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Stage 16  -  Dartford Station  to  Shoreham Station  (11.3 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TQ5427974359 Post Code DA1 1BP StreetMap

ROUTE DESCRIPTION 

From Dartford Station we follow Darent Valley Path thru' Dartford, Central Park & past Brooklands Lake. Thru' the villages of Darenth, Farningham & Eynsford. A big climb up past Eagle Heights & drop back down past the Roman Villa remains. Then past Lullingstone Castle. Lullingstone Park Visitor's Centre, Shoreham Castle Farm and thru' fields to and Shoreham village to finish near Shoreham Station.

Exit Dartford Station by main entrance. Turn left and left again to cross over Station Approach. Turn right along pavement and, as pavement splits, stay left, signed Darent Valley Path. This leads to a footbridge. DO NOT cross the footbridge. Instead, turn right and down steps.

Go straight on along the path, with a wall and the river to your LHS, for 230 yards. Turn right for a few yards at Dartford County Court, then before reaching the road (Home Gardens) turn left and follow the path down and through an underpass under the road. Once through turn left along St Saviours Walk, signed Darent Valley Path. After 100 yards the Walk comes out onto a road next to a bridge over the River Darent, turn right past Holy Trinity Church.

Holy Trinity Church is Grade 1 Listed and sits right at the centre of the town overlooking the river. It was built by Bishop Gundulf of Rochester c1080 on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The church has been greatly modified and added to over the years.

Watling Street was the old Roman road from Dover to St Albans via London. The route through Dartford can easily still be seen on maps along what is now Watling Street, East Street, High Street and West Street. The road would have crossed the River Darent in the vicinity of the church via a ford. This is where the town takes its name. After the murder of Thomas Becket, in 1170 at Canterbury, many pilgrims would pass through here on their way to and from Canterbury Cathedral. During the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413) a pedestrian bridge was built, but before that the only way to cross was either the ford or a ferry. According to Dartford Town Archive, a ferry, operated by a hermit, was established in 1235. Even after a proper stone bridge was built the post of hermit continued until 1518. He would collect alms for the pilgrims and donations for the upkeep of the pedestrian bridge. The footbridge survived until the mid-18th century. One of its arches was moved to and is still on display in Dartford's Central Park. The hermit is remembered by a small window in Holy Trinity Church.

In 1415 Henry V held a thanksgiving ceremony here after the Battle of Agincourt. He died in 1422 in France and his body lay overnight in the church for a requiem mass before continuing the journey to Westminster Abbey. There is much to see inside the church including a 15th century magnificent fresco depicting St, George slaying the dragon. It was whitewashed over during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but was rediscovered in the 1830s. There is a monument to Sir John Spilman who, in 1588, founded England's first commercial paper-mill at Dartford on the River Darent, plus a brass plaque commemorating the work of Richard Trevithick, the pioneer of steam propulsion.

For further information on Holy Trinity Church visit the church website and the article at Kent Archaeology. There are also many old photos of Dartford, including the church, at Francis Frith.

Continue straight on along the pavement, past The Wat Tyler pub, and into the pedestrian area of the High Street. 

The pub takes its name from the leader of "The Peasants' Revolt" of June 1381. A board, in Bullace Lane, on the side of the pub states: 

"Wat Tyler and the commons of Kent, came in great numbers to the Brent on Friday after Whit Sunday, 1381. There they took council, saying among themselves that there were more kings than one and they would not suffer or endure any other king but King Richard, and before proceeding to London to demand from the king, "That you make us free for ever, ourselves, our heirs and our lands and that we be called no more bond or so reputed". Wat Tyler and several of the commons called at this ancient tavern (so it is said) to quench their thirst with flagons of ale."

Dartford does have connection with The Peasants' Revolt, but whether or not the above statement is true is in doubt. An article by the Gravesend Reporter suggests the pub was built in 1416 and thus contradicts the claim. However, I can't ascertain what was on this site before that.

After 80 yards turn left into Market Place. Use RHS pavement. At end of Market Place cross straight over Market Street using pelican crossing and signed Darent Valley Path.

Go straight on down some steps, signed Darent Valley Path, and into gardens. Turn left past the war memorial then right past Dartford Library / Dartford Borough Museum and into Central Park.

Follow Darent Valley Path signs through Central Park, and after 0.5 miles exit the park through a tunnel under the A225 (Princes Road).

Central Park covers 26 acres and is owned and managed by Dartford Borough Council. It is bounded by the River Darent to its east and Princes Road to the south. The park began life as a gift of five acres of land to the people of the town by Lieutenant-Colonel CN Kidd in 1903. He was a local businessman and very involved in the local community. You can download an in-depth history of the park at the LINK.

There are many things to see on your way through the park. The arch of old medieval stone footbridge that once crossed the river, a bandstand, children's play area, cafe and information centre, skatepark, running track and pavilion which is home to Dartford Harriers, river walks, an Ecology Island and lots more. There is also a two day Dartford Festival in mid-July each year, and there are future plans to extend the park east and put the river at its centre.

DIRECTIONS THROUGH CENTRAL PARK. Go straight on for 150 yards. At junction turn left and follow path as it bends right. At next junction turn left, soon straight on past path to RHS. At next junction take right fork and straight on for 150 yards - the River Darent will be to your LHS and soon past a skate park to your RHS. At junction take right fork past footbridge to your LHS. Almost immediately, take left fork keeping river to your LHS. At next junction stay left past running track to your RHS. Stay straight on soon through a metal gate into the Prince's Tunnel.

There are two tunnels under Princes Road. They were originally built in 1923 to take the busy A225 over both streams of the River Darent. However, the western stream was diverted and the tunnel was converted to a walkway / cycle track and opened as Prince's Tunnel in 2009. It connects Central Park to Brooklands Lake making it safe for pedestrians and cyclists without having to cross the busy dual-carriageway and also forms part of the Darent Valley Path.

A few interesting points about the tunnel: classical music is played constantly; it is designed to flood if the river floods; it is floodlit, and on the southside above the arch is a plaque commemorating the opening.

On exiting the tunnel go through a second metal gate and then stay left past a path going off to the RHS. After just a few yards stay left past another path going off to the RHS and across the lake. Then almost immediately, at fork, turn right and along the eastern side of the lake (at 1 mile).

Follow the path along the edge of the lake for 300 yards to a lane (Powder Mill Lane) next to an industrial estate. Turn left along the lane and over the river. Immediately over the bridge, turn right onto a path signed Darent Valley Path.

Dartford was one of the places most bombed by the Germans during World War II. Power Mill Lane was important as it was home to the Vickers armaments factory. To disguise the area from the air all of Brooklands Lake was covered with camouflaged. You can read this and more about "Dartford at War" on the Dartford Town Archive website.

