, but at least it's there for those that have not brought provisions.
The park can get very busy on sunny weekends, with families picnicking on the grass and children playing ball, but most of the time it's bearable.
Just across the road from Kearsney Abbey there is another park, Russel Gardens with tennis courts, another playpark and Chinese-style covered bridges over the stream. Upstream from Russel Gardens is Bushy Ruff, perhaps my favourite of the three, a not very big but slightly wild area of trees and bushes around a nice big pond with ducks.
The gardens are laid out as informal park land, and are based around two ornamental lakes that the River Dour flows through.