Our Sunday CLOG walk today was "anti-clockwise circular", based on Otford Station as the starting point. It was all of 8⅔ miles, or almost 14 Km, in length. In the morning, we took in some attractive hilly countryside to the east and north east of Otford, starting along part of the North Downs Way and continuing on past Romney Street near where we had our "packed lunch stop". In the afternoon we made for Upper Austin Lodge which lies in a quiet, secluded "dead end" valley. Then it was an "up and over" into the Darent Valley and picturesque Shoreham where we made a short pub stop. The final "leg" of our walk was along part of the low level Darent Valley Path leading to Otford.
Our walk was ably led by Ralph, who once again was able, thanks to the flexibility afforded by CLOG, to arrange this walk at reasonably short notice. The weather gods again gave us plenty of winter sunshine with only one short sharp shower as if to emphasise how fortunate we were with the weather.
We have almost scaled our final hill before our steep descent into the Darent Valley and Shoreham.
So here is what these pages have in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed our fine February Sunday CLOG walk - a walk to remove the winter cobwebs.
Enjoy your browse!
Many of us found that it was easy to reach Otford by train, but some came by car. Ralph gave our Essex contingent - Ralph, brother and yours truely - a nice lift by car over the scenic Dartford Bridge, and back home through one of the tunnels. The start of the walk coincided with the arrival of the train at about 11:02. Thanks, Ralph, for suggesting a convenient starting time, bearing in mind that Sunday Engineering works often have to be factored into travel arrangements.
The Dartford Queen Elizabeth Bridge is - as Ralph pointed out - not a true suspension bridge ...
... but it has a distinctly aesthetic quality that can be found
with many well designed civil engineering projects.
In Otford, we are greeted by Crocuses that remind us ...
... that in a few weeks Easter will be here.
The cast iron supports for the platform awning on Otford Station's up platform have kept their distinctive Victorian charm. Nowadays, the aim is to maintain these decorative - but still useful - relics from a bygone age.
The outward appearance of Otford Station seems to have changed little since the London, Chatham and Dover Railway opened it in 1882.
In the morning we soon rose to higher things, taking the North Downs Way as far as the turn off to Otford Manor. It was probably the most strenuous climb of the day, and thus fitting that it should be at the start of our walk. We then strode across a series of picturesque undulations in the landscape, ere we reached our lunch stop on the outskirts of Romney Street. This place used to have the very popular and traditional "Fox and Hounds" pub, which sadly closed a short while ago; with any luck, it may reopen someday. So today we enjoyed our packed lunches, with good views to the west and to the north, to match.
We have taken the North Downs Way, steadily rising to higher things.
Onwards we went, past Otford Mount.
Onwards we go again, ...
...but not before a fleeting glimpse to the west and the way we came.
On the road (Shorehill Lane) leading to Otford Manor, we pass this weather-boarded house - someone's nice and quiet rural retreat. No noisy neighbours or noisy roads.
The view from windows of the said weather-boarded house must be really peaceful!
We are still in Shorehill Lane.
Now we head towards Eastdown, enjoying the mix of sylvan sunshine and mud.
A hill needs to be climbed ...
... ere we reach Eastdown.
On the lane to Magpie Bottom ...
... we pass this sign pretending that buses of East Kent Road Car Services stop here. Of course they never did. It was not their area. And anyway, the lane is rather narrow for PSVs. Decades ago, this august bus company was nationalised and privatised out of all recognition.
Onwards we march, down the sunken lane,
but before we reach Magpie Bottom (who on earth though up this name?) ...
... we turn sharp right to the north. We tarry a while on the muddy path,
before continuing towards Romney Street.
The "Fox & Hounds" is closed, but ...
... we skirt round Romney Street ...
... admiring views towards the Thames to the north ...
... and down the secluded valley wherein lies Upper Austin Lodge.
We have found a sheltered spot. It's time for lunch.
After lunch we traversed the "hidden" valley of Upper Austin Lodge. No through traffic here, not even the occasional enthusiastic golfers visiting what might be the most secluded golf course in the South East. The final "up and over" brought us, via a steep and a tad slippery descent into the valley of the Darent. As we got off the hill we were greeted by a short and sharp shower of about 5 to 10 minutes duration - the only rain of the day. Still, it was compatible with the Met Office's prediction that there might be some rain making its claim in the otherwise sunny weather.