The Darent Valley Path is a 19 mile waymarked footpath, stretching from the River Thames at Dartford to the Greenland Hills above Sevenoaks. Our route continues along the Darent Valley Path to the end of the stage. The Darent Valley Path is a bit of a gem and by far the obvious route to take around this part of London. It follows the river as it meanders through the valley, sometimes going short distances away so as to take the best route and bring in points of interest. The path crosses the river many times and demonstrates the diversity and history of the area. It shows: how the Romans were attracted by the fertile soils and constant source of water of this rolling valley to grow their crops and graze their animals, and why they built so many villas here; how the valley behaved as a natural communications corridor for thousands of years; how Saxons settled here, lived off the land, built their churches and buried their dead; how the Norman invaders built their castles to protect their lords, divided the arable lands amongst themselves and as a legacy built churches, many of which still stand today; how during Tudor Times, palaces and country mansions were constructed in abundance and how they used the river as a navigable waterway; how as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution mills were built, which brought employment to the valley and swelled the population; how huge viaducts were built over the valley to carry trains from Victorian Times and later more modern bridges to carry roads; how the industries were adopted to help with the war effort and measures were put in place to keep German bombs away; how the fertile soil led to the growing of hops for beer making and the construction of oust houses to dry them, and why so many artists and writers found inspiration from the beauty of the countryside.

Luckily today much of this historical past has survived and can still be seen. Apart from Dartford Town most of the Darent Valley remains rural and will hopefully continue to be, as much of the open spaces are designated as Green Belt. Old picturesque villages lie scattered along the valley with green fields, forests and nature reserves surrounding them. Many tourist attractions and visitors centres have opened. Gravel pits have become lakes used for fishing and other sports. Farms have diversified to attract trade by opening shops to sell local produce. Much of the countryside has been made accessible to the public and stately homes have opened their door so people can enjoy their architecture and history.

An illustrated guide book to the path, entitled "Along and Around the Darent Valley Path", was published by Kent County Council in 1997 and is still available on e-books. To get a feel for the walk you can also visit www.bertuchi.co.uk/darent.php - he does go in the opposite direction to Green Belt Way. However, the website is really worth a visit.

Follow the Darent Valley Path through the woods and stay straight on, keeping the river to your RHS.

To the right, just across the river is Dartford Trade Park industrial estate - luckily most is hidden by trees. Soon the path seems to be blocked by broken old mill stones, these, a few steps that led to a footbridge over the mill race and the walls which held the mill wheel are all that still stands. However, stay straight on along the path, keeping the river to the right. 

On exiting the woods, the path goes between the river, to your RHS, and large open fields through a fence to your LHS. At the end of the fields stay straight on through a small wood, then turn right to cross a footbridge over the river.

Turn left along the edge of the field, then after 250 yards turn right along a wide path and after 120 yards cross a stile to a lay-by next to the A225 (Hawley Road).

Turn left along the pavement, staying on the left-hand side and under the A2 road bridge (at 2 miles), then past the entrance to an industrial site and Hawley Mill to the left. Soon after Hawley Mill, directly opposite Mill Road and immediately before green metal gates, turn left onto an enclosed narrow path signed Darent Valley Path.

The path leads to a footbridge over the River Darent and then right along the side of the river (to your RHS) and soon under the M25 road bridge. A few yards after the M25 there is a choice of three paths - one to the left, one which goes right through the trees and one which veers along the LHS of the trees and then straight on across a field. Follow the last option, it is the most obvious and crosses the field diagonally (going almost directly east).

There is some interesting graffiti on the pillars supporting the motorway, but only up as far as the artist could reach. Just after the motorway, on the left, is an apple tree. A strange place to grow this, but on reflection it most likely originated from a discarded apple core thrown from the window of a car as it sped along the M25 above.

At the opposite side of the field the path goes through a kissing gate and out onto a road (Darenth Road South). Turn right along the road, signed Darent Valley Path and soon past the entrance to Kentwood House Care Home.

Soon to your RHS is the inviting Chequers Inn (website) This was originally built in the 16th Century and was an old coaching inn and is grade II listed. South Darent Road is now a dead end on its northern side. The road used to join up with Darent Road and continue north into the centre of Dartford. However, with the building of the A2 road it got cut in two. Then with the opening of the M25 in the 1980 both ends were even greater cut off. Both of these major roads meet just 400 yards directly north of here at the huge M25 J2 Darenth Interchange.

At the end of Darenth Road cross straight over Darenth Hill and onto a very narrow path next to the entrance of a distribution depot, and to the left of a lane which leads to a fishing area called The Alders. Be careful as the narrow path is difficult to spot and this makes it is easy to go wrong here and end up at The Alders fishing area with its small intimate restaurant for the anglers.

St Margaret's Church is just a few yards to the left on the south side of Darenth Hill. The church is described as the "gem of the Darent Valley" and is built mainly of bricks and tiles from the remains of a nearby Roman villa. The nave is Saxon and dates from 940 AD. Additions were made by the Normans in the 12th Century. The font contains a carving of a harpist believed to be the oldest in the UK and dates from 1140. The church is a grade 1 listed building and is well worth the short detour from the route. Also see Wikipedia entry.

In the Domesday Book of 1086 Darenth is recorded has having 59 households and thus described as "very large".

The path soon becomes enclosed in on both sides and leads to a flight of steps (at 3 miles). Climb the steps and then follow the path as it turns right, eventually leading to the corner of a large field. Stay straight on along the bottom (RHS) edge of the field.

To the left the field climbs upwards to Roman Villa Road at its far side. The name of the road gives a clue to some of the history of the area. All along the valley are the remains of many Roman villas, some on the route and some just off it.

At the far bottom edge of the field follow the path through a wood, with the river once again to the right for a short distance. The path emerges from the wood into a car park in the corner of a large field.

On the left, running along the edge of the field, is a path / lane leading to Roman Villa Road. It is used as an access route by Concord Model Flying Club to get here by car and fly their models over the field. Nearby are the remains of Darenth Court Roman Villa (this is either in the woods behind, or near the far end of the lane in the north east corner of the field, or possibly both as there are two parts to the villa's buildings). The main part of the villa was discovered at the end of the 19th Century, a second site containing the bath house and an adjacent building was discovered in 1969. The villa is one of the largest ever found in the UK and is believed to have been the centre of a large agricultural estate. After excavations were completed, both sites were filled in again in order to preserve them. However, it is still possible to see the villa outline on Grid Reference Finder using Grid Ref: TQ 56476 70621, the bath house is more difficult to see from the air as it is hidden by trees.

A path to the right, along the edge of the field, soon turns right to cross a footbridge over the river and within a few hundred yards leads to St John's Jerusalem. This is a pretty 17th Century house, parts of which date back to 13th Century.  It is set in peaceful, secluded gardens and moated by the Darent. The site from 1199 was a Commandery of the Knights Hospitaller, where newly joined knights were trained for the Crusades. The property was confiscated by Henry VIII during the "Dissolution of the Monasteries". The flint chapel is all that remains of the original buildings. Today the buildings are in the care of the National Trust, but the house is occupied as a private residence. Only the chapel and gardens are open to the public.

Follow the well-defined path straight on across the large field (going directly south) and towards a tall chimney in the distance. At the other end of the field (after 580 yards) the path again goes straight on and is enclosed between a fence and a hedge. After 120 yards stay left along a lane which soon leads to a T-junction with a road (Holmesdale Hill) and in the village of South Darenth.

