A short walk packed with variety and fine views, bluebell woods in season, a pretty village and a short train journey
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.
Being short in length, this walk makes a good, brisk, autumn or winter walk, although the walk is also delightful in bluebell season as the route passes through lots of bluebell woods during the morning. 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 - for your late lunch option - and twelfth-century church.
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. The detour to the pub in Cotman's Ash adds just over a mile to the walk length.
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.
If deferring lunch until Shoreham, take the train nearest to 10 am 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. Directions are given at the end of the main directions to visit the Rising Sun in Cotman's Ash tel 01958-522683, a quirky, time warp of a pub. The current landlady does not serve food but she permits walkers to eat their sandwiches on the premises provided that they purchase a drink. The detour to this pub adds just over 1 mile to the walk.
With the closure of the Romney Street pub and the dubious merit in detouring to Cotman's Ash, your suggested lunch stop is now 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 pubs as you come to them in the village are Ye Olde George Inne tel 01959-522017 and The King's Arms tel 01959-523100.
Wine buffs and lovers of English sparking wine might like to visit The Mount Vineyard tel 01959-524008, on Church Street, in the centre of Shoreham village - between Ye Olde George Inne and the King's Arms pubs. This vineyard has in recent years won awards for its wine tasting experience. Open from 12 noon to 6 pm Thursdays to Sundays and on Bank Holiday Mondays, you can sample the vineyards wines whilst dining from their menu of sharing boards of cheese and charcuterie, stone baked pizzas and lite bites. Contact the vineyard if you wish to book a wine tasting tour (from £ 35 a head).
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 in Romney Street closed - directions to a no-food alternative now provided. This update April 2017.
 No major route changes. [Older Editions] Many changes, use the online version.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 1. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
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 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, with woodland to your left. In 40 metres turn left past a metal fieldgate on an unasphalted public footpath, through the woods, soon passing a Chalk Pit sign on your right-hand side. Veer left when you reach an open, grassy 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, initially a car-wide drive, to the left of a gravel drive, your direction 40°. In 85 metres the drive ends and narrows to an earth and gravel path, which soon climbs more steeply uphill. Continue ahead, initially between garden fences, crossing over access drives and go up flights of steps, through light woodland, eventually coming to a bench on your left-hand side, 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, grassy common, gently uphill. 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 wooden kissing gate to come out at a triangular road junction . Here turn right downhill on a tarmac road signposted Otford and Kemsing, leaving the North Downs Way.
- In 100 metres you go left up four earthen steps with a public footpath sign (a metal fieldgate to your left), your direction 75°, past Row Dow mini-reservoir on your left, and parallel to the vale below. Keep to the main path as it winds and undulates through woods. 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.
- In 40 metres the path curves round to the right, goes downhill and then turns back left, with another path merging from the right. 100 metres from this path junction, continue past a large dead tree trunk on your right and by a bench seat on your left ignore a path to the right going steeply downhill. In a further 125 metres, turn right downhill at a path crossing, go down earthen steps 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 90 metres going through a wooden kissing gate to re-enter the wood. In a further 15 metres, you come to a main path crossing. The detour to the Rising Sun pub in Cotman's Ash starts here . The directions are at the end of these main directions. The main route continues as follows: at the path crossing turn left, 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. The Rising Sun detour re-joins here . [3A]. Turn right onto this lane, to resume your westerly direction.
- Head out past the drive's entrance columns, swing right with the lane as it joins a minor road (Shorehill lane) where you turn right, in 60 metres passing Thatched Cottage on your right-hand side, as you head due north. 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 (Shorehill Bungalow) 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, on a path with an uneven, stony footbed, 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, uphill, 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 to go uphill on a signposted public footpath, heading northwards. In 30 metres go over a stile and keep 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). In 250 metres 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 swing gate, following a blue bridleway arrow, still heading northwards.
- In 60 metres  you ignore the stile and path on your right (the route to the former - closed - lunch pub in Romney Street) and instead keep straight on along the enclosed bridleway.
- In 150 metres the bridleway comes to a path T-junction with a wall ahead. Here turn left onto the path.
- 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 past a broken stile and head steeply downhill along the right-hand edge of a field towards a disused part of a golf course.
- At the bottom of the steep slope go past another stile and continue across the disused golf links through a tunnel of overarching trees, then head steeply uphill over a grassy bank to cross a stile and enter a wood.
