Main Walk: 14 km (8.7 miles). Three hours 45 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 7 hours.
Two Short Cuts: 11¾ or 12¼ km (7.3 or 7.6 miles). Three hours 10 or 15 minutes walking time.
Explorer 147. Otford, map reference TQ532593, is in Kent, 4 km N of Sevenoaks.
5 out of 10 (4 with either short cut).
This walk includes a good mix of woodland and open countryside, with fine views from the steep-sided hills overlooking the Darent valley. It has obvious similarities with Book 1 Walk 43 (the original Otford Circular), with the same lunchtime village now that the pub in Romney Street has closed. Its shorter morning and longer afternoon essentially offer a more balanced walk, closer to the “good, brisk, shortish autumn or winter walk, with a late start possible” which perfectly described the original.
This walk's relatively short morning section starts with the same stiff climb to the top of Otford Mount. It continues through the secluded valley of Magpie Bottom, one of several small nature reserves in the area managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust. In this valley it joins the route (in reverse) of Extra Walk 37 (Knockholt to Otford), then rejoins the Book 1 route just before Dunstall Farm. A steep descent through the wooded White Hill brings you to Shoreham, an attractive village which is not short of pubs; tastings might also be possible at The Mount Vineyard.
The afternoon section starts with a climb up the other side of the valley into a fine bluebell wood. The increasing traffic noise reveals the presence of the (unseen) M25, and after a close encounter with the motorway the walk descends via another small nature reserve, Polhill Bank. It rejoins the Book 1 route once again for an easy stretch along the Darent Valley Path into Otford, another attractive village with many interesting old buildings.
The serpentine nature of the afternoon route allows for a couple of (mutually exclusive) short cuts, each saving about 2 km. If you bring the appropriate directions you could also substitute the longer morning or shorter afternoon of the Book 1 walk.
If you want to abandon the walk at lunchtime (or in mid-afternoon) you could divert to Shoreham station.
There is a half-hourly fast service from Victoria to Otford (hourly on Sundays), taking about 35 minutes. In addition there are half-hourly stopping services from Blackfriars; these also call at Shoreham.
If driving, Otford station car park costs £3.80 Mon–Fri off-peak, £2.60 Sat & £1 Sun (2017). The village car park in the High Street is only free on Sundays & Bank Holidays.
Take the train nearest to 10:15 from Victoria (or Blackfriars) to Otford.
The small village of Shoreham has no fewer than four pubs. In the order in which you pass them (after 5¼–6¼ km) they are Ye Olde George Inn (01959-522017) and the Kings Arms (01959-523100) on Church Street, followed by the Two Brewers (01959-522800, closed Mon & Tue, except BH) and the Crown (01959-522903) on the High Street.
At the end of the walk there are two tearooms in Otford: the Otford Tea Rooms (01959-524322) at the back of the Hospices of Hope charity shop, open to 5pm Mon–Sat (4pm Mon–Fri in winter), but closed Sun & BH; and the Pond View Café (01959-522150), open daily to 4.30pm. There are also two pubs on the High Street, the Bull (01959-523198) and the Woodman (01959-522195).
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
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- Main Walk (14 km)
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- Otford Station to Magpie Bottom (2¼ km)
- Magpie Bottom to Dunstall Farm (1½ km)
- Dunstall Farm to Shoreham (Church Street) (1½ km)
- Church Street to Meenfield Wood (1½ km)
- Riverside route
- Alternative route
- Meenfield Wood to Polhill Bank (2¼ km)
- Polhill Bank to Water Lane (1½ km)
- Polhill Bank to Otford High Street direct (2¼ km)
- Meenfield Wood to Water Lane direct (1½ km)
- Water Lane to Otford High Street (2½ km)
- Otford High Street to the Station (1 km)
From the station head north-east through a small wood (The Chalk Pit) and cross Pilgrims Way East to join the North Downs Way (NDW). At the top of Otford Mount fork left across a field (leaving the NDW) and turn left onto Rowdow Lane. Opposite the entrance to Mount Farm turn right onto a footpath going down through Great Wood to a valley, Magpie Bottom.
The first 1 km is the same as the route of Book 1 Walk 43.
Arriving from London, do not cross the footbridge to the station building but go up a flight of steps near the middle of Platform 2. Bear right on a track heading away from the station, but almost immediately turn left past a metal fieldgate onto a path through a small wood, passing a sign for “The Chalk Pit”. Where this comes out onto an open area, veer left and follow a path curving up through the trees and out onto a road (Pilgrims Way East).