Turn right along the narrow pavement and follow Holmesdale Road as it turns left. Be careful as the pavement disappears at times.

Soon the river is just to the RHS of the road and 50 yards later an old flour mill straddles the river at Mallys Place. The original mill burnt down in 1879 and a new brick mill was built the following year. During much of the 20th century the mill was not used and in 1960 was converted to a woodwork factory. During the Great Storm of October 1987, the western side of the building was severely damaged. In recent years the damaged portion of the mill has been taken down, and the remaining part converted to residential use. You can see by comparing a recent photo at Geograph to the link above how the building is now smaller.

250 yards later follow Holmesdale Road as it passes Devon Road (and bridge) to the RHS. Then along the RHS pavement as the road veers left and later right and into the centre of South Darenth village.

On reaching the junction (at 4 miles), to the left is the aptly named The Jolly Millers public house. to the right is a small fenced green with the village sign at its centre. The information below comes from the link to Geograph.

"The South Darenth village sign features the River Darent, St Mary's Church at Horton Kirby, Horton Kirby Viaduct and the chimney of the former Horton Kirby Paper Mill - see Link External link , Link External link , Link External link , and Link External link. Although they are separated, Horton Kirby and South Darenth seem to be regarded as the same village. They even have the same village sign - see Link External link Two of the features (the viaduct and the chimney) are actually in South Darenth, the church is in Horton Kirby while the River Darent is common to both, although less of a feature in Horton Kirby than in South Darenth."

Stay straight on along the RHS pavement and into Horton Road, soon past what until 2008 was the site of the large paper mill - the chimney is still standing. After 70 yards, where the pavement ends, cross over to the LHS, then turn right to cross over New Road. Stay straight on along the pavement and up steps under a high viaduct to just past The Bridges public house to your RHS.

South Darenth village has 5.2 hectares designated a conservation area. The area was greatly changed in the latter half of the 19th Century with the coming of the railway and the expansion of the paper mills. Horton Kirby Paper Mill, at South Darenth, was built in the 1820s by Henry Hall and replaced an older corn mill. The 1987 a storm caused havoc in the Horton Kirby Paper Mill Industrial Estate, resulting in the destruction of at least two business premises. The three-storied West Mill was reduced to rubble and the falling roof tumbled into nearby buildings. In 2008 most the paper mill was demolished to make way for a housing development, only the tall chimney and a two storey building were left standing as both are historically listed. In front, just past the mill, and towering over the valley is the South Darenth Railway Viaduct. It was built in 1858 and carries the London Victoria to Chatham line. Next to the viaduct is The Bridges public house. The proprietor was Wayne Bridges (1936 - 2020), the former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion - I first thought the pub's name came from two adjoining bridges of the railway and the river but apparently it's from the wrestler (see link for claim).

Station Road, next to the pub, is named so as it leads to Farningham Road Station at Sutton at Hone. The station has a reputation for crime. According to the British Transport Police in 2007/8 it was the second most vandalised station in the country. On Wednesday, 6th August 2008 the station was in the national press for another crime. This time, during the morning rush hour, a woman was pushed off the platform and onto the railway tracks after she asked two men to stop smoking. The woman suffered a broken wrist and bruises to her legs, but was lucky to just miss the live rail by inches. A man was later charged with grievous bodily harm over the incident and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.

Turn right, signed Darent Valley Path, to cross Horton Road, past The Bridges pub and into Station Road. Follow the road for a short distance to just over the river, then turn left to cross Station Road and down onto a narrow footpath next to the river, signed Darent Valley Path.

There are a few videos of the Darent Valley Path along this stretch of the walk. One I enjoyed was by a guy named Chris on his walk from the old chimney at Horton Kirby Paper Mill to Franks Lane. You can watch it at YouTube.

The path follows the right bank of the river for half a mile to Westminster Playing Fields at Horton Kirby. Be careful to follow the main path (signed "Darent Valley Path") through here as there are lakes to the right with paths going off between them and around them and at one point a footbridge to the left over the river leads to a parking area.

On reaching Westminster Playing Fields follow the path south and along the LHS of the fields to a pavilion. Stay left of the pavilion on the grass, keeping the car park to your LHS. At the far end of the car park, veer left towards a kissing gate at the corner of the field. Go through the kissing gate and follow a well-worn path diagonally across the field to the opposite corner (at 5 miles).

On entering the next field follow the path along the left-hand edge and back to river. For the next 400 yards the path continues through a narrow wood adjacent to the river. This area is very picturesque, but at points is uneven underfoot and can be slippery when wet.

Horton Kirby was recorded in the Domesday Book as "Hortune"meaning "muddy place by a river". It was divided into four manors, Court Lodge, Reynolds Place are both within the village. Franks Hall is to the south and South Darent to the north. William the Conqueror gave the manor to his half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. The manor was occupied by Anschitillus de Ros and stayed with the de Ros family until 1291 when the last heiress Lora de Ros (called the "Lady of Horton"), married Roger de Kirkby from Lancashire. The village was renamed Horton Kirkby and later changed to Horton Kirby. Soon after the Norman Invasion, de Ros built Horton Castle on the banks of the river. The site is now occupied by Church Lodge Farm and parts of the castle ruins are believed to be incorporated in the manorial farmhouse.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is on the Horton Road and near Church Lodge. The church is grade 1 listed. It dates from 1225, but an earlier church at Horton is mentioned in the Domesday Book and this was most likely of Saxon origin. Parts of St Mary's have been rebuilt on many occasions. The church website describes "two periods of major mutilation".

"The first was rebuilding of the nave in about the late 1300s/early 1400s, obviously in hurry, without arcades and out of alignment with the rest of the edifice. A possible reason for this is damage by the Great Kentish Earthquake of 1382, which created havoc throughout the county. The second period saw the rebuilding of the tower (which then had a spire) with modern brickwork in 1816, and the chancel being halved in length in 1821."

The website also goes on to compliment another period when improvements were made.

"In the late 19th century the church was genuinely `improved', even by Victorian standards, by Ewen Christian, architect. Windows were unblocked and an organ purchased which is still in use today. The three stained glass windows in the chancel date from 1863."

Horton Kirby has many links with early settlers and can trace this back thousands of years to Neolithic Times. In 1972 during construction work for a new sewer, at Westminster Playing Fields a previously undiscovered Roman villa and granary were unearthed. This find filled in a gap in a line of villas along the valley. Luckily, whilst digging took place there was a 24-hour watch on the site by interested archaeologists who spotted the early uncovering of Roman artifacts. As a consequence, the sewer was diverted and this historical site was saved. It also may explain why there are hundreds of fragments of Roman tiles embedded in the flint walls of St Mary's Church.

Other major finds show that Horton Kirby was an important settlement during Saxon Times. In 1866 a Saxon cemetery was discovered by workmen digging foundations for the "Home for Little Boys" at the top end of New Road, South Darenth. This led to the discovery of between 60 and 70 graves. A second was discovered by council workers in 1937 preparing land for the building of new houses at Saxon Place just opposite the eastern end of Franks Lane. Named the Riseley Cemetery, it was one of the most important historical discoveries ever in Kent. It was excavated by the Dartford Historical and Antiquarian Society, (now based at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford), between 1937 and 1938 and located five cremations and 110 burials dating from the 5th to the 7th Centuries. Many of the graves contained goods which provided much information about daily life in Saxon Times. 

