It wasn’t until early April that we managed to resume the North Downs Way.
The Guide had suggested that the previous leg, starting in Oxted, should conclude in Otford. But we had fallen slightly short, finishing instead at Dunton Green.
It now proposed that the subsequent stage should stretch all the way from Otford to Cuxton, a distance of some 15 miles. And that before we’d factored in the extra distance from Dunton Green to Otford, as well as the additional mileage between each station and the North Downs Way itself.
So we decided instead to go from Dunton Green to Wrotham, a distance of some eight miles which, with the addition of the journeys from one station and back to the other, would take us over ten miles.
That would mean our subsequent walk would be Wrotham to Cuxton which, with stations added, comes in at around eleven miles.
So we travelled out to Dunton Green from Waterloo East, on a direct service that deposited us at 10:24. The weather was fairly good – dry with sunny intervals and not too cold.
Returning to the Rose and Crown, on the edge of Dunton Green, we found ourselves on a section of the NDW shared by the Darent Valley Path, which stretches from Dartford to Sevenoaks, with a second arm (this one) heading further east through Otford.
We passed the Donnington Manor Hotel, which claims a history dating back to the Fifteenth Century, including a period of ownership by the Krays. A large modern extension was added to the existing manor house in 1976.
I’m not too sure why there’s an elephant in the front garden.
The route passes through fields behind the Hotel, until it crosses the railway line, then heads through Twitton before picking up the Pilgrim’s Way West and following it through the centre of Otford.
Here we encountered pillars marking Neptune and Uranus, part of Otford Parish Council’s millennium project, which illustrates the relative position of the planets in the solar system as they were on 1 January 2000. The plaques on the pillars claim this is:
‘…the Earth’s largest SOLAR SYSTEM SCALE MODEL (1:5 BILLION)’.
The route runs along Otford High Street, which accommodates several fine period properties. A little further on there is Otford Palace, once owned by successive Archbishops of Canterbury, until Henry VIII took it from Thomas Cranmer.
We dropped in to admire St Bartholomew’s Church, parts of which are Eleventh Century.
Beyond Otford the route continues more or less in a straight line, but up what the Guide calls ‘a long, steady ascent’ to Otford Mount.
There are the remains of a Bronze Age barrow up here; also a welcome bench, kindly vacated by its incumbents so we could use it for our coffee break.
Afterwards the path flirts with sections of woodland, including the delightfully-named Rowdow Wood, before encountering Kemsing Down Nature Reserve and then Otford Manor, which is now owned by a religious holiday company, Oak Hall.
We resisted the signpost to the Rising Sun pub at Cotman’s Ash, and continued until we found another bench with a splendid view, looking down over the Pilgrim’s Way and the village of Heaverham beyond it. This was our lunch spot.
We had begun to see several ‘clues’ relating to an Easter Trail, presumably the work of the Oak Hall crowd.
Not too long after lunch, we passed another sign for Kemsing Down and then entered a more wooded area with a bewilderment of religious signage and a downed tree.
This unique combination clearly bewildered Jacqui, who took a tumble, just before reaching the tree and half a paving stone that proclaimed:
‘PEACE IN HEAVEN AND GLORY IN THE HIGHEST’
She made me promise not to include the full photograph in this post!
Shortly afterwards we entered Summeryards Wood, which is full of a different kind of signage.
There are several references to ‘White Run’, which may or may not be some kind of racist…race – who knows?
A short while later, we passed a North Downs Way milestone, next to a sign for the St Clere Estate. It asserted that we had come 60 miles from Farnham, but weren’t quite half way to Dover.
Descending to Old Terry’s Lodge Road, we again rejoined the Pilgrims’ Way, which took us to Wrotham, and the M20.
We stopped for a while on a final bench, opposite a playing field, before completing the 1.4 miles to Borough Green Station, on the other side of the M26.
All the cafes had closed at four so there was no cake, sadly.
From here we caught a train into London Victoria, its arrival unfortunately coinciding with that of hoards of Millwall fans.
It was with some difficulty that we found our way on to an outgoing Clapham Junction train, where we would change for our respective services home.
During this walk, Jacqui and I reached a compromise in our longstanding debate on the vexed question of trans rights. I’ve been using the argument to distract her while we climb the steep bits. I’ll need to find an alternative now.