Otford Circular via Shoreham walk
The steep-sided hills and secluded valleys around the Darent valley.
Main Walk: 14 km (8.7 miles). Three hours 35 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 7 hours.
Explorer 147. Otford, map reference TQ532593, is in Kent, 4 km N of Sevenoaks.
5 out of 10.
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 the original Otford Circular walk (1–43), 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 the Knockholt to Otford walk (#37), then rejoins the Walk 1–43 route just before Dunstall Farm. A steep descent through the wooded White Hill brings you to the attractive village of Shoreham and lunch at one of its hostelries.
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 Walk 1–43 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 partly overlapping the route (in reverse) of the Otford to Eynsford walk (1–23) and saving about 2 km.
If you bring the appropriate directions you could also substitute the longer morning or shorter afternoon route of Walk 1–43.
If you want to abandon the walk at lunchtime (or in mid-afternoon) you could divert to Shoreham station.
There are two hourly fast services to Otford, one from Victoria (daily) and the other from Charing Cross (Mon–Sat); both take around 35-40 minutes. There is also a half-hourly stopping service from Blackfriars which takes just over an hour; these trains also call at Shoreham.
If you wanted to abandon the walk there is a very limited bus service (Mon–Sat) along the A225 between Sevenoaks and Swanley, but it will nearly always be better to head for the nearest station.
If driving, Otford station car park costs £5.30 Mon–Fri, £4 Sat, £3.50 Sun & BH (2023). The car park in the High Street is free on Sundays & Bank Holidays.
Take the train nearest to 10:15 from Victoria (or Blackfriars) to Otford.
There is a good choice of lunch places in Shoreham, after around 6 km. The first places you come to are The Samuel Palmer (01959-525442), an up-market pub / restaurant on the site of Ye Olde George Inn; and a restaurant and a coffee shop at The Mount Vineyard (01959-524008; open Wed–Sun). In addition there are two equally good pubs at opposite ends of the village: the Kings Arms (01959-523100) on Church Street, open again after its fire in March 2022; and The Crown (01959-522903; food to 2pm Mon–Wed, 3pm Fri–Sun, closed Thu) at the northern end of Shoreham's High Street.
Shoreham used to have another pub but the Two Brewers has permanently closed.
At the end of the walk there are three tearooms in Otford: The Olive Tree in the Hospices of Hope charity shop (01959-524322; open to 5pm Sat & Mon–Fri summer, 4pm Sun & Mon–Fri winter); Sally's Cake Emporium (01959-928447; open to 4pm Tue–Sun); 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 • Traveline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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- Main Walk (14 km)
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- Otford Station to Magpie Bottom (2¼ 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.
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 footpath heading away from the station, but almost immediately turn left past a metal fieldgate onto a track 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).
- In 2023 the Chalk Pit was fenced off to help prevent the spread of ash dieback from infected trees in the wood. If it has not reopened, retrace your steps and continue along the footpath above the platform to the A225. Turn right onto the pavement, then turn right again into Pilgrims Way East to rejoin the route at the exit from the wood.
- Cross the road carefully and take the left-hand of two driveways just off to the right, joining the North Downs Way? (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. Go across a potentially muddy stretch into a field and fork left onto a faint grassy path (leaving the NDW and the Walk 1–43 route, which both continue up the right-hand field edge). Follow this path as it curves around the left-hand side 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 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 gate onto a grassy path leading across a secluded valley, Magpie Bottom?.
The first 1 km is the same as the Walk 1–43 route.
- 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 veer left off the public footpath onto a grassy path along the valley floor. Follow this permissive path through a side gate next to a wooden fieldgate in a belt of trees across the valley, then across a meadow towards another 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 Walk 1–43 route 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. After passing under the railway bridge by Shoreham station veer right into a large field and continue on a new permissive path parallel to the road. On the far side go through the churchyard, joining the Darent Valley Path (DVP). Continue down Church Street to the River Darent.
- Go more or less straight on through the muddy farmyard, veering to the right of a barn on the far side. Continue in the same direction across a field. On the far side go down into a wood, soon crossing a path to descend a long flight of earth steps. In a further 350m the path merges with a bridleway coming in from the left, which leads out to the A225.
- Cross this main road carefully (slightly to the right) and go down Station Road. After passing under the railway bridge by Shoreham station veer right into a large field and take a new permissive path along its edge, parallel to the road.
- In the next corner follow the field edge briefly round to the right, joining the Darent Valley Path? (DVP), 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 Paul?, which is well worth visiting.
- Go out through its lychgate, with The Samuel Palmer pub / restaurant opposite. Follow the road (now Church Street) gently downhill, passing a driveway leading to The Mount Vineyard? (which has a restaurant and a coffee shop) on the right. At the bottom the road bends right to run alongside a branch of the River Darent for a short distance.
For a choice of refreshment places follow Church Street across the river and up to a T-junction. Turn right and go along Shoreham's High Street to its junction with Mill Lane.
- Alternatively, simply follow the riverside path directly to Mill Lane and go up this lane to the High Street.