Just across the bridge on The Street at the entrance to Westminster Playing Fields was the site of Westminster Mill. This was the biggest influence of the Industrial Revolution on the village. It also brought jobs and more people to the area. The mill was originally used for making flour and owned by Thomas Millhouse, a church warden at St Marys in 1894 who lived at Mill House. It was damaged by lightening in 1908. By 1914 it was rented by Walter Millen and used to make shoelaces. In March 1918 Millen bought the mill, the mead, the bridge and the weir. Between 1926 and 1936 the mill expanded with extra floors and extensions being added. It ventured into cork insoles for shoes. Millen was regarded as a kind and generous man by his workers and friends. The story quoted below from the Horton Kirby & South Darent Website (story was unavailable July 2020, but see Archive) is by a young lady who worked at the mill tells of his generosity.

"Eileen "Nippy" Filmer began work at the Mill when she was 14 putting tin tags on the bootlaces and was paid 3 /4 d a gross. One of the many works' outings she remembered as follows: "In 1938 a day trip was organised by Mr Millen for the workers. We put one shilling a week aside for 20 weeks. It was a train ride (with breakfast on the train) to Southampton. An ocean liner was in dock at the time and we were fortunate enough to be shown round. This was followed by a coach trip through the New Forest. On the return journey home high tea was served. The highlight of the day was Mr Millen giving back to each of us the money we had saved over the weeks for the trip, plus a present of a cut-glass sugar bowl."

In November 1940 the mill was taken over by Vickers-Armstrong at the behest of the Ministry to produce lighting, nuts and bolts for the war effort. After the war in April 1946 normal production was resumed and continued until 1952 when the company ceased trading. The mill was then sold to the J Day Group. They continued to produce shoelaces until 1968 and then cable and harnessing for the General Post Office (now Royal Mail and BT) until 1991. During this time, in 1975 a former employee set fire to the west wing by the bridge, resulting in a complete rebuild and loss of 50, 000 pounds worth of equipment. The mill stayed empty until 2001 when it was demolished to make way for a new residential development on the site.

The village has two traditional English pubs, both of which are just off the route on the opposite side of the river. The Fighting Cocks has been a pub since 1818, is on The Street south of the entrance to Westminster Playing Fields and has a garden backing onto the river. The name comes from cock fighting which was held there in the early 19th Century. The other is The Bull, north of Westminster Playing Fields on the corner of Bull Hill and Lombard Street. A short distance north of The Bull on School Lane is the Horton Kirby Environmental Centre, built for local children to experience and be educated about the local area.

Across the River Darent, from the route just before Franks Lane, is Reynolds Place. It was recorded in the Domesday Book as a Saxon farm and is named after a medieval family. It had many well-known and wealthy occupants including Sir John Browne, Lord Mayor of London in 1480. The original house was a large Tudor mansion built in the 16th Century, but was greatly damaged during the great storm of 1703 and had to be demolished. All that remains today is a farmhouse, but with many features going back to Tudor Times.

The path comes out onto a road - Franks Lane. Turn left along the lane and across the bridge over the river. After 220 yards and immediately before Horton & Kirby Cricket Club, turn right through a kissing gate and onto an enclosed footpath (signed Darent Valley Path) going directly away from the road and with the cricket field to your LHS. The river is now away to the right across the field and follows the line of trees in the distance. 

Franks Hall is just across the river on higher ground above the flood plain. This was built in 1591 by Lancelot Bathurst and replaced a much older hall which stood on this side of the river near the south east corner of the field. The older house was built in 1220 by the Frankish family from Yorkshire and from whom it takes its name. It was built on the flood plain and hence was damp and liable to flooding, for this reason it was demolished. However, the moat and associated fishpond still partly exist. By using Google Earth or Bing Maps (I've market it at the link) you can plainly see the outline of where this older house stood. Bathurst was a friend of Elizabeth I, who once stayed. It is rumoured that during her visit one of her ladies in waiting earned the Queen's disapproval of her love for a local yeoman. The ladies' body was found on the banks of the river. It is not known if she drowned or was killed on the Queen's orders. Her ghost is said to rise from the river in August and walk across the lawn. Through the years the house has passed through many hands. In the late 19th Century it became home to Fredrick Power, uncle of Tyrone Power the movie star. In 1910 it became the property of Lord Bathurst, a descendent of the original owner. During World War II it was used as a maternity home for women to have babies away from the bombing of London. In 1980 the house was purchased by Findlay Publications who converted it to offices and greatly restored, but changed practically nothing of the appearance and structure of this grade 1 listed building. In May 2005 it was sold to Transcribe Thames Group, who use it as their prestigious headquarters and have promised to maintain the building and the grounds. In June 2018 the hall and grounds were put up for sale and are now privately owned.

A drone video on Vimeo (link broken as of July 2020, but I'll not delete as it was a wonder video and hopefully may reappear) does show good footage of Franks Hall, the Darent Valley Path, the cricket pitch and in the field between the cricket pitch and Franks Hall you can make out the footprint of the older hall.

To read more about the history of Horton Kirby, just visit British History Online, or for a complete and thorough write up read the Horton Kirby & South Darenth "Villages Design Statement" published in 2005.

Follow the path straight for 600 yards to go through a wooden stile. Then turn right along on a fenced off path along the side of a field and after 40 yards turn left, with the River Darent to your RHS. The footpath follows the river for 360 yards then passes under the M20 motorway (at 6 miles).

In the field across the river, just before the M20 road bridge, are the remains of Franks Roman Villa. Evidence found here suggests it was built on the site of a late Iron Age settlement.

After another 250 yards the path passes through an arch under the A20 road. Once under turn right to cross a footbridge over the River Darent, then left to follow the path through woods along the opposite bank. 250 yards later the path leads to and through the large riverside beer garden of the Lion Hotel and out onto the Farningham High Street.

Turn right along the High Street and through the village. The road soon starts to gently climb. To the right is the aptly named White House. Stay straight on over Dartford Road to the RHS and past The Chequers Pub.

Across the street to the left is the Family Butchers, which during spring and summer is brightly decorated with flowers.

After another 80 yards turn left to cross over and into Sparepenny Lane.

Farningham has many well preserved and interesting old buildings - it has to be one of my favourite villages on the route. Evidence of Neolithic and Iron Age settlements have been found in the area, some of which are now in the Dartford Museum. The next settlers were the Romans who built all along the Darent Valley. They had three villas and three farms in and around the village. In the 1930s a Saxon burial ground was found just east of the village at Charton Manor, and it is thought the centre of the present village is built over a Saxon riverside settlement. To read more about the burial ground visit the Dartford Town Archive Website. The name Farningham also derives from Saxon, meaning either, the home of Ferningas (people who live in a ferny place, or free men), or a village near a running stream. In the Domesday Book, Farningham was recorded as having four manors, two of which were Farningham and Chartons (or Farningham parva). In 1270 Ralph de Fremingham was granted the right to hold a weekly market and annual fair. These were believed to be held at Market Meadow, just off the High Street and next to the Village Hall. In 1972 excavations at Market Meadow revealed the remains of a medieval moated manor house and a later 18th Century manor house which was destroyed by fire before completion. Also uncovered was the curtain wall of a 13th / 14th Century Farningham Castle.

