Greensand Way 7 : Yalding to Sevenoaks walk
Kent Orchards, then follows the Greensand Way to Igtham Mote (NT), One Tree Hill, Knole House and deer park (NT)
21.2 km (13.2 miles)
4 out of 10. Undulating throughout, with mainly gentle hill climbs.
Landranger 188, Explorer 147 & 148
This walk follows the Greensand Way all the way from Yalding to Sevenoaks. The route is fairly well waymarked, and so you may find that for whole sections you can dispense with these directions altogether. Note that some signposts can get overgrown by vegetation in summer, however, and at whatever time of year, the waymarking disappears for crucial sections.
In late April and early May the walk passes a series of bluebell woods, and also a couple of commercial apple orchards near Hill Hoath which blossom around the same time. Otherwise for the first half of the walk you follow the Greensand Way across undulating Kent farmland. There are no less than three lunch pubs on this section.
Later the way becomes hillier and the Greensand Way climbs up to the lovely moated manor house of Ightham Mote (pronounced “Eye-tam”), a National Trust property whose tea room can be accessed without paying the entrance fee. From there you embark on a particularly lovely section of the Greensand Way, which climbs slowly up the escarpment. The final stretch is across the grounds of Knole House, another fine National Trust property with a tea room.
Greensand, incidentally, is a type of sandstone, that runs in a ridge south of the North Downs and north of the Weald. Some of the greensand rocks actually do have a greenish tinge, though others are a more predictable brownish red. The soil produced is particularly suitable for growing fruit, which is why this part of Kent was a traditional area for growing apples and hops (for making beer), though none of the latter are in evidence now.
Yalding is on the Medway Valley line. Trains for this branch now start from Tonbridge, which is reached by trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge. That being said, it can actually be easier to change at Paddock Wood (next stop on the line from Tonbridge to Ashford), as the Yalding train leaves from the same platform as the London-originating trains there, whereas at Tonbridge you have to cross the footbridge. (This option is not shown in the online timetable, however: it usually involves taking a train five minutes earlier from Charing Cross). Since the outward route passes through Sevenoaks, a day return to Yalding covers your return journey too.
Get the first train after 9am from Charing Cross if you want to get to the Kentish Rifleman in time for lunch. If lunching at the Swan, a train an hour later would be fine, though you would then have most of the walk (15.5km or 9.6 miles) to do after lunch: there are plenty of further refreshment stops en route to sustain you, however.
A fairly regular bus - the 222 - leaves outside The Chaser Inn on Monday to Fridays (eight departures) and Saturday (five departures). There is no service on Sunday or bank holidays. The buses run to Tonbridge station in one direction and in the other to Borough Green station, which is on the Maidstone to Victoria line.
There are three excellent pubs in the central section of this walk, with the last of them conveniently serving food all afternoon.
The Swan in West Peckham (01622 812 271), www.swan-on-the-green.co.uk, 5.7km (3.5 miles) into the walk, is festooned with plaudits from good pub guides, Les Routiers and even the Michelin guide; it also brews its own beer. That means it can get booked up for lunch, but on sunny days it seems happy to serve food at outside tables, or to customers sitting on the village green. Food is served from 12pm to 2pm, but it is open for drinks later: till 3pm Monday to Friday, 4pm Saturday and 5pm Sunday.
The Kentish Rifleman in Dunks Green (01732 810 727), 9.9km (6.1 miles) into the walk is a charming and characterful old pub with a menu of simple favourites given a new twist. Restored after a March 2007 fire, it has both cosy inside rooms and a pleasant garden (see www.thekentishrifleman.co.uk which has photos). It serves food from 12pm to 2.30pm Monday to Saturday and to 4pm on Sunday, but the bar is open all afternoon at weekends.
Should either of the above options fail you, it is only 2.1km (1.3 miles) further on from the Kentish Rifleman to the Chaser Inn in Shipbourne (01732 810 360) www.thechaser.co.uk, (which is thus 12km/7.5 miles from the start of the walk). This is also a very pleasant option for lunch - a large and elegant pub which has the advantage on sunny but cold days of having a covered internal courtyard, as well as some outside tables overlooking the church. The menu is inventive too, and - best of all for our purposes - it serves food all afternoon, every day, until 9.30 pm Monday to Saturday and 9pm on Sundays. It might also make a good tea stop, but it is worth noting that Ightham Mote and its National Trust tea room (see below) is only 1.5km (0.9 mile) further on at this point.
Though is is too close to The Chaser Inn (and maybe even The Kentish Rifleman), the self-service restaurant at the National Trust-run Ightham Mote (13.5km/8.4 miles into the walk) is a wonderful place to stop for tea, not just for its nice cakes, but because you then will not have to rush the next section of the walk, which is worth lingering over. The restaurant is open daily till 5pm (4pm from November to early February).
Otherwise, it is 5.6km (3.5 miles) further on from Ightham Mote to the Brewhouse Cafe, the National Trust tea room at Knole House, which is thus 19.1km (11.9 miles) into the walk. It is open till 5pm daily (4pm from November to early February).
Later options in Sevenoaks include the Malabar cafe, open till 6pm daily, and a Caffe Nero on the main street open till 6.30pm Monday to Saturday (5.30pm on Sunday). The Chequers is one of several Sevenoaks pubs.
This walk is one of 11 stages of the Greensand Way - a regional long distance path in the Southeast of England
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk