Darent Valley

2012 - July - 15

Arrival To Otford To Shoreham Lullingstone Eynsford Map and Heights Thanks Readme index banner

What you will see here

This was yet another of Nick's excellent walks, and at 11.5 miles, not unduly taxing on the constitution. The sun was very much in evidence, with not a drop of rain.

After a smart exit from the creeping urbanization of Greater Sevenoaks, we visited Chipstead and skirted round its picturesque reservoir dotted with numerous sailing boats. Then, via the outliers of Dunton Green we reached historic Otford. After lunch, we visited Shoreham, haunt of the "Ancients", and delighted in the home grown produce of Castle Farm. Lullingstone Castle itself was next on our itinerary. The subsequent ascent of the hill close by was definitely worth it, since it afforded a splendid view over Eynsford, our final destination.

Getting to Sevenoaks

Reaching Sevenoaks from London - with four trains an hour - is nice and easy. What a dramatic start to the day! The Shard next to London Bridge station is indeed an impressive sight, perhaps not always appreciated by travellers intent on reaching more distant shores.

The Shard is the highest building in the EU, and at 309.6 metres (almost 1/3 rd kilometre) is higher than Walbury Hill (near Kintbury), which at 297 metres ranks as the South East's highest hill and Britain's highest chalk hill. How's that for some quiz questions?

There are two balconies at the top, perhaps leading to a nice penthouse.

Sevenoaks to Otford

After a smart exit from the creeping urbanization of Greater Sevenoaks, we visit Chipstead and skirt round its picturesque reservoir dotted with numerous sailing boats. Then, via the outliers of Dunton Green we reach historic Otford. Sailing boats, The Rose & Crown, poppies, rolling countryside and fields of lavender are some of the ingredients of this first part of our walk. The airport that never was and the Solar System that always will be (for the foreseeable future anyway!), make for further interesting items.

Chipstead, almost eaten up by Sevenoaks, manages to retain its chocolate-box appearance.

Sailing was in full swing on the near-by reservoir.

"They are pulling down the Rose & Crown ... ".
Well, not this one on the outskirts of Dunton Green ...

... nor this pseudo-Tudor hotel which is trying to hide behind some palm trees.
A touch of the exotic vying with the historical?

We make another break for the fields and admire the poppies keeping the wheat company.

Nice rolling countryside as we head towards Otford.

Nick explains that the "powers that be" wanted to build a major airport on yonder plateau (to the left). The locals just could not be persuaded that the incessant roar of planes and the massive increase in local traffic was really very conducive to a relaxing way of life. How inconsiderate!

There are quite a few lavender fields around here, and this one, with its neat rows (evident in the larger resolution picture), catches our attention.

Nick points out the planet Uranus, one of the components of the scale planetary model. This is distributed around Otford, and shows the planets to scale in the 2D version of the configuration which, according to the descriptive plaque, they had in our solar system "at 00.01 hours on 1st January 2000", "the Sun" being "649 metres away in the recreation ground".

Nosing Around Otford

Otford is an interesting microcosm of English history, with vestiges from the Anglo Saxons, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, Cromwell and the House of Orange. For us it is a nice stopping point for an early lunch and the opportunity to savour local brews in the historic Crown Inn.

As we enter Otford (Otta's Ford), we are greeted by the 14th century Pickmoss "hall house".
The road is not curved - it's just an annoying imperfection in my Fuji camera,
which tells me I need a better camera!

The ornate front door. The doorframe is not curved - it's the Fuji camera again.

Downtown Otford ...

... is presided over by St Bartholomew's Church, dating from 1050.

The inside of the church is very interesting and is not to be missed - it is one of the important cultural highlights of our walk. The church contains a number of beautifully sculptured marble monuments, of which this one, to one of the famous Polhills of Kent, is a particularly fine example.

This is the royal coat of arms of William III (of Orange - Dutch you know). By the time of the date shown, he was already a widower, having lost Mary, his spouse, three years earlier. In addition, the west wall of the church displays a large array of nicely executed hatchments, a colourful tribute to the interesting history of this parish.

And so to Shoreham

Open countryside and golf courses bring us to the picturesque village of Shoreham with its historic watering holes, with its old church and with its connection to the "Ancients" Palmer and Blake. A picture postcard sort of a place.