The village grew up along the busy London to Maidstone and Dover road (A20) where it crossed the River Darent. By the 1930s the village High Street and old bridge were finding it difficult to cope with the volume of traffic so a bypass was built to the north. This allowed the village to hide tucked away and retain its character. In recent years the bypass has helped to keep away the boy racers and the huge volumes of traffic on their way to the Brands Hatch Race Circuit just a mile to the east.

The bridge over the Darent replaced a much older ford, evidence of which can still be seen from the Lion Hotel beer garden. Crossing the river next to the bridge is a listed structure consisting of red brick arches, each closed off by wooden fence like structures. It is thought the arches and fences are a "cattle screen" built in the 18th Century to stop cattle from escaping. Directly across the road from the Lion Hotel is the old corn mill. It was built in the 18th Century by the Colyer Family on an expensive mechanical base. It replaced an older mill built here in 1610 by, Sir Anthony Roper and is now a private dwelling.

It appears Roper's father was also Sir Anthony, who inherited Lord of the Manor of Farningham from his father in the 16th Century. The Domesday Book records a mill here as far back as 1087. A short distance to the left of the mill is the manor house. This for a number of years, in the latter part of his life, was home to William Bligh - better known as "Captain Bligh of the Bounty". The Church of St Peter & St Paul is just east of this and dates from the 13th Century - the tower was added 200 years later. Inside is a rare 15th Century font with carvings of the seven sacraments and in the graveyard to the rear of the church is the impressive 18th Century Nash mausoleum.

Shortly after the church, on the same side of the High Street is the Pied Bull public house (website). According to the pub website it dates from 1612, however the Farningham & Eynsford Local History Society state its records go back to 1587. It is clear that by the 17th Century it was a coaching inn on the main road from London to Dover. During the 18th & 19th Centuries it was a stagecoach house with stabling for fifty horses. The pub is also thought to be haunted by the ghost of an obedient young woman who keeps quiet when she is asked too.

According to The Lion Hotel website the pub dates back to the 16th Century when it was the entertainment centre of the village. It was visited by writer Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) who enjoyed fishing in the river. The pub is currently owned by a company called Vintage Inns. The route around London's green collar passes many of their public houses. I've visited most of them and have only praise for how they choose their settings and the good service they provide at reasonable prices.

Sparepenny Lane got its name because it was used by carters as an alternative route to avoid the turnpike on the main road and saved the penny toll fee. Today the turnpike has disappeared and the lane is relatively traffic free. On entering the lane there are some old houses. Two worth a mention are: "The Mount" an elegant family home built in 1820 for William Colyer; Mount Pleasant was built in 1740 and originally called Hampton Court House after Edward Hampton, its first owner.

There are many other historical buildings in the village and you can read more on these by following the link above to the Local History Society. A full history is available at British History Online and photos and stories can be seen at Francis Firth.

There are some plaques about the place - and I'm sure I have taken photos of them. I'll put them on here when I find them. 

For the first couple of hundred yards Sparepenny Lane climbs steeply out of the village before leveling off to follow a contour of the valley. To the right, just above the lane, is a scattering of desirable residences with good views over the valley below. 

After 210 yards, and almost immediately after the entrance to Hampton Court Cottage, turn left through a gap in the hedgerow, signed Darent Valley Path. The path crosses a stile (or kissing gate) into a field, turn right and follow the worn permissive path along the top edge of the field and parallel to Sparepenny Lane.

The path continues along the top edge of fields and parallel to Sparepenny Lane for the next 0.8 miles. Originally, the Darent Valley Path was along the lane. However, a few years ago it was diverted via the permissive path through the fields and this avoids traffic and allows great views over the valley.

After 330 yards the path passes through a wooden kissing gate and into a second field. Continue straight on along the top edge of the field.

At the kissing gate take a short diversion right to the side of the lane and then retrace your steps back to the kissing gate and continue along the path. The reason for the diversion is to see a small memorial to Flight Lieutenant James A. Paterson, a Battle of Britain pilot from New Zealand. It is one of a very few erected for pilots who lost their lives in battle during World War II. If you follow the link to Air Aviation Art by Geoff Nutkins you can see a wonderful painting of him flying over Sparepenny Lane in his Spitfire and scroll down to read why his memorial sits here.

The path continues for 0.6 miles - along the top edge of a second field, then through a small wood (at 7 miles) managed by the Woodland Trust (Nine Hole Wood), then along the edge of a third field.

At the end of the third field it exits onto the lane through a kissing gate. Turn left along the lane and past the Eynsford sign.

On walking along the top of the last field there are great views of the ruins of Eynsford Castle. The 11th Century castle was the residence of a Norman knight William de Eynsford. It has been uninhabited since the 14th Century, and in later years was used as kennels for hunting dogs owned by the Hart-Dykes of Lullingstone Castle. However, the greater part of its high curtain wall and stone hall still stand and it is one of the most complete Norman castles in the country. It is now in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public. 

Follow Sparepenny Lane downhill, soon past Crockenhill Lane to the RHS, and eventually to a T-junction at Riverside.

To the left "Riverside" leads past the green on the banks of the Darent and the 16th century Plough Inn to Eynsford village with its many old and interesting buildings. Eynsford has been an important crossing point of the Darent for thousands of years. The 15th Century hump-back bridge and adjacent much older ford cross the river to the main part of the village. Just over the bridge is the Watermark Restaurant and directly across the High Street is the Norman Church of St Martin of Tours (church website). In the mid-12th Century the church was the focus of a dispute between William de Eynsford III and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. William was excommunicated and it led to a confrontation between Becket and King Henry II. It was one of many confrontations which would eventually lead to Becket's assassination in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170.

The High Street has many old and interesting buildings. A short distance to the left, along it, is The Castle Hotel and directly opposite the inn is access to Eynsford Castle. 

Eynsford has connections with and has been home to many famous people. The Wesley Stone next to the bridge marks the spot where John Wesley once preached from. Percy Pilcher, a late 19th century inventor and aviator constructed and flew some lightweight gliders near the village, but tragically crashed and died in 1899 at the age of 33 just before he was about try and become the first person to make a powered flight. In the 1920s composers Peter Warlock and EJ Moeran rented a house in the village and created some of their best works here. They were famous for their open house and drunken parties. Warlock would often wake up the local residents by going around the village late at night, on his motorcycle, whilst drunk and sometimes naked. Graham Sutherland, the 20th Century English artist, lived at Willow Cottage. Arthur Mee (1875 - 1943), writer and author of The Children's Encyclopedia lived in a grand house which he built on Eynsford Hill.