Cross the road carefully and take the left-hand of two driveways just off to the right, joining the North Downs Way1 (NDW). You now have a long steady climb up Otford Mount, initially between garden fences and then through a wooded area (halfway up, a short detour down a side path by a wooden bench offers some fine views across the Darent valley).
The path eventually levels out and you go through a wooden kissing gate and across a potentially muddy stretch. This opens out into a field where you fork left onto a faint grassy path (leaving the NDW and the Book 1 route, which continues up the right-hand edge of the field). Follow this path as it curves around the left-hand edge of the field, passing by a trig point. In the far corner go out through a gap in the trees and turn left onto a minor road (Rowdow Lane).
In 250m, after the last house on the right and opposite the imposing entrance to Mount Farm, turn right through a small metal gate onto an easily-missed public footpath. Follow this alongside a screen of trees, across a field and then steadily downhill through Great Wood, heading NE. At the bottom go through a wooden kissing gate onto a grassy path leading across a secluded valley, Magpie Bottom2.
At the bottom turn left onto a permissive path along the valley floor to Rose Cottage Farm. Turn left onto a lane (Magpie Bottom). In 400m turn right off the lane onto a footpath climbing through a small wood, then along field edges to Dunstall Farm.
Do not continue up the other side of the valley, but turn left off the public footpath onto a faint grassy path along the valley floor. Follow this permissive path through a new wooden gate in a belt of trees across the valley, then across a meadow towards another wooden gate in the hedge on the far side. Go out through a side gate and turn left onto a lane (also called Magpie Bottom).
Head W along this quiet lane for 400m, soon with views on the right down the valley. Where the lane bends left go over a stile on the right (to the left of a wooden gate) into a potentially muddy area at the bottom of a sloping field. Start along a farm track to the right, but almost immediately veer left uphill (as indicated by a yellow waymarker on a tree) to follow the right of way, a narrow path between small trees on the right-hand side of the field.
At the top of the field go up a few steps, over a stile and through a belt of trees into a field. Turn right and go along a track on the edge of the field, with another footpath (the route of Book 1 Walk 43 again) joining from a field on the right after 250m. Follow the farm track across a dip and back up into Dunstall Farm.
Follow the footpath across a field and steeply down through a wood to reach the A225. Cross over and go down Station Road for 350m, joining the Darent Valley Path (DVP) which comes in from a footpath on the left. Cut through the churchyard to come out at the top of Church Street.
Go more or less straight on through the muddy farmyard towards a barn on the far side. Continue in the same direction to the right of the barn, then across a field. On the far side go down into a wood, soon crossing a path to descend a long flight of earth steps. After a long level stretch through the wood the path merges with a bridleway coming in from the left, which brings you out to the A225.
Cross this main road carefully (slightly to the right) and go down Station Road, passing under the railway bridge. Shortly after the entrance to Darenth Valley Golf Club you go past a “Footpath to Otford” on the left, joining the Darent Valley Path3 (DVP) on its route through Shoreham.
In a further 75m turn right at the next DVP waymarker, going up a slope into the corner of a large field. Go along the left-hand field edge for just 50m, then turn left through a kissing gate in a low flint wall into the churchyard. Follow the tree-lined path past the church of Ss Peter and Paul4 (which is well worth visiting) and out through the lychgate to return to the road (now Church Street).
Go down Church Street to its bridge over the River Darent. Either continue along Church Street and then the High Street to its junction with Mill Lane, or take the riverside path to the far end of the village and go up Mill Lane. Take a new footpath going uphill alongside the continuation of the High Street, then turn left onto a footpath heading south to Meenfield Wood.
The first of Shoreham's four pubs is directly opposite, Ye Olde George Inn. Continuing down the road, you pass a driveway leading to The Mount Vineyard on the right. At the bottom the road bends right to run alongside a branch of the River Darent before coming to the bridge, where there is a choice of routes.
Do not cross the river on the road bridge but keep ahead onto Darenth Way, passing the War Memorial7 on the riverbank. Pass to the left of Water House8 and follow the attractive riverside path, later with the vineyard off to your right. At the far end cross the river on a footbridge and follow the path alongside the garden fence for Mill House to a lane. Leave the DVP (a footpath off to the right) and go up Mill Lane to its T-junction with Shoreham's High Street. Cross the road carefully onto a raised footpath opposite.
For other refreshment places follow the road across the river (leaving the DVP) to come to the Kings Arms5 on the left. At the top of Church Street turn right onto Shoreham's High Street. You pass the (possibly closed) Honeypot Tea Rooms on your right and the small Shoreham Aircraft Museum6 on your left. In a further 100m you come to the Two Brewers and 300m later the Crown, both on your right. Continue for a further 100m to the junction with Mill Lane and turn left onto a raised footpath.