The way from Otford to Shoreham leads through a golf course, whose size seems to reflect the affluence of the locals. A somewhat weathered Scots Pine attacts our attention; it makes a nice silhouette against the sun.

And so to Shoreham, whose church can be approached by this nice avenue of yew trees.

This is supposed to be the house 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. Well not really. Samuel's father rented the house and Samuel occupied a shed in a nearby field - definitely down market.

Kent and the Hart Dykes

We keep to the bank of the Darent as we head out of Shoreham and into Hart Dyke country. Castle Farm greets us with its well attended fun-fair type of farm produce open-day. Leaving the crowds behind we reach the more up-market ambience of Lullingstone Castle. This is the ancestral seat of the Hart Dykes, who just happen to be holding a Rolls Royce Rally today, as if to emphasise their claim to noble fame.

We make our way out of Otford along the Darent ...

... and stop to ponder the usefulness of a gate without a fence.

The model windmill (ca 1980) welcomes us to the quasi-fun-fair - farm produce open day - at Castle Farm. I think the farmer may be a tennant farmer of the estate of Lullingstone Castle which we shall see a bit later on. Anyway, this open day is very crowded and full of the smoke attending food being heated up, but there are a host of other non-smoky things for sale - lavender, apple juice, apple crisps, cheese, ... and, well, farm produce. Most visitors have come on four wheels as opposed to employing bipedal locomotion.

We have come to the historic Gatehouse to Lullingstone Castle, seat of the Hart Dykes.
The curves are due to - guess what - the Fuji camera!

The castle is no longer a castle in the fortified sense, but still oozes history. A party for the affluent appears to be in progress - at least judging by the cars. Well, actually, it's the Rolls Royce car rally which happens to be taking place today. The house and gardens are sometimes open to other mortals.

Churches were often built close to the houses of the nobility. Lesser mortals had further to go for their Sunday worship. This is the mediaeval St Botolph's church, with the oldest stained glass window in England. Today, car and picnic are exuding affluence.

The courtyard wall of the Gatehouse proudly sports the crest of the Hart Dykes. The crest has three - as you would expect - harts or stags. I'm not sure about the flowers (dykes?). The motto in mediaeval French, "Prest a Faire", is of course, in modern French, for those that know their circumflexes and graves, "Prêt à Faire" or "Ready to Act". We leave without knowing exactly what sort of action is expected, by whom, and for what purpose.

Here's another view of the affluent ambience, with the Rolls Royce car rally in progress.

Further along the track towards the Roman Villa,
some poppies lend colour to an old wall of flint stone.


We complete our walk by a taking wide berth around Eynsford, taking in beautiful views over where we have just been and over where we are about to go. A fitting finish indeed! Why rush straight back to Eynsford station when the hill awaits us to reward us with such lovely views!

Before the Roman Villa we do a left turn up the hill opposite Eynsford, to get some nice views. Here we look back to the Gatehouse (just visible) of Lullingstone Castle and to the Darent Valley along which we have come from Shoreham.

In the opposite direction, on the other side of the hedge, we look towards Eynsford village and its Victorian railway viaduct. A view not to be missed, and worth climbing the hill for! Pronounce "Eynsford" like "Ainsford" if you want to appear as a local.

Here is a closer view of Eynsford viaduct and village,
with the Norman church (partially hidden) to the left of the viaduct.

We have a pretty view of Eynsford as we enter the centre of the village next to - but not through (!!) - the ford. The Darent is in full spate and carrying the surplus water from the rains of previous days out to the Thames near Dartford.

Eynsford's church has Norman origins and ambience and is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours. The off-centre positioning and rhomboidal surround make for an unusual clock. After this, some of us tarry a bit longer in the village pub for another type of spritual uplift. The station is close by. It was indeed a good day out!


This was a lovely walk. Congratulations Nick! Good company, nice scenery and a good sprinkling of local history and culture. There was NO "frog-marching" and so there was time to stop and stare awhile, chat and take some piccies. What doth it profit a cloggie if he or she chargeth through the countryside and as a result doth see nothing but sweat before the eyes. There was NO pointless difficult-to-get-to ultra early start - it was close to mid-summer after all, so plenty of daylight. It was indeed a good and memorable day out. Eleven and half miles of sheer Kentish delight. Could even have been longer - but that's for next time!