- Head uphill on a winding path through the wood and in 100 metres exit it through a gap in the fence ahead and turn half-left on a path across the corner of a large field, your direction 240°. In 80 metres pass through a field boundary to 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 left on a clear path 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 four earth steps and then in a few more metres a very long flight of earthen steps. 350 metres from the end of the steps, your path merges with a bridleway coming in from the left, where your way swings right to carry on downwards.
- 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. In 60 metres you go under a railway bridge, and in a further 100 metres you 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, particularly if you wish to have lunch in one of the village's pubs, or if you intend on visiting the Mount Vineyard. Staying on the car road brings you, in 200 metres, to the Church of St Peter and St Paul on your right-hand side, and opposite, at a left-hand bend in the road, Ye Olde George Inne , one of your lunch options. Before the road swings to the right in a further 80 metres to cross a road bridge over the River Darent , you come to a bungalow on your right-hand side with a long access road leading to the Mount Vineyard . 70 metres beyond the bridge you come to the King's Arms pub on your left-hand side, another suggested lunch option. After lunch at one of these two pubs, retrace your steps to point  in the directions.
- 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. On its far side you enter an enclosed path and in 60 metres you 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, through light woodland. 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 to follow the Darent Valley Path, by a ground level concrete sign 'Footpath to Otford', your direction 200°. Continue on the 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, go through a metal kissing gate to exit the wood to come out into a large, open field, to continue along its left-hand edge, with the distant hum of M25 traffic across the valley to the right. In 350 metres you exit the field through a metal kissing gate, cross a minor road, go through another metal kissing gate  and head down a path between fields, with a mesh fence on your right-hand side, heading towards Otford, now visible in the distance, your direction 150°.
- In 230 metres go through a metal kissing gate to continue ahead 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 alotments on your left, then you pass between gardens and houses, coming out onto a surfaced drive which leads out to the main road, where you 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.
Detour to the Rising Sun
- Before setting out on this detour do 'phone ahead to check if the pub is open.
- At the main path crossing in the main directions, do not turn left, per the main walk directions, but instead keep ahead , going down, then up steps, over the path crossing, to stay on the North Downs Way, your direction 125°.Now bear left through a metal kissing gate and go up a flight of earthen steps. In 60 metres you come out into the open, with fine views to your right, and the brick walls to Oak Hall over to your left.
- In 150 metres at a footpath sign turn left and in 25 metres go through a metal kissing gate. Keep ahead over the field and in 90 metres go through another metal kissing gate and then in 20 metres a pair of metal swing gates, where you turn right, to follow NDW arrows on a path between low wire mesh fences, your direction 60°.
- In 100 metres go through a wooden kissing gate to the left of a metal fieldgate and keep ahead along the right-hand edge of an open field. In a further 105 metres go through a metal swing gate and keep ahead. In 150 metres in the corner of the next field go through a metal kissing gate to enter light woodland. In 100 metres ignore a path to the right and in a further 45 metres go through a wooden kissing gate, where you turn left along the left-hand edge of an open field, gently uphill.
- In 100 metres go through a wooden kissing gate and keep ahead along a broad, enclosed path. In 120 metres go past a redundant stile and keep ahead, now with a tall hedge to your right. In 60 metres go over a stile and in 15 metres come out onto a minor road, with the Rising Sun pub, Cotman's Ash, directly opposite.
- Coming out of the pub, turn right on the minor road, your direction west, and in 50 metres turn left onto a signposted, narrow footpath, your direction 235°. In 100 metres go through a metal kissing gate and keep ahead along the left-hand edge of an open field. In a further 90 metres go through a metal kissing gate and now keep ahead between fields, following a fenceline on your right-hand side.
- In 90 metres go through a metal kissing gate to enter woodland (Fabs Wood on the OS sheet). In 160 metres exit the wood through a metal swing gate to the left of a metal fieldgate and bear half-left to cross an open field, your direction 210°. In 200 metres pass through a field boundary and follow the direction of a footpath sign, slightly right, over the next open field, your bearing now 240°.
- In 220 meters at the far end of the field, cross a stile to the right of a metal fieldgate and keep ahead, with a surfaced drive over to your left. In 80 metres bear left over a stile onto the surfaced drive, where you turn right to re-join the main walk directions at point [3A].