Our Sunday Walk from Borough Green to Otford
Our Sunday walk today was ably led by Ralph who has built up a useful fund of knowledge on this attractive part of the North Downs. Our 11¼ mile "linear" walk took in historic Wrotham, the Pilgrims' Way and North Downs Way (lunch stop), West Kingsdown (pub stop), Knatts Valley, Romney Street and the curiously named Magpie Bottom. We had dry weather, not too hot and not too cloudy - in fact, just right for walking.
We leave the Pilgrims' Way and scale the North Downs.
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 early September Sunday CLOG walk.
Enjoy your browse!
Going by car from Billericay to Otford reduces the journey time from about 3 hours to under one hour - thanks Ralph for the lift. Travelling on a Sunday also helps traffic-wise. The major feature of our route into Kent is the Dartford (Thames) Crossing - in particular the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge with its impressive "cable stayed" construction. We head for Otford Station, which has still kept some vestiges of the Victorian Age, over a century ago. We arrange to meet everyone two stops down the line at Borough Green and Wrotham Station, where our walk begins.
At Dartford, the southbound crossing from Essex to Kent is usually handled by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, opened in 1991. According to present day technical knowledge, the crossing distance is - economically speaking - too long for a cantilever bridge and too short for a suspension bridge. The solution favoured a "cable stayed" construction, which best describes the nature of the bridge.
Beauty is usually a subjective consideration. I find that the bridge, for all its modernity, has a certain beauty, simplicity and elegance. However, like it or loathe it, it'll probably be with us for quite a while, whatever your individual architectural tastes.
Travelling in the front of a car without actually driving it, gives one the opportunity to take pictures such as this one ...
... and this one.
Arriving at Otford Station, we are greeted by the vestiges of a bygone age.
These cast iron awning supports ...
... and the station building itself hark back to the time when railways were the prime means of land based travel over any but the shortest distances.
The rest of our party are coming by train, and we have joined them for the short (for us) train trip from Otford to Borough Green and Wrotham. All eight of us have duly met up on the station in Borough Green, and as we trace our steps from Borough Green to Wrotham we pass this sign which tells us that we have indeed come to a suitable area for a Sunday walk, for we are in an AONB!
As if in celebration, the White Horse of Kent proudly prances on its red Kentish crest.
Wrotham oozes English history through its establishments spiritual: the church and its pubs. By the way, "Wrotham" is pronounced "Routeham". Any other pronunciation, and the locals will know that you are not local.
A few footpaths and lanes later we arrive in Wrotham, whose ornate village sign duly greets us.
The church of Saint George is in down-town Wrotham, opposite the other - now erstwhile - establishment spiritual on the left, originally the "Three Post Boys" pub.
The church is certainly worth visiting, so why not click on the picture to see some of the interesting snippets of English history within its time-honoured walls.
The present owners of the former "Three Post Boys" pub have kept the original sign, which is, alas, partially obscured by common place modern day clutter in the form of road traffic signs.
The trio look like an early Victorian Boy Band performing to an audience
of appreciative teenage girls.
Actually, the mail coach has just arrived on the left.
The guy on the left has a document to deliver.
The guy in the middle seems somehow to have got hold of the coaching horn from the mail coach. I trust he hasn't actually pinched this vital item of the postilion's equipment - no horn, no fan-fare.
The guy on the right has got some letters to deliver.
Of course, many hostelries in early Victorian times were stopping points for mail coaches.
The present owners of this former pub have kept some of the attractive windows which indicate that this erstwhile watering hole used to serve "Greene King". Now this distinguished brewery hails from north of the Thames, from Suffolk no less.
Perhaps, despite "Green King's" claim to fame in the drinking world, the clientele of this former pub actually nurtured a preference for the more local Kentish brews.
We left Wrotham by the North Downs Way, which for some distance shared the path with the Pilgrims' Way of Chaucerian fame. Where the two ways parted company, we followed the North Downs Way on to higher ground to make our packed-lunch stop, while enjoying the expansive view to the south.
The North Downs Way and the Pilgrims Way share the same route westwards out of Wrotham.
This house with palm trees could be in Barbados, but no, it is on the Pilgrims' Way standing guard on the westernmost reaches of Wrotham.