- Follow Church Street across the river (leaving the DVP) to come to the Kings Arms? on the left. At the T-junction at the top turn right onto the High Street.
- The Honey Pot Café is on the right and a little further on the small Shoreham Aircraft Museum? (which has a tearoom) is on the left.
- The Crown is on the right near the end of the village. In a further 100m turn left off the road onto the footpath opposite Mill Lane.
- Do not cross the river on the road bridge but keep ahead on Darenth Way, passing the War Memorial? on the riverbank. Pass to the left of Water House? and follow the tree-lined riverside path.
- After passing a few properties the vineyard is visible off to the right, beyond an orchard. At the far end cross the river on a footbridge and follow the path alongside the garden fence for Mill House.
- After passing its entrance leave the DVP (a footpath off to the right) and go up Mill Lane to its T-junction with the High Street. Cross the road carefully onto the footpath opposite.
- Follow the enclosed footpath alongside the main road. In 100m go through a metal kissing gate and turn right to follow a line of wooden posts curving round the edge of a large field, climbing steadily. At the top go through another kissing gate 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 do not want to visit any of the other refreshment places in the village you can take the more attractive riverside route in [?].
If you are doing the first short cut (omitting Polhill Bank), go to §H.
- 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, ignoring two footpaths off to the right and one down to the left.
- The main track can become very muddy but there are parallel side paths which you could take for the next 600m. At the end of the wood rejoin the main track to go along the top of an open area, though with a hedge blocking the view across the Darent valley. At the end of the hedge keep ahead on a broad track into Pilots Wood.
Follow this track for 700m (or side paths to avoid the mud, as before), gradually getting closer to the M25 which you can hear away to your right. The various routes converge to run alongside a high wire fence on the right. After going down a short slope a bridleway off to the right leads onto a high footbridge.
- This is not the onward route, but a short detour would finally let you see the motorway, in a deep cutting.
- Continue past the bridge on a footpath, which in 75m swings left and goes downhill through the trees. In 100m go through a wooden kissing gate onto the top of a steeply-sloping patch of grassland, Polhill Bank?, where you can finally pause to admire a fine view across the Darent valley.
If you are doing the second short cut (omitting Water Lane), go to §G.
- 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.
- Bear left to follow 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. This meanders along the bottom edge of the wood, passing a picnic table at a left-hand bend.
- After a right-hand bend the path straightens out to head N, climbing gently with a field behind the fence on your right. Where the main path bears slightly left away from the fence and before it starts to climb more steeply, veer right onto a narrow path to stay alongside the fence. Follow this side path 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 §I.
- Take the footpath heading south-east, steeply 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 a fenced path, underneath power lines and heading SE.
At the far end go through a metal kissing gate and down a few steps, taking great care as this comes out directly onto a narrow winding lane with limited visibility for drivers. Cross Filston Lane carefully onto the continuation of the footpath, passing several enclosures and the buildings of Sepham Farm off to the right. At the far end turn right onto a broad grassy track between fences.
The remainder of the walk follows the Walk 1–23 route, in reverse.
- In 100m turn left onto another broad grassy track, 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 Manor? and across several branches of the River Darent, rejoining the Main Walk where it becomes Otford's High Street.
Complete the directions at §J.
- 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 reach a small enclosure on the left with benches to enjoy the view and an information panel about the Shoreham Cross? on the hillside below.
- 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 Walk 1–43 route.
- 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 through a pair of kissing gates by the entrance to Lower Barn Farm to continue in the same direction alongside a fence. After another gate 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? on your right. Towards the end of the High Street you reach three of the village's refreshment places: The Bull pub and then a couple of tearooms: The Olive Tree at the back of the Hospices of Hope charity shop, opposite Sally's Cake Emporium.
The other places are on the left of the large roundabout encircling the village pond? at the end of the High Street, the Pond View Café and The Woodman pub. Make your way to the far side where there are two footpath signs, with the left-hand path leading to the parish church of St Bartholomew? (if you want to visit the church, use the set of modern doors on its north side).
- A short out-and-back detour along the right-hand path would take you to the ruins of Otford Palace?.
To complete the walk, take the left-hand path past the south side of the church and head E through the churchyard, with a high brick wall on your left. At the far end go through a wooden gate and follow the enclosed path to the station car park. Platform 1 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 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 dates from Norman times and 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 Mount Vineyard was planted in 2004 and produced its first harvest in 2008. Eight grape varieties are now grown on the 10 acre site, producing award-winning red, white, rosé and sparkling wines.
- 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 is associated with Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), one of the group of artists influenced by William Blake who called themselves The Ancients. He lived in the village from 1826 to 1835, for some of the time with his father (also called Samuel) who had rented Water House.
- 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 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 1920, to commemorate those who lost their lives in World War Ⅰ.
- Pickmoss resembles a genuine medieval hall house but it is actually the result of an extensive refurbishment in the 1950s. A small Elizabethan house and a pair of unrelated cottages were amalgamated and a typical Elizabethan frontage added to give the appearance of a single large property.
- 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.
- St Bartholomew, Otford dates from the 11thC; construction 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.
- 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.
» Last updated: October 16, 2023