Did the devil really create this spectacular valley in the Kent Downs?

For the answer, we’ll need to travel back in time. During an era known as the Cretaceous (around 90 to 65 million years ago), much of lowland Britain was covered in warm, shallow seas. Over millions of years, the remains of tiny sea creatures slowly built up on the sea floor. Under the weight of the water and each other, their skeletons and shells were compressed to form a soft rock called chalk.

Around 20 million years ago, during the same phase of mountain building that created The Alps, massive, thick layers of chalk rock were were pushed up into a huge dome that covered most of south east England. Over time, the roof of the dome was eroded away by the work of wind, weather and rivers – a bit like a boiled egg that had its top sliced off! Today the North and South Downs are like the rim of the boiled egg, and are all that remains of the chalk layer that once covered the whole area. 

But what about this deep valley we are standing in front of? Was it really the work of the devil?

For the true answer, we need to think about what’s under our feet.

Chalk is a porous rock, which means that water can pass through it.  Some twenty times in the past 2.5 million years of the Ice Age, thick ice sheets and glaciers covered much of northern Britain.

Tundra-like conditions during the Ice Age in northern Europe © Mauricio Antón

Further south, in places like Kent, the Ice Age created tundra-like conditions, much like those in Alaska today. The chalk froze to depths of 30 metres and more: that’s six times the depth of a swimming pool!

When chalk freezes in this way it becomes impermeable (water cannot pass through it). So, whenever the weather warmed, such as in brief Ice Age summers or at the start of longer warmer phases, the top layers of ice in the soil and rock thawed. Gravity did the rest – the sludgy mass of water, rock and soil particles flowed across the frozen ground beneath, carving out steep valleys in the soft chalk.  

So, it probably wasn’t the devil who created this spectacular valley (or coombe as they are known in Kent), but that’s not quite the last we’ll hear of him…

Mr Clevvers Roaling Place

In Russell Hoban’s cult science-fiction novel, Riddley Walker, set in post-apocalyptic Kent, the Devil’s Kneading Trough features as ‘Mr Clevvers Roaling Place’. Written in an imagined English dialect with a Kent accent, other place names include ‘Do it over’ (Dover), ‘Cambry’ (Canterbury) and ‘Sam’s itch (Sandwich).  

For the intrepid explorer, a new project by Canterbury Christ Church University offers walking trails through the city of Canterbury following Riddley's own route...



Talk of the devil

The Devils Kneading Trough, Wye © Explore Kent

Devil's Kneading Trough viewpoint

Known as the Devil’s Kneading Trough after its bowl-shaped appearance, this dramatic viewpoint sits at the heart of the Kent Downs AONB and is often described as Kent’s top beauty spot. Stunning views are a key feature of the AONB and from here you can see out over the flat Kentish Weald to Romney Marsh and as far as the English Channel. 

Most of Kent, is reasonably flat, so how did these high ‘downs’ get here and was it really the devil who carved out this spectacular valley?

This viewpoint is one of 12 created in partnership with Kent Downs AONB to celebrate their 50 year anniversary in 2018. 


Did the devil really create this spectacular valley in the Kent Downs? Click to reveal the answer


Wye, near Ashford, Kent, TN25 5HX

Grid reference:

TR 07735 45613

Getting there:

The Devil's Kneading Trough is 2 km south east of the town of Wye and 6 km north east of Ashford. There is a small car park off Coldharbour Lane on the road running between Wye and Hastingleigh.


Wye is on Route 18 of the National Cycle Network.

Keep an eye out for:

The site is nationally important for its chalk wildflower grassland - brimming with orchids and butterflies in the summer

Stretch your legs:

Why not try our 5 mile walk exploring the Wye Downs - Up on the Downs 

The Devil's Kneading Trough is on the route of the North Downs Way - a long distance footpath from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent

Kent Downs AONB Anniversary Year :

The Devil's Kneading Trough is in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

This year the AONB celebrates its 50th anniversary. Find out more and Head for the Hills




Devil's Kneading Trough viewpoint credits

This viewpoint is one of 12 new views created in partnership with Kent Downs AONB to celebrate their 50 year anniversary in 2018. The events and activities throughout the Anniversary Year of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are supported by Heritage Lottery Fund.  

Thanks to National Lottery players, The Heritage Lottery Fund invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk   



According to legend, if you walk around the Devil's Kneading Trough seven times then drink the water from the natural spring, you will see the devil!