We continue along the top of the "hidden" valley of Upper Austin Lodge
And here we are in glorious silhouette, gradually descending towards Upper Austin Lodge.
We are still walking along the top of the valley and enjoy nice views towards the Thames.
We keep descending ...
... and descending.
Now we have hit the valley floor ...
... and it's time for a short natter and map check.
We reach the furthest outpost of civilisation in the valley, at a point where moss and lichen have worked hard to turn the farm shed roof into an orangey work of art.
Now we have just scaled the hill ahead, and soon we shall be descending - on a steep slippery path - into the valley of the Darent.
In Shoreham we stopped for a short visit to the "Kings Arms" (Hey, where's the apostrophe?), to enjoy some afternoon beverage and a natter. Both "Ye Olde George Inn" and the aforementioned "Kings Arms" were busy, which seemed to suggest a certain catering quality, as befits the affluent surroundings of down-town Shoreham. A short visit to Shoreham's time-honoured church provided that interesting historical and cultural ingredient, the hallmark of many good walks in the South East.
At last we reach the Darent, on the northern outskirts of Shoreham ...
... and look back on to the hills down which we came.
This is the "Water House" which is supposed to be one of the erstwhile houses of the artist Samuel Palmer, a house which he occupied in the 1820s. Even at the time, London was too polluted for him. I'm not sure what he would think about the capital today. He was one of the "Ancients" which included William Blake, who visited him here. Or did he? I mean, apparently, Samuel's father rented the house, and Samuel himself stayed in a shed in a nearby field - a tad down-market.
Bang goes a little bit of local history! But the house looks nice, you must admit!
I mean, it could be in Hampstead Village in north London.
Here is a view of the old bridge across the Darent.
Here is a view of the Darent from the old bridge.
Here is a nice - apparently Regency - doorway nearby.
"Ye Olde George Inn" greets us. Or does it?
It's rather crowded so we walk back across the bridge to the "Kings Arms".
Yes, we say goodbye to "Ye Olde George".
Institutions spiritual - the divine and the secular - are often in close proximity in English villages.
In Shoreham, the church is just across the road from "Ye Olde George".
Shoreham church itself merits a visit
as I found out.
The "Kings Arms", across the Darent bridge now awaits us. Somebody got the sign writers in and they produced two signs, of which this one is definitely there to attract custom.
You can't really miss it!
Yes, it's the "Kings Arms". To the right (left in the picture!) of the entrance is the Ostler (a dummy of course) sitting at his window, expecting tankards of ale for his services. He does not really look that photogenic, so I did not commit him to pixels. For the record, as of writing this web page, the "Kings Arms" has a food hygiene rating of 4 out 5.
Here's a close-up of the Royal Standard above the main entrance.
Very nice - the standard that is!
Here some of us are, enjoying life outside the "Kings Arms".
Yours truly, in front, looks a tad aggressive - not really intended! Honest!
Joanna, thanks for taking the piccy.
Here some of us again. Picture again courtesy of Joanna. Thanks!
Here we are yet again. Now Joanna is in the picture ...
... and yours truly is taking it.
It's a bit warmer inside, where our walk leader is in pensive mode.
From bustling Shoreham we took the Darent Valley path to Otford. In the village, we had a good dose of history before we reached the station - comfortably before nightfall. At the station we said our farewells, agreeing that it had it had been a good day, in a nice and interesting part of the country, and only a short distance out of the Capital.
On the way to Otford we pass the "lonesome pine" busily presiding over the local golf course.
As we turn into Otford we greeted by the 14th century Pickmoss "hall house".
There were some alterations in 1951, but its looks remain attractive!.
The door exudes carved wooden charm - albeit a bit weathered!
In the High Street, the traditional "Bull" pub contains some fireplaces from the old Otford Palace,
whose remains linger on behind the church.
Here is Saint Bartholomew's church, which is very interesting within
Getting closer to the station, we pass "The Woodman" ...
... who seems to wave us goodbye.
Thank you Ralph for suggesting and leading this walk. The weather forecast was good and CLOG, to its great credit, has the flexibility which allows us to plan walks at short notice of just a few days. Thank you everyone for making this yet another enjoyable CLOG walk. Thank you to the weather gods for bringing good walking weather with plenty of winter sunshine and only a very short rain shower!
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