Romney Street, Shoreham and the Darent Valley
12.0km (7.5 miles), 3 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 7 hours 30 minutes.
5 out of 10.
Explorer 147 or Landranger 188. Otford, map reference TQ 532 593, is in Kent, 4km north of Sevenoaks.
This would make a good, brisk, shortish autumn or winter walk, with a late start possible. The route at the outset is steeply uphill, for a time following the North Downs Way, with views back over Otford and the valley, then going through Greenhill Wood, with a glimpse of Oak Hall, before heading north to Romney Street.
In the afternoon, Shoreham village is worth visiting, with its four pubs and twelfth-century church (the station building houses the Shoreham Countryside Centre, run by volunteers and open on some weekend afternoons).
The route onwards is the Darent Valley Path into Otford, which offers a tearoom, a palace (in ruins), a church and many ancient buildings. It also contains 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.
You can cut 0.8km off the end of the walk by following the short cut at [*] in the Walk Directions. This alternative route has the advantage of going close to the centre of the Otford Solar System (see above). It is also possible to get a train back to London from Shoreham.
Shoreham is the remote village which the painter Samuel Palmer chose as a refuge from London's pollution. 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.
Otford goes back to the sixth century when the Anglo-Saxons called their settlement Ottanford ('Otta's ford'). Offa and Canute fought battles here. The village pond, where the duckhouse is Britain's smallest listed building, was the main source of water for local people until the early twentieth century.
The Bull pub in Otford has magnificent fireplaces, brought there from the ruined Otford Palace. Opposite the Bull is the Arts and Crafts-style Church Hall, designed by Edwin Lutyens who waived his fee, as it was commissioned by his brother William who was then vicar of Otford.
Otford Palace once occupied four acres, but it fell into decay after Archbishop Cranmer was forced to surrender it to Henry VIII in 1537. A few fragments remain and are on open view.
Construction of St Bartholomew's Church, Otford, began in 1060, with the tower being added in around 1185. The church contains large marble memorials to Charles and David Polhill, great-grandsons of Oliver Cromwell.
Take the train nearest to 10.45am from Victoria Station to Otford. Journey time 35 minutes. Fast trains back to Victoria are half-hourly (hourly on Sundays); there are also half-hourly slow trains where you may be able to change at Bromley South for a faster service.
If driving, Otford Station car park costs £3.50 (cheaper at weekends). Alternatively, there is a free public car park in the village, opposite the Bull pub.
As of early 2015, the lunch pub in Romney Street has closed. The map and GPS file has an option to visit the Rising Sun in Cotman's Ash - a delightfully old fashioned pub. No food, but you are welcome to eat your own sandwiches if you buy a drink. Its earlier in the walk, about 1/4 of the way around. Visiting it adds about 1 mile to the walk. Sorry, the walk directions haven't been written yet!
The other option is 3/4 of the way around the walk, in Shoreham, where there are several pubs - after passing Shoreham station, go straight on along the lane for 300m to the village centre, instead of turning left.
The suggested tea place is the Hospices of Hope tearoom (tel 01959 524 322), 11a High Street, Otford. This is a charity shop whose profits are used to support hospices in Romania and surrounding countries. Last orders are at 3.45pm Monday to Friday (4.15pm during British Summer Time), and at 4.45pm Saturday all year round. It is closed on Sunday.
A good alternative is the Willow Tea Rooms (tel 01959 522 150) at 6 High Street, overlooking the village pond.
Stronger fare is available at three pubs close together in Otford High Street: the historic Bull (tel 01959 523 198) is run by Chef & Brewer; the others are the Crown (tel 01959 522 847) and the Woodman (tel 01959 522 195).
Lunch pub closed - the online version has a diversion to a no-food alternative.
 No major route changes. [Older Editions] Many changes, use the online version.
Use the online version of the walk, if you have an old (pre 2011) edition of the book.
Help us! After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
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.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  From the middle of platform 2 at Otford Station, exit up steps with blue-painted metal handrails, then bear right on to a tarmac lane heading east away from the station. In 40 metres turn left past a metal fieldgate on an unasphalted public footpath, soon passing a Chalk Pit sign on your right-hand side. Veer left when you reach an open area and in 40 metres go up steps to pass through a wooden kissing gate on to a road.