You can read more about Eynsford at Wikipedia, Francis Frith and at British History Online.

A video on YouTube, uploaded by a runner and entitled "Eynsford to Otford via Shoreham (Kent)", follows our identical route all the way to Otford at 1.35 miles into the next stage. It's worth a watch as the runner has done her homework, it covers every step of the way and also includes little bit on Eynsford Castle.

At T-junction turn right onto Lullingstone Lane and stay on RHS. The lane soon turns left. Then after passing a metal gate, turn right onto a signed Footpath, uphill and diagonally across a large crop field.

As you climb take time to turn around and look at the view back towards the village of Eynsford and across the Darent Valley.

After 300 yards cross the railway (with great care) and continues straight on, uphill and across another large crop field for 420 yards (now going directly west).

Again, as you climb, look back for a great view of Eynsford Railway Viaduct, the Darent Valley and Eynsford Village. A lot of the land around here is chalk based and, with our climate getting hotter, I wouldn-t be surprised to see vineyards sprouting up in the area.

Eynsford Viaduct was completed in 1862 to link Chatham to Sevenoaks. The viaduct towers above the road and the valley, but the red brickwork blends in well with the surroundings.

The path enters another field, Stay straight on for 90 yards to exit the field to a lane. Cross straight over the lane into another crop field and go straight on along a well-defined path (at 8.1 miles).

A short distance to the right, along the lane, is Hulberry Farm. It is home to one of the UK's largest Bird of Prey Centres, "Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation". Here the have around 100 birds, including eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, vultures and many more. According to their website:

"This includes over 50 species, many of which are now breeding at the centre or can be seen flying in our daily demonstrations. We have also become a wildlife sanctuary and house a variety of animals including, Meerkats, African Servals, Farm Animals, Reptiles, Huskies and more!"

Follow the path for 300 yards to a hedge - Hulberry Farm is just to the right. Stay straight on, keeping the hedgerow to your RHS, then 300 yards later to the field edge. Turn left and steeply downhill along the edge of the field. Towards the bottom the path becomes enclosed, and eventually down steps to rejoin Lullingstone Lane.

The views over the valley below and the railway viaduct can be stunning, and if lucky you might see some of the birds of prey in flight.

Just to the left, on reaching the lane, is Lullingstone Roman Villa. First constructed in 75 AD of wood, it was rebuilt using flint and tiles by 150 AD, and greatly extended over the next 300 years. From the 4th Century there is evidence Christianity was practiced here and thus was the site of one of Britain's first Christian churches. The villa was still occupied during part of the 5th Century after the Romans had left Britain. There is evidence of a fire around this time, though most of the walls seemed to have survived this. During Norman times materials from the wall were used in the construction of St Botolphs Church at Lullingstone Castle. The reason why most of what remained of the villa was preserved so well, is that at some point it got covered in clay by a landslide. The villa stayed covered until it was rediscovered in 1939. Because of World War II, excavations didn't commence until 10 years later, and once completed the villa had a protective building erected around and over it. In 1963 it was opened to the public. Today it is looked after by English Heritage, with visitor's information available on their website. A painting by Alan Sorrell depicts what the villa would have looked like in 360 AD, and prints are on sale through English Heritage. To read a detailed article about Lullingstone Roman Villa, visit the link, also there are many videos on the Internet, here's a link to one.

On reaching Lullingstone Lane turn right and follow for 550 yards to a red-brick building with two towers and a central archway. This is the gatehouse and entrance to Lullingstone Castle. 

The gatehouse at Lullingstone Castle was built in 1497 and is believed to be one of the first buildings to be built of red-brick in Britain. Through the entrance is the "castle", a magnificent manor house dating from the same time. However, the later Queen Anne front conceals the older part of the house. To the left on the lawn is the older St Botholp's Church. Built in Norman times and sometimes referred to as "The Church on the Lawn". It was built mainly of flint and remains from the Roman villa. The red bricks visible at the top of the walls were added in the early 18th Century. The church has many interesting things to see including some of the oldest stained glass in the country. The church is still in use and is open to the public. According to the church website:

"... it is also the parish church of Lullingstone. The regular congregation comes not only from Lullingstone but beyond, drawn by its regular Sunday morning services according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with lessons taken from the King James Bible."

Behind the church is a walled garden. This was originally a herb garden designed by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde and has recently been converted to "The World Garden".

An estate at Lullingstone is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) although the name is believed to have earlier Saxon origins.

According to "The Heraldic Notices of Canterbury Cathedral; with Genealogical and Topographical Notes", by Thomas Willement, published in 1827, "Sir John Peche bought Lullingstone in 1361, and the castle and honours were held by that family until the time of Henry VIII". The castle mentioned in this book may have been what we now know was Shoreham Castle, situated less than a mile upstream, but still part of what was then the Lullingstone estate. The current manor house and gateway were built by one of Peche's descendants, also called Sir John Peche. The latter John was a man of great reputation and became Sherriff of Kent and Lord Deputy of Calais. He was friends with Henry VII and later Henry VIII. Both kings often visited and would joist with John on the lawn. When John died his sister Elizabeth inherited the manor, she was married to John Hart, hence a new surname for the family. Again, the manor passed through descendants of the Hart family and eventually in 1738 to Anne, daughter of Sir Percyval Hart and sole heir. Anne is believed to have been named after Queen Anne who was a family friend and often visited. The house and grounds still contain reminders of these visits - the Queen Anne bedroom and the Queen Anne boathouse on the lake.

Here is an earlier love story (or two) about Anne Hart from Historic-Kent.co.uk. (as of July 2020, the link no-longer has the story, but here's another):

"A rather odd little story is told of his daughter Anne. It relates how, on the night of the celebration of her betrothal to Sir Thomas Dyke of Horeham, Sussex, she slipped away to her bedroom where she made a rope of knotted sheets and climbed down into the arms of a young naval officer called Bluet, who was waiting for her in a boat in the moat.

Together they ran away and were married. The jilted Sir Thomas swore he would never marry anyone else and, indeed, he did not. When Bluet died nine years later his widow found the faithful Sir Thomas still waiting for her and they married."

It was Anne Hart's marriage to Sir Thomas Dyke which formed the roots to the current family name and it was also Thomas who bestowed the name Lullingstone Castle on the manor house.

Until recently the castle was in the hands of Guy Hart-Dyke (died 2018) and his wife Sarah. It means that the manor has stayed in the ownership of the Hart-Dyke family and their ancestors for almost 650 years, and this makes them one of the oldest families in the world to have continually lived in the same house.

Guy & Sarah's son Tom hit the news in March 2000 when he and his companion Paul Winder were taken hostage by rebels whilst searching for rare orchids in the Panamanian jungle. They were held captive for nine months. During this time Tom came up with the idea of the World Garden of plants.

To look at the manor house and the grounds it's easy to believe a very wealthy family must live here. However, in 2006 BBC2 showed an earlier recorded series of documentaries about the family, the castle and Tom's idea of a "World Garden" as a means of creating enough income to keep the castle in the family. In another series "Return to Lullingstone" (televised in 2007), the BBC came back to see how things were progressing. The garden opened to the public in July 2005 and in the same year won the Guild of UK Travel Writers Tourism Award for best new tourist attraction in the UK. You can watch a tour of "The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle" uploaded in June 2020 at YouTube.

