Eynsford Circular via Shoreham
Tales & Topography in the Beautiful Darenth Valley
This route follows the lovely Darenth Valley on its western slopes and returns along the valley bottom. A landscape of hills, open views and a riverine return with a choice of picnic, pub or vineyard for the lunch stop.
Featuring ancient oaks and fragrant fields of lavender, thyme and marjoram; a grand Victorian viaduct; a lonesome tree, now reposing in happy isolation with its gorgeous eyeline along the Darenth Valley; a mysterious memorial stone; sad war time tales; a beautiful and distinctive Church; a castle, grand gardens and a roman villa.
Moderate / 7 out of 10
Choice of finish:
9.1 miles / 14.8 kilometres
8.6 miles / 13.9 kilometres
8.2 miles / 13.3 kilometres
OS Explorer Map 147
How to get here
Eat and drink
The first half is rolling with some moderate ascents and descents. The second half is a return along the flat river valley.
Note: The paths are generally very sound throughout but after exceptionally wet weather the river path just beyond Shoreham can be passable but muddy.
Trains to Eynsford leave from Victoria, Charing Cross and Blackfriars approximately twice an hour and take about 56 minutes. Some are direct, some require one brief change.
Check the train route, if you are buying beforehand; use your Oyster card to the edge of the London zones, Bromley South or Swanley are both good options, and then purchase a much cheaper advance ticket from there.
See Travel Section in Tips and Resources for ways of using your Oyster/Travel Card to Zone 8 to get very cheap fares.
There are no toilet facilities at Eynsford Station.
You will find loos at Lullingstone Villa and Castle if you are visiting either of those.
Other than pubs and cafes in the villages, you will also find a basic cafe/WC by the river at Step 31.
Recommended lunch stop is The Mount Vineyard in the heart of Shoreham village. Booking currently essential; open most weekends and some weekdays. Best to check and book before arriving. Serves pizzas and pasta, produces its own pricey but good quality wine and a few interesting beers. In the summer the garden and terrace are open. Dog friendly.
There are also currently three basic village pubs with standard ‘pub food’, but all serve Kentish beer and reasonable wine.
Recommended picnic alternative: on the valley side directly above Shoreham by the famous white cross (#20)… big skies and Kentish scenery.
Eynsford & The Darenth
Bear with the five minute walk from the station along a busy road and you are rewarded with, what feels to me, a portal into another world: an old stonebridge fording a lively chalk stream with, further along the lane, bucolic river meadow on the left and a gentle ascent to the glorious views of the Darenth Valley rising up on your right. All the while, the railway viaduct, over which you have just trundled, stands majestically over the valley.
The origin of the name Darenth is said to either come from its meaning as ‘clear water’ – its fresh lucidity is still evident – or from the Irish for ‘stream where the oak trees grow.’ The village’s name can be traced back to the 9th century and has been interpreted as ‘Ægen’s river meadow’.
In the 1920s composer Peter Warlock and his friend E.J Moeran lived in in the village and seemed to use their cottage as a base for ‘artistic gatherings’: parties, copious drinking and raucous merrymaking. Warlock’s love of the occult (his real name was Heseltine…) and their shared love of drinking scandalised the village. Warlock liked to ride around on his motorbike, naked; Moeran, affronted by the hymn singing coming from the congregation in the Baptist chapel next door, responded by bellowing out sea shanties. Oh, what fun neighbours they must’ve been…
Cockerhurst Memorial Stone
Cockerhurst Road is the second road that you will encounter having passed the Greenacres house and descended down the steep and impressive views that will lead you on to Shoreham. The road walk is softened by the calming atmosphere of thoughtfully planted mature trees. When you reach the T- junction with Castle Farm Road and bear right, a few metres up the road in the hedge on your right, there is a gap. Ascend into the space beyond to find a mysterious memorial stone dedicated to people known only by their initials and with the inscription, “Behold I will allure her and lead her into the wilderness and there I will speak to her heart”.