- Turn right on the road for 10 metres, then go left uphill on a signposted footpath, the North Downs Way, your direction 40°. The path soon climbs more steeply uphill and eventually comes to a bench, with views back down to Otford and the Darent valley.
- Carry on up the path. Near the top, where it levels out, go through a wooden kissing gate and follow the right-hand edge of the large open common. In 300 metres you pass a chest-high Ordnance Survey Marker 100 metres away on your left-hand side, and in another 100 metres you go through a gate . Turn right downhill on a tarmac road signposted Otford and Kemsing, leaving the North Downs Way.
- In 100 metres you go left over a stile with a public footpath sign (a metal fieldgate to its left-hand side), your direction 75°, past Row Dow mini-reservoir on your left, and parallel to the vale below. Keep to the main path. In 650 metres go through a wooden barrier and across a track to carry straight on through another wooden barrier, past a Kent Wildlife Trust panel for Kemsing Down.
- The path curves round to the right and then back left, with another path merging from the right. 100 metres from this path junction, continue past a large dead tree trunk and ignore a path to the right going downhill. In a further 125 metres, turn right downhill at a path crossing, rejoining the North Downs Way. In 25 metres go through a wooden kissing gate just below a wooden bench.
- Turn left along the hillside, your direction 70°, keeping to the main path. In 125 metres go through a metal kissing gate, leaving Kemsing Down.
- In another 200 metres, bear left uphill at a fork, following the North Downs Way sign, in 100 metres re-entering the wood. In a further 15 metres, turn left at a main path crossing, leaving the North Downs Way to head north uphill. Keep straight on over a drive with the courtyard and wooden part of Oak Hall on your left. In 40 metres go over another drive and, after another 40 metres, go over a stile into the corner of a large field .
- Turn left to go along the left-hand field edge to the next corner, 200 metres away. (On the OS map the right of way is shown as going into the field, then turning left at a path crossing to go diagonally across the field to the corner. But the path along the edge of the field is widely used and there seems no reason not to use it.)
- Leave the field over a stile, to the right of a fieldgate. In 80 metres this path ends and you cross a stile on your left on to a tarmac lane which is the driveway leading to Oak Hall. Turn right here, resuming your westerly direction.
- Out past the drive's entrance columns, and past Thatched Cottage on your right-hand side, the road curves to the right and you continue along it, now heading due north. In 60 metres ignore the North Downs Way signposted off to the left and continue along the road, past Shorehill Farm, Shorehill Cottage and then derelict farm buildings on the right, with a large modern house and barn at the bottom of a field on the left.
- You come to a road T-junction and turn left downhill, past Primrose Cottage on your right-hand side. 70 metres from the junction,  turn right on to a signposted public footpath, heading north. 350 metres down through the wood, cross a stile into a field and continue in the same direction, soon going uphill.
- Exit the field by a stile (with two metal fieldgates on its left-hand side) and carry straight on, with the field fence and wood on your left-hand side. Then go down across a field to the right of a house shielded by a wooden fence and trees, still heading northwards. Exit by a stile (with a fieldgate to its left-hand side) out on to a tarmac road.
-  Turn left downhill on the road. In 20 metres turn right over a stile to go uphill on a signposted public footpath, heading northwards. In 30 metres go over another stile and straight on along the edge of a field.
- In 100 metres go over a stile into another field. Continue northwards with a wood on your right-hand side (or, if the field is churned up and very muddy, you could look for a path just inside the wood). Exit the field by a stile (a metal fieldgate to its right-hand side) and then fork right off the main track, through a metal gate, following a blue bridleway arrow, still heading northwards.
- [!] In 60 metres  you cross a stile on your right, at a gap in the hedge. Then go half-left over the field towards two white buildings, on a path that is a short cut to the pub, the Fox & Hounds in Romney Street, the suggested lunchtime stop.
- Coming out of the pub, turn right and cross a stile to the left of the Romney Street Farm entrance on to a potentially muddy path between fences, signposted as a public bridleway. In 100 metres the bridleway turns off to the left, but you continue ahead on a footpath.
- In 60 metres go over a stile and ignore a yellow arrow pointing to the right. Just behind the boundary hedge to your right is a large field used as a private landing strip, where you can occasionally see light aircraft taking off or landing. You are now away from the last building and carry straight on downhill, your direction initially 300°, with Canary Wharf visible in the distance. Keep to the right of a small island of trees in a crater in the middle of the field.
