A hike into the ‘Garden of England’ - River Darent two castles trail
Length: 14.1km (8.8 miles), 4 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 8-9 hours.
Toughness: 5 out of 10.
Start and End: We will meet at Victoria station at 10:20.
I will be waiting for you at the station, next to the information sign, in front of the ticket offices from 10:20. At 10:30 we will make our way to the platform and we will take the 10:45 train to Otford. We will arrive there at 11:20. Journey duration: 35 minutes.
Price includes return train tickets, walk and paypal fees.
Features: We venture into the heart of Kent and this walk certainly illustrates why it's known as the "Garden of England". We start off in the village of Otford which dates back nearly 2,000 years. A delightful rural walk which amongst other things will take us past two castles – Eynsford castle and Lullingstone castle and along a stretch of the river Darent.
Along the way there will be some gorgeous countryside, rolling fields and we will pass a couple of woods and rural villages as well as some far stretching hill top views. In fact, the area’s beauty has attracted people back to Roman times and in 80AD Lullingstone Villa was constructed for a wealthy Roman who was keen on pagan worship.
The walk has two steep uphill sections and the first half can be very muddy. The suggested route takes in three villages steeped in history, a ruined palace, two castles and a Roman villa. At times the route runs alongside the River Darent, at other times through fields and woods. At the start of the walk there is the Otford Solar System, which claims to be the only scale model of its kind in the world; it shows the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the new millennium. In the afternoon, we come to Lullingstone Park; its Visitor Centre offers exhibitions and information about the park (and has a café). Towards the end of the walk we pass Lullingstone Castle with its new visitor attraction, the World Garden.
Please note that we will not be entering the Lullingstone Castle grounds. We will take photos from outside.
IMPORTANT: By taking part in this meet-up you agree to the following disclaimer: I acknowledge that hiking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. My decision to voluntarily participate in these activities is an informed decision and I am aware of and shall accept such risks. I agree to be responsible for my own actions and involvement in these activities. The organiser does not take any responsibility for my safety.
History: Otford goes back to the sixth century when the Anglo-Saxons called their settlement Ottanford ('Otta's ford'). The Archbishop's Palace in Otford, the remaining fragments of which are on open view, once rivalled Hampton Court for splendour, until Henry VIII forced Archbishop Cranmer to surrender it in 1537.
Construction of St Bartholomew's Church, Otford, began in 1060, with the tower being added in 1175. The church contains large marble memorials to Charles and David Polhill, great-grandsons of Oliver Cromwell.
The artist Samuel Palmer lived and worked in Shoreham from 1826 to 1834. He was the leader of a group who followed William Blake and called themselves The Ancients. Palmer's father, also called Samuel, rented the Water House by the river.
The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Shoreham has many interesting features, including an outstanding wooden rood screen spanning the width of the building and a stained glass window by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne-Jones.
Lullingstone Park was a deer park from the Middle Ages until World War II, when the park was used as a decoy airfield – the heavy bombing so terrified the deer that they escaped. Species of tree that deer would not eat have been planted through the centuries, thus ancient hornbeam pollards remain.
Lullingstone Castle (tel 01322 862 114 ) is the residence of the Hart Dyke family, having remained in the Dyke family for centuries, with the original house built during the reign of Henry VII. Its gatehouse is one of the earliest all-brick buildings in Britain. In the grounds is the World Garden, containing plants from around the globe, which is open to visitors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons between April and September (and Bank Holiday Mondays). The House is only open on Bank Holiday weekends. Admission (2010) is £6.
Lullingstone Roman Villa (tel 01322 863 467 ) was first occupied in 80AD by a rich Roman who practised pagan worship of the local water sprite in a room here, which later became a Christian temple. The ruins include two mosaic floors.
St Martin's Church in Eynsford is unusual in having retained the Norman ground plan with apsidal chancel. In about 1163, Thomas à Becket excommunicated Sir William de Eynsford III, the Lord of the Manor who controlled the patronage for this church. The excommunication was cancelled by Henry II and the issue became part of the quarrel which led to Becket's murder.
Eynsford Castle was built in the eleventh century and vandalised in 1312. John de Eynsford, who lived there, is said to have assisted in Becket's murder.