This walk was laid on at very short notice to replace a walk that had had to be cancelled because the leader was recovering from covid. An old Poly Rambler favourite, it was offered because it didn’t require much planning and is always a lovely walk. After the deluge of the day before, the weather was looking promising as 14 Poly Ramblers emerged from Otford station into bright sunshine. Fortunately, it stayed dry for the rest of the day.
The walk initially took us through a churchyard and around the edge of the old and quaint Kentish town of Otford, passing a pond complete with a duckhouse. We made a diversion to look at the ruins of an old Bishop’s palace, which dates back to the 1500’s though the site has been occupied since the 9th century. In it’s heyday, the Otford palace was part of the largest Bishop’s see in the country and was used by Cardinal Wolsey as the model for the palace he built at Hampton Court. There was work going on to rebuild an old tower and one of the volunteers, a member of the trust responsible, took us inside the building and gave us a long and interesting explanation of the history of the palace and the Trust’s plans for reconstruction and creating a visitor centre. This was a real and unexpected treat and afterwards, a little later than planned, we made our way out of Otford, along a main road and on to a footpath that took us across fields following the River Darent Fortunately, this section of the walk was nowhere near as muddy as it had been when we did the walk in January 2022, about which, those of us who had done that walk, were very relieved. We reached a lane that brought us to a short but steep hill from where we were rewarded with a stunning view over Otford and the Kent countryside, looking very green after the recent rain. A steep downward path into the village of Shoreham had to be navigated with care but it wasn’t long before we arrived outside the Kings Arms pub where a small group of us had lunch and the remainder had their own packed lunches or went to the Honeypot Teashop. Lunch at the pub was good though we noticed that in common with many pubs at the present time they didn’t have the number of staff that they used to have.
The afternoon walk took us through a wide variety of different scenery, along a riverside path, through a lovely avenue of trees, to another uphill path with resplendent views, through a wood full of spring shoots, and eventually across a former golf course until we arrived at the gates of the sixteenth century Lullingstone Castle. Owned by the same family for centuries, it also contains within its grounds a World Garden full of plants from across the globe; an idea hatched by the owner whilst he was a hostage of a terror group in Colombia. The castle and garden are open to the public in the summer months but today it was firmly closed, so we continued our walk. We walked along a tarmac lane passing by an English Heritage site containing the remains and mosaics of a Roman Villa. Apart from making a loo stop, as it was on the point of closure, we weren’t able to go inside, but promised ourselves as we have done many times before, that another time we should make the time to pay the museum a visit. After passing under a high Victorian railway viaduct, we soon reached the village of Eynsford where the River Darent passes under an old packhorse bridge and there is a ford. As the teashop was closed, we couldn’t finish with our usual tea and cake, and instead made our way up the hill to Eynsford station to catch the train back to London.
Mary and Chris. Photos by Stuart, Nita and Geoffrey