- Exit the field by a stile, go across a car-wide track, and continue over another stile and steeply downhill towards a golf course.
- At the bottom of the field go over a stile and continue across the golfcourse through a tunnel of overarching trees, then steeply uphill to cross a stile and enter a wood.
- Exit the wood through a gap in the fence and turn half-left on a path across the corner of a large field, your direction 240°. In 80 metres continue across another field on a wide path.
- At the end of the field, another farm track merges from the left and you turn half-right to join it, going downhill. Keep on this farm track as it goes uphill into Dunstall Farm . Go more or less straight on through the farmyard, following a yellow arrow to veer to the right of the far barn, then continue across a field, your direction 260°.
- On the far side go down into the wood, in 50 metres crossing a path to carry on down a long flight of earth steps. 350 metres from the end of the steps, your path merges with a bridleway and you carry on downwards, slightly to the right.
- In 200 metres, you come to a road junction with the A225. Cross this main road carefully and head west on Station Road, signposted Golf Course and Shoreham Village (or you could detour along the station’s access road to visit the Countryside Centre, later going down steps to join Station Road). 100 metres after going under the railway bridge, ignore the main entrance left into Darent Valley golfcourse. But in a further 70 metres , your onward route is to turn left to head south on a footpath signposted Darent Valley Path.
- However, a detour to visit Shoreham village is recommended : staying on the car road brings you, in 200 metres or so, to the Church of St Peter and St Paul and to Ye Olde George Inne, and beyond that to the River Darent. Either return the same way, or take a 1.5km clockwise circuit of the village: cross the bridge and go along Church Street, High Street and Mill Lane to come back alongside the river; this route will take you past three more pubs and a tearoom, the Honeypot.
- Coming back to the main route, the Darent Valley Path: this leads through the golf course on an enclosed path. After 370 metres, take care when crossing an open fairway. 40 metres beyond the fairway, go through a metal kissing gate and onwards, now with a cricket pitch and a pavilion on your right-hand side, to follow a path between fences, still heading south. 100 metres along this enclosed path, you come to a major path junction.
- [*] For a shorter route back to Otford, you can continue ahead at this point. In 1.5km this path comes out directly opposite the Hospices of Hope tearoom, but 300 metres before this, opposite farm buildings, you can cross a stile on your right into the Recreation Ground. The centre of the Otford Solar System is in front of you, with an information panel 50 metres away by the hedge on your right.
- For the main route, however, turn sharp right to head north-west on a tarmac lane, still following the signposted Darent Valley Path. In 250 metres, by a crossing of many paths, turn left through wooden barriers, following the Darent Valley Path, signposted 'Footpath to Otford', your direction 200°. Continue on an enclosed path through a narrow strip of woodland with glimpses of the golfcourse on either side.
- Carry straight on, following the Darent Valley Path signs. Once you are past the golfcourse, cross a stile into a field and continue along its left-hand edge, with the distant hum of M25 traffic across the valley to the right. Exit the field across a stile and ignore a public footpath sign off to the left, continuing ahead over another stile  to carry on towards Otford, now visible in the distance, your direction 150°.
- In 230 metres go over a stile to continue on with the clear waters of the River Darent now on your right-hand side, later bearing left with the river's fork by a house on the far bank with unusual round brick chimneys. Go through a wooden swing gate to pass between gardens and houses to the main road and turn left towards the village pond and station.
- You soon pass Pickmoss, a medieval half-timbered yeoman's house, on your right-hand side. Immediately next door is the old Baptist Chapel (at which Samuel Palmer's father was minister); and, a bit further on, the (partly sixteenth-century) Bull pub. Beyond this, also on your right and opposite a footpath signposted to Shoreham, you come to the Hospices of Hope tearoom, the suggested tea place.
- Further along the High Street, overlooking the village pond, you come to the Willow Tea Rooms and the Crown and Woodman pubs. Head towards the Church of St Bartholomew on the far side of the pond (where a short detour to the right of the church would take you to the gatehouse and north-west tower, virtually all that remains of Otford Palace).
- To get to the station without going along the main road, take the tarmac path leading to a wooden gate in front of the church (to look inside, use the new entrance on its north side). Continue along the path on the south side of the church, with the churchyard to your right and later a brick wall to your left, and so through a wooden gate. You continue eastwards, in a further 250 metres reaching the car park of Otford Station. The station's near platform is for London trains.