Capstone Farm Country Park is in Chatham, Kent, Medway, in Kent, England. A former farm converted into a landscaped park and open-space area.
This park is set on 114 hectares () of converted farm land, on the North Downs, near Walderslade. It is within the Kent Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.〔
The park is set within Capstone valley, between Hempstead and Walderslade. The valley has been used by human use since the Neolithic period, according to the various archaeological finds in the area.
There were originally four large farms in the Walderslade and surrounding areas, including Walderslade Farm, Settingdon Farm, Shawstead Farm and Gibralter Farm (the last two farms still exist). Shawstead Farm (and probably others nearby) were associated with the clearance of local woodland, in 1765 to help supply Chatham Dockyard with oak for the building of wooden sailing ships, launched at Chatham. Most of the larger and more valuable oak trees would have existed in the richer soil of the valley bottoms (Walderslade, Shawstead etc.) where the farms were typically located.〔http://www.goldwiki.info/pageMedway.html〕
Much of the current park boundaries used to belong to the farm of Shawstead Manor.〔http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/DateList=&PathList=&SearchWords=De...&Verbose=no&Boolean=&Mode=Search&IDX=6775〕 The ruins of Upper Shawstead Farm are still within the boundary of the Park.〔http://www.geolocation.ws/v/W/4d61a3c7878656060200d568/upper-shawstead-farm-sign-/en〕
In 1376, Robert Belknapp was forced to give the manor to the Prior and Convent of Rochester to King Edward III, in atonement for certain misdemeanours.
The land then remained in the ownership of the church, latterly the Church Commissioners in Canterbury, until 1928. During this time the
land was rented out to local farmers, including the Crittendens, but the woodlands were managed by the Church Commissioners.〔
In the 16th century, a Beacon was erected on the site for military warning and use for cavalry manoeuvres.
In 1928, Chatham Council bought the land but it continued to be leased to a local farmer until 1984 when it was opened as a Country Park for Medway Council.
Part of the site continues to be farmed by the Wills family (local farmers) who took on the agricultural tenancy in 1951.〔
In 1985, the council stopped using the Shawstead landfill site (which has been in use since 1937), this has made more land for the country park, to the west of the park, mainly newly planted woodlands.
In 1984, a section of land (covering an area of 7.8 hectares () ) was sold to create the riding school. Matthews Riding School occupies severals paddocks and equine livery buildings.〔
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