This is the view southwards from the Pilgrims' Way towards Borough Green and Igtham.
This is the view on the Pilgrims' Way.
This looking southwards again from the Pilgrims' Way.
This is our lunch stop, where the North Downs Way leaves the Pilgrims' Way
and takes to the high ground.
Higher still and higher we go, ...
... leaving the distant south-facing view towards Borough Green and Igtham behind us.
After lunch we reached the higher ground and were surprised by a seemingly deserted milestone and a rather woebegone creature of the equine kind. We continued roughly northwards to "The Gamecock" at West Kingsdown". Here we rested for a short while, while contemplating the world and everything over some liquid refreshment and nibbles. Suitably regaled, we then struck south west through pastures green to Knatts Valley.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere somebody has seen fit to regale the walker on the North Downs Way with a substantial - and probably moderately expensive - engraved milestone giving the appropriate distances to Farnham out west and to Canterbury and Dover out east. How considerate!
This is the verdant view from on high towards the south west.
Now it's time for a bit of a natter and a chatter.
Somebody, in their country retreat, likes a spot of gardening. Why not?
According to the map, this road is likely to be less than four metres wide.
On the way to West Kingsdown we spotted this lonely-looking white steed which didn't respond to Dan's words of friendly greeting. The equine just stood there, looking rather blank.
It somehow didn't seem lively enough to be the "White Horse of Kent" or to be in any way related to that spirited heraldic quadruped.
And so we came to "The Gamecock" on the A20 in West Kingsdown.
I tried to detect signs of character in the said establishment. As a pub it was a large rambling affair and quite functional. I probably did not look hard enough, but this pub window and its opposite twin did catch my attention. The lighting effects, which I could not really control, actually seem to add "a bit of spice" to the gamecock depicted on the window pane. A hint of a Scottish moor perhaps?
Life goes round and round, or so this cartwheel in a garden wall would have us believe.
After descending into and ascending out of Knatts Valley we reached Romney Street, where once the "Fox & Hounds" opened its doors to the happy locals and to walkers, thankful for some nice pub fare in this part of the pleasant North Downs. Nearby, the fine views over the countryside are still there, but, at least for the while, the hostelry doors are closed.
And so we reach Romney Street, its once busy "Fox & Hounds" pub now closed and looking rather sad. It was a mecca for locals and walkers alike, but financial considerations have taken their inevitable toll. How about taking over a country pub, anyone?
The pub sign is gradually succumbing to the elements ...
... but enough remains to allow us to call into question the apparent affection shown by the hound towards the fox and the placid demeanour of the latter.
Walkers used to be able to admire the fine north facing view close by, before setting foot in, or having just visited, the said rural watering hole.
The final part of our route took us via Magpie Bottom and Eastdown a strangely placed bus stop and some more woodland to re-join the North Downs Way. Then it was a steep descent into Otford. And so ended our fine 11¼ mile Sunday walk in North Downs country.
Between Magpie Bottom and Eastdown, this bus stop catches our eye. The operational area of the East Kent Road Car Company was not here. Well, it was in East Kent. The lane is anyway too narrow for even small buses. Anyway, Otford is not that far away now.
After Eastdown we enter a "Bull in the Field" field. Where's the bull?
He's probably over on the far side, surrounded by his harem.
A stony path leads on to ...
... another country lane and the gates to some one's country retreat
- a retreat that rejoices in the name "Pepperland". Why?
Shortly, we re-join the North Downs Way and make for the descent into Otford.
Otford Station is in easy reach. If you have some extra time on your hands, you will find out that Otford itself is historically very interesting, as we found out on
Nick's Walk on Sunday, 15th July, 2012
Ralph's Walk on Sunday, 7th February, 2016
As you might expect,
is particularly interesting for those who appreciate a good dose of English history.
From Otford, Ralph and I got back to Essex within the hour using the tried and tested M25 and Dartford Tunnel. It was Sunday, so the traffic was still manageable.
In 200 years' time this scene might be a treasured part of the "English Heritage Collection". What's that on the far left? It's called ... It's called err ... It's called a tree! Fancy that! How extraordinary!
The tunnel swallows us up. Essex is another world.
Thank you Ralph for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you everyone for your company. The weather forecast was favourable and CLOG, to its great credit, as stated before, 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.