This wasn't the only time the family had to come up with a business adventure to keep the castle in the family. In the 1930s the family were almost crippled by inheritance tax, so Zoe Hart-Dyke decided to import silk-worms from China and start a silk farm. It was the UK's only commercial producer and turned out some 20 lbs of raw silk per week. The silk was used in garments for many royal occasions including Queen Elizabeth II's wedding dress (1947) and her mother's coronation robe (1937). However, when used in Lady Diana Spencer's wedding dress the farm had re-located to Dorset. During the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the BBC had a side story where they went to Lullingstone and interviewed Guy. Kate's dress was the first in the modern era where the silk was not produced in the UK - all others had their roots at Lullingstone. 

Lullingstone Castle also holds a place in "Lawn Tennis" history. In 1875, Sir William Hart-Dyke and a group of the games' enthusiasts got together here to experiment on the lawn and debate how the game should be played. They decided the size of the court and where the lines should be placed. They drew up the original rules of what is now the modern game. It was only two years later when the first Wimbledon championship took place.

After passing the gatehouse go straight on through a kissing gate and along a path into the woods, with the river and lake to the left. 

To the right on the side of the hill is Lullingstone Park Golf Course.

The path follows the River Darent for just over a third of a mile to behind Lullingstone Park Visitor's Centre. Go straight on for a few yards behind the visitor’s centre and with the river still on your LHS. Go through a kissing gate and turn right along the road past the entrance to the car park.

On the riverbank a short distance before the visitor's there is a beautifully carved bench, a memorial to a deceased teenager. Behind the centre is a footbridge over the river and close to this at a junction of paths is a tastefully engraved wooden sculpture.

The Visitor's Centre has a restaurant, a shop and a small museum to keep young children entertained. There are many interesting walks from the visitor's centre through the adjacent country park. The park covers an area of 460 acres and was once part of the old deer park of Lullingstone Castle. According to Kent County Council:

"Lullingstone Country Park is internationally important for its collection of ancient trees, with over 300 veteran oak, beech, ash, hornbeam and sweet chestnut, some of which are thought to be 800 years old. Find out more in Lullingstone's Veteran Trees leaflet (PDF, 795.8 KB). The park also has areas of chalk grassland that fill with spectacular displays of orchids and other wild flowers in spring and summer."

You can also download the Kent Country Council leaflet of Lullingstone Park and visit British History Online for a full history of Lullingstone.

The entrance to the car park from Lullingstone Visitor Centre is from Castle Road / Redmans Lane.

Once over the entrance, stay right to go over a stile and into the field. Follow the path along the bottom edge of the field and parallel to the lane and then straight on into a second field.

From recent footage it seems this footpath along the edge of these fields is now fenced off from the field.

At the border of the fields, to the RHS, a gap in the hedgerow to the LHS leads to the road and just opposite is the entrance to Castle Farm.

The farmhouse at Castle Farm is built on what remains of Shoreham Castle. This was Norman, it was known to be unoccupied by at least the early 16th Century and was previously called Lullingstone Castle, until the name was adopted in 1738 by the Hart-Dyke family for their manor house.

Castle Farm is well worth the short diversion from our walk. On the river next to the farm, and visible from the lane, is a small and unusual water powered windmill. There is the multi award winning Hop Shop with lots of local produce on sale. The same family have been farming here since 1892. The farm covers 1.100 acres and grows crops of wheat, barley, rapeseed, hops, apples, pumpkins, lavender and a grass-fed herd of beef cattle. It is the largest producers of Lavender in the UK, with a specialised distillery on site, allowing them to extract the precious essential oils within hours of the crop being harvested.

On entering the second field, stay straight on for 250 yards to the corner bottom corner of the field, then turn left and down some steps to Redmans Lane. Veer left to cross the road to a gate. Go through a gap next to a gate and onto a path/track signed Darent Valley Path. 

Just of the path across the field after Castle Farm, the distinctive field down to the left is a hop garden. Hop gardens have been a recognised feature of the Kent countryside for hundreds of years.  In summer the bines (the climbing stems) grow up strings suspended from a wire frame, and in late August the bines are stripped and the hops dried in oast kilns before being sent to the breweries. Until recently drying took place in white cone topped oast houses, but nowadays most oast houses have been converted into private dwellings.

Connie Evans (link broken) gives a wonderful personal account of her childhood memories of working in the hop gardens. Her website gives an insight into how, not only did the industry in Kent rely on an influx of workers from the East End of London, but also on the manual labour of local women and their children. How for four weeks from early September they would rise at daybreak to walk to the fields and collect the ripened bines to earn much needed coffers to add to the father's income. The children received no pay but were rewarded by being allowed to play with others in the adjacent fields after having collected their quota for the day. 

In late spring / early summer the fields, to the left across and climbing up from the valley floor, are a purple haze with lavender. The hops, the lavender and other local produce from the farm and surrounding areas are sold in the Castle Farm's multi award winning Hop Shop.

Follow the path straight across fields for just over a mile to Shoreham. It is relatively easy to follow the Darent Valley Path through the fields just above the river which is off to our LHS.

A short distance from the village the path drops down to the river, but soon climbs up to cross Mill Lane and then left around the old Mill House to a footbridge over the river. After crossing the footbridge turn right to follow the path along the river to Darenth Street, coming out next to Water House (at 11 miles).

Shoreham was home to Samuel Palmer (1805 - 1881), visionary landscape painter. It was a peaceful home away from the hustle and bustle of the big city where he found inspiration and could get on with his work. He lived at Water House from 1827 to 1835 and is remembered by a plaque on the outside wall of the garden. His time here is described as his "visionary period" during which he entertained many people from the arts and literary world, these were nicknamed "The Ancients". They included his friend and teacher, William Blake (1757 - 1827), the English poet and painter. Much of Palmer's work from this period is in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

At Kent-Downs there is an audio self-guided walk: A Samuel Palmer trail through Shoreham where you can follow in the artist's footsteps and learn about some of the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the Darent Valley.

On the left, just past Water House is Flint Cottage. The suns on the front wall is a "fire mark" the early trademarks of a well-known insurance company. The fire engines of the day would only attend houses which displayed such an insurance certificate. Many old houses in the village still display this mark.

On the right is the old bridge over the Darent River, a ladder on the side of the bridge shows the depth of the river for travellers who used the now closed ford. Next to the bridge is the War Memorial with the names of all the locals killed in action in two world wars. One such local was a man named Thomas James Highgate. He was the only son of a farm labourer, born on 13th May 1895 at Oxbourne Farm, Mill Lane, Shoreham. Highgate joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment on 4th February 1913. After seeing action at the battle of Mons he was found hiding in a nearby barn. He claimed to have lost his way, but was accused of desertion. He was court marshaled, found guilty and shot by firing squad on the same day, 8th September 1914. This was just 17 days after the first British shot of the war had been fired. Highgate was the first British soldier to have been executed for desertion during World War I. He was unable to summon witnesses to help his defence as all of his regiment had been killed, injured or captured. In 2000 a poll by local Shoreham residents voted to have his name added to the village's war memorial. However, this was vetoed by the Parish Council, but it was decided to leave a space for his name in case he was ever pardoned. In August 2006 the Defence Secretary announced that all 306 soldiers who were shot during World War I for military offences would receive a pardon and Highgate's name has since been added.  