Follow the fenced path alongside the main road for 100m. At the end go over a stile and turn right to follow a line of wooden posts curving round the edge of a large field, climbing steadily. In the top corner go over a stile to the right of a metal fieldgate and up a short slope. Do not go out to the lane ahead but turn left onto a straight tree-lined path heading S, which soon starts to climb gently. In 200m the path forks by a sign for Meenfield Wood.
If you are doing the first short cut, omitting Polhill Bank, go to §8.
Fork right onto the permissive bridleway climbing through the trees and eventually going along the top of Meenfield Wood. At the far end continue briefly alongside a hedge and then in the same direction through Pilots Wood. Ignore a footbridge across the M25 and follow the footpath as it turns left and goes down through the trees into the top of Polhill Bank.
Fork right at the sign, taking the permissive bridleway into the wood. This climbs steadily and gradually curves round to the left, eventually levelling out at the top of the wood. Keep ahead at a set of path junctions (with two footpaths off to the right and one down to the left). In a further 600m ignore a stile on the left at the end of the wood and continue along the track, now with views across the Darent valley over a hedge on your left.
At the end of the hedge keep ahead on a broad track into Pilots Wood, gradually getting closer to the M25 which you can hear in a deep cutting away to your right. In 250m ignore a track forking off to the left. The main track can become very muddy but essentially you need to follow it through the wood (taking side paths if necessary) for a further 400m, eventually bearing right and coming to the edge of the wood.
Turn left onto a broad path alongside a high wire fence. The path soon drops down a short slope, where a short detour onto the footbridge on your right would finally let you see the motorway below. Continue past the bridge on a footpath, which in 50m turns sharp left and goes down through the trees. In 100m go through a wooden kissing gate into the top of a steeply-sloping patch of grassland, Polhill Bank2.
If you are doing the second short cut, omitting Water Lane, go to §7.
Take the footpath heading north-east along the top of the reserve. At the far end turn left onto a permissive path into Pilots Wood, staying near its eastern boundary. Turn half-right across an open patch of grassland and continue on a footpath going down a track to Filston Lane.
Keep ahead on a path along the top of the grassy bank, steadily descending and going through a gate along the way. The reserve narrows and you leave it through a wooden kissing gate at the far end. Go down a slope towards a second gate but turn left before reaching it onto an unmarked path going back into Pilots Wood.
The path meanders along the bottom edge of the wood, passing a picnic table at a left-hand bend. After a right-hand bend it straightens out to head N, climbing gently with a field behind the fence on your right. The next turning is easy to miss. Where the main path bears slightly left away from the fence and climbs more steeply, veer right onto an unmarked narrow path to stay alongside the fence. Follow this to the edge of the wood, still climbing gently.
Leave the wood via a stile and turn half-right to go diagonally down across a grassy slope. In the bottom corner go through a gate and continue down a track to a minor road (Filston Lane), with Water Lane opposite.
Continue the directions at §9.
Take the footpath heading south-east, going directly down the bank and continuing across Filston Lane. After passing the buildings of Sepham Farm turn right briefly along the edge of a large field to its corner, then turn left onto a footpath heading south-east across fields and meadows, eventually coming out on Pilgrims Way West. Turn left onto this road, which crosses the River Darent and becomes Otford's High Street.
Make your way down the steep-sided grassy bank to a wooden kissing gate at the bottom, directly below the one where you entered the reserve. Go through this and down the left-hand edge of a field, underneath power lines and heading SE. At the far end go through a metal kissing gate and down a few steps to Filston Lane.
Cross the road with great care as there is no pavement and limited visibility for drivers on this winding road. Continue on the footpath opposite, past the buildings of Sepham Farm and then a neglected orchard. At the far end go through a wooden kissing gate and turn right, briefly going along the edge of a large field.
The remainder of the walk follows the route of Book 1 Walk 23, in reverse.
In the field corner go past a metal fieldgate and turn left onto a broad grassy track alongside the large field, heading SE again. In the next corner ignore a footpath off to the left, then fork right off the farm track onto a path between hedges. In 125m keep left at a path junction and follow the footpath through scrubland and across a brook on a concrete slab.
Continue along the waymarked path for a further 750m, initially on enclosed paths and finally across a meadow. On the far side go out through a gate and turn left onto a road (Pilgrims Way West). Follow this main road past Broughton Manor9 and across several branches of the River Darent, rejoining the Main Walk where it becomes Otford's High Street.
Complete the directions at §10.