Each year on the Early May Bank Holiday the village holds the Shoreham Duck Race along the river. It starts at the bridge and finishing at the footbridge near Mill Lane. Most ducks are small yellow and plastic, but there are ducks made from all sorts, all shapes and sizes. It is an event for the local community and hundreds of people attend. You can watch the start of the 2019 race at YouTube. 

Most of the village and some of the surrounding area is designated a conservation area, and contains many old houses and pubs. It lies within the Metropolitan Green Belt, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is specified as a Special Landscape Area.

Within the village there are at least 32 listed buildings. Some have already been mentioned above and some others are below, but to read about them all and the full history of the village, visit the Sevenoaks Council website for the full Shoreham High Street & Church Street Conservation Area Appraisal.

The 16th century Kings Arms to the right on Church Street, and just a short distance past the bridge, boasts the only complete Jolly Ostler's Box still remaining in the UK. The "Ostler" was the person employed by the inn to look after and groom the horses whilst their owners used the facility.

At the far end of Church Street is the narrow High Street, so narrow it only takes a few cars to gridlock it. The street was built for the use of horses and not modern-day traffic, and since the horses have gone it has not been widened. On the right a few yards along the High Street is the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, which displays relics of air battles from two wars. It was opened in 1978 and attended by fifteen former pilots from the Battle of Britain. During both wars there were lots of dogfights in the skies above the village resulting in many planes being shot down in the fields around the village. Some of the large country houses in the area were taken over by the military during World War II. It meant many bombs were dropped on the area, by German pilots looking for their targets and off-loading bombs left over on their way home after striking London. In a documentary by the BBC, they described Shoreham as the most bombed village in Britain during World War II. One story from 15th September 1940 tells how a German bomber was forced to land in a field at Castle Farm whilst a spitfire circled above. The pilot surrendered to locals by waving a white handkerchief. He and his crew were escorted to The Fox & Hounds Pub just east of the village and treated to a large brandy before being escorted to the local police station at Sevenoaks.

The Shoreham and District Historical Society decided in 2003 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II by producing a book based on interviews with people who lived in the village during the war. In 2006 their book "Shoreham at War" was published.

On passing the bridge, veer left along Church Street staying on the LHS pavement. After a short distance follow the road left and uphill past some old cottages.

To the left as you go up Church Street is a narrow road between houses. This leads to the award winning The Mount Vineyard. It is open Thursday to Sunday, 12 - 6pm, all year round for tastings and food. The menu and list of drinks is extensive - see the vineyard's website for details.

As the road turns right stay left through the Lych Gate of the church and straight on along a yew-lined brick path past the church to your LHS.

The route through the churchyard is a small diversion from the Darent Valley Path as it continues along the road. However, this does seem to be a safer and more interesting option.

The Lych Gate of St Peter & St Paul is hundreds of years old. The church is mainly Norman but parts of it dates to an earlier Saxon period and some of the original still survive. The graveyard slopes up from the valley above the town and visible from it on a clear day, across the valley in a field on the opposite side, is a large cross. It was cut into the hill in 1920 as a remembrance to all those who died in World War I.

Church Road, in front of the Lych Gate widens out into what almost appears as a village square. On the opposite side is the 16th Century Ye Olde George Inn which has not changed much over the years.

At the top of the path, exit the churchyard via a gate into a field. Turn right along a wide track and soon to a road (Station Road).

Surprisingly for such a small place, as well as the Old George Inn and the Kings Arms, there are two other pubs in the village. The Old Crown Inn and the Two Brewers are on the High Street and both just a short distance off the route. The village has many connections with smugglers and one described by Dorothy Gardiner on her own visit to Shoreham in her "Companion into Kent" in 1934.

"She recounted a story she was told about some smugglers who arrived at the Old Crown Inn there early in the 19th century, with a wounded Spaniard. The foreigner was nursed back to health by the daughter of the owner of the inn, a man known as Squib the Maltster. When he was fit and well again, the Spaniard married Squib's daughter and for a while they lived together in the village.

But then one day the Spaniard was taken by the press-gang and his wife died giving birth to their child. Many years later (so the tale concluded) the Spaniard returned to Shoreham. On enquiring in the village after his wife, he was told she was dead and he, without another word, turned round and walked away again, never to be seen thereafter."

People with connections to Shoreham include, Verney Cameron (1844 - 1894), the son of the local vicar. Whilst in Africa he was sent by the Royal Geographical Society to assist David Livingstone, but found him dead. With the help of Livingstone's papers, he became the first European to cross equatorial Africa from coast to coast. The country of Cameroon is named after him. He returned to England in great triumph to settle down and became a writer of boy's books. Unfortunately, at the age of 50, whilst riding in Bedfordshire, the horse bolted and he was thrown and died. His body was brought back to his childhood home and buried in the graveyard at Shoreham.

William Colgate's (1783 - 1857) family farmed in the village at Filston until 1798, but because of his father's republican views and support for the French Revolution the family was forced to immigrate to America. In 1806 William founded what we now know as the Colgate toothpaste company.

Actress Naomi Watts was born here on 28th September 1968. Edward Plunkett (aka Lord Dunsany), 18th Baron of Dunsany (1878 - 1957) live at Dunstall Priory. He was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, saw action in the trenches during World War I and active at Shoreham in the Home Guard during World War II. He was President of the Shoreham Village Players in the 1950s and wrote a one act play about the village called "The Road". He died in Dublin and is buried in Shoreham churchyard.

Methodist John Wesley (1703 - 1791) used to visit Shoreham to see his great friend and supporter the Rev Vincent Perronet (1693 - 1785), who was vicar here for fifty-seven years. Wesley is said to have had to be rescued by the Perronet family from an unsympathetic audience when he preached from a stone near the bridge over the River Darent, but the experience did not stop his preaching in the vicarage kitchen.

Turn left along the road and after just 80 yards turn right onto a narrow and enclosed footpath, signed Darent Valley Path.

It is here we finish the stage. Shoreham Railway Station is just 200 further along Station Road from the point where we turn onto this path.

For a small village it is well serviced by the railway on the Swanley to Sevenoaks line. This is thanks to the natural communications corridor of the Darent Valley. Shoreham station is just 200 yards north of the entrance to the golf club on the right of Station Road. It was opened in June 1862 and has a countryside centre run by volunteers. This natural corridor was also originally planned as the route of the M25 motorway around this part of London. The devastation to the beauty and tranquility of the valley would have been huge. However, thanks to the well-planned protests by locals the route of motorway was diverted to the west and away from the valley.  You can read more about Shoreham at British History Online or at Wikipedia.

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