Take the footpath along the bottom edge of Meenfield Wood. At the far end turn left onto a footpath going down the left-hand edge of a steeply-sloping field, then on a track to Filston Lane.
Keep left at the sign, going past a metal vehicle barrier and continuing along a broad path between a hedge and the wood, with views on the left of Shoreham in the Darent valley below. In 300m you pass above the Shoreham Cross10. In a further 200m keep ahead at a path crossing and continue for a further 600m to the far end of the wood.
On leaving the wood turn left to go steeply down a grassy slope. In the bottom left-hand corner go through a gate and continue down a track to a minor road (Filston Lane), with Water Lane opposite.
Go down Water Lane and along a bridleway past Home Farm. Turn right onto the Darent Valley Path and follow it to Otford's High Street.
Cross Filston Lane carefully and go down Water Lane. After the last cottage the track becomes a bridleway which swings left and goes alongside a branch of the River Darent. In 200m cross the stream on a footbridge and continue along a track, passing an attractive old mill house and then climbing steadily. At the top of the slope you come to a major path junction.
The remainder of the walk follows the route of Book 1 Walk 43.
At the path junction turn right (not sharp right onto a private driveway) to rejoin the DVP, now heading S towards Otford. Follow the waymarked route along an enclosed path through a golf course, then the left-hand side of a field.
Go over a pair of stiles by the entrance to Lower Barn Farm to continue in the same direction alongside a fence. After another stile the DVP goes alongside a tree-lined stretch of the river, then past allotments and along a driveway beside a mill stream. At the end turn left onto Otford's High Street, leaving the DVP.
Head east along the High Street, passing several refreshment places. At the far end skirt around the village pond and take a footpath going up to the church. Head east through the churchyard and continue on an enclosed path to the station car park.
Head E along the High Street, passing the timber-framed Pickmoss (a medieval open-hall house) and the old Baptist Chapel on the right. Towards the end of the High Street you come to two of the village's refreshment places on your right, the Bull pub and the Hospices of Hope tearoom opposite a bridleway.
The other refreshment places are on the left of the large roundabout encircling the village pond11 at the end of the High Street, the Pond View Café and the Woodman pub. Make your way to the far side of the pond, where there are two footpath signs.
A short out-and-back detour along the right-hand path would take you to the ruins of Otford Palace12.
To complete the walk, take the left-hand path going up to the parish church of St Bartholomew13. If you want to visit the church its entrance is a set of modern doors on the north side, but to head for the station go past the south side of the church and follow the tarmac path heading E through the churchyard, with a high brick wall on your left.
At the far end go through a wooden gate and continue on an enclosed path which leads into the station car park. The platform on the near side is for trains to London.
- The North Downs Way runs for 246 km along the length of the North Downs (with two sections at its eastern end), from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.
- Magpie Bottom and Polhill Bank are both Local Nature Reserves managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust. These areas of chalk grassland support many varieties of orchid.
- The Darent Valley Path follows the course of the river for 31 km, from Sevenoaks (near its source in the Greensand Hills) to the River Thames at Dartford.
- Ss Peter and Paul, Shoreham has many interesting features, all described in an informative Visitor's Guide. They include an outstanding wooden rood screen spanning the width of the building and some fine stained glass windows, including one by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne-Jones.
- The Kings Arms still has its ostler box, a shelter at the front of the pub for the person who used to attend to horses at coaching inns.
- The Shoreham Aircraft Museum was founded by volunteers in 1978 and holds donated items and aviation relics from the crash sites of local British and German aircraft in World War II.
- The War Memorial in Darenth Way is inscribed Remember as you look at the cross on the hill those who gave their lives for their country 1914-1919.
- Water House was the home of Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), the Romantic painter of visionary landscapes influenced by William Blake.
- The 16thC Broughton Manor was originally a Crown property housing part of the retinue at Otford Palace.
- The Shoreham Cross was cut into the chalk hillside above the village in 1921, to commemorate those who lost their lives in World War I.
- Otford Pond is one of many protected structures in the village, which has led to claims that its duckhouse is Britain's smallest listed building.
- Otford Palace was created by Archbishop Warham in 1514, a year before Cardinal Wolsey (his rival and successor as Lord Chancellor) began the construction of Hampton Court Palace. Both were subsequently taken over by Henry VIII but Otford (in its unfavourable marshy location) fell into ruins while Hampton Court expanded into a major royal palace.
- Construction of St Bartholomew, Otford began in 1060, with the tower being added in around 1185. It contains a large marble memorial to Charles and David Polhill, descendants of Oliver Cromwell.
» Last updated: May 28, 2017