I’m sure that you instantly spotted that the quote is from the old Testament, Hosea 2:14. It seems to be about God having a reckoning with Israel. The memorial stone is dedicated to the four people who died when a flight from Heston Airdrome to Paris crashed in this field in 1934. The tragedy happened on a stormy day with heavy cloud; the plane nosedived into the field. No cause for the crash was ever discovered. A mother and her daughter were among the casualties so perhaps the stone was placed by the husband/father? Its meaning remains a mystery.
Another more benign mystery lies a few hundred metres further up the road near the next road junction. As you pass this junction, continuing uphill, keep your eyes peeled looking into the same hedge as the memorial stone and you might discern an ancient milestone hidden amongst the foliage. The inscription is now unreadable; I have been unable to trace any reference to it despite a nagging half-memory that I once saw a drawing of the stone with miles and place names still visible.
The Lonesome Tree
Not much to say about this mysterious tree out on its own, just an excuse for a couple of lovely pictures and an encouragement to stop and join it for a while…
Lullingstone Roman Villa
Constructed around 80 A.D. the villa is one of six along the Darenth Valley and is believed to have been occupied by a wealthy Roman Governor possibly as a country retreat.
English Heritage has done an excellent job of recovering and reimagining the villa as it once was. The large mosaics are particularly impressive. Among a wealth of intriguing finds there is the basement room which seems to have been a shrine for Pagan worship, and then later, perhaps in a wise attempt to cover their spiritual bets, was converted to a Christian chapel – one of the earliest ever in the British Isles.
As said elsewhere, if you neither have time nor energy to visit this Villa you could bookmark it for a future day out from Shoreham or Eynsford incorporating Lullingstone Castle and perhaps lunch at The Plough at Eynsford or The Mount Vineyard, Shoreham…
Lullingstone Castle and World Garden
Now far more house than a castle – the only thing castle-like about Lullingstone is the 16th century Gatehouse. Even this is impressive in its own right, being one of the first brick-built gatehouses in Britain, reminding us that there was a time in our history when brick buildings were considered suspiciously foreign and modernist.
A glimpse of the fine building beyond gives a sense of its grandeur and historical importance. Building began in 1497 and soon drew illustrious visitors including Henry VIII and, over 200 years later, Queen Anne whose bathhouse and icehouse still remain. The house was remodeled and renamed as a castle in the early 1700s by the Hart-Dykes and, having passed through several owners since, it is now, twenty generations later, in the hands of plant hunter Tom Hart-Dyke.
It is Tom who has created the famous world garden filling the 120 acre park with plants and trees from all over the globe. Once the home of a silk farm which created wedding robes for royalty, including Princess Elizabeth and Lady Diana, the house achieved much deserved celebrity status when it hosted the exceptional talents of meerkats Sergei and Aleksandr for a Compare-the-Market ad in 2011.
Bear with the five minute walk from the station along a busy road and you are rewarded with, what feels to me, a portal into another world: an old stonebridge fording a lively chalk stream with bucolic river meadow and glorious views of the Darenth Valley and the majestic viaduct>>
A hidden gem of the Darenth Valley, take time to explore the lovely village of Shoreham with its famous hillside White Cross, beautiful church and many historic connections. Not to mention a tea shop or two, three pubs and a vineyard to make an excellent lunch stop>>
With its impressive 16th century Gatehouse and a fine house of grandeur and historical importance, this is well worth a visit if you have the time and energy. Together with the famous 120 acre world garden bestowed the celebrity connections of the Queen, Diana Princess of Wales and two famous russian meerkats>>
Again, if you can, make time to include a visit to this impressively restored Roman Villa dating back to 80AD and believed to have been occupied by a wealthy Roman Governor, possibly as a country retreat. English Heritage site, so take your card if you have one>>
Start: Eynsford Station
Exit Eynsford station, turn left to meet a busy road after 50 metres. With care, cross the road and head right downhill for about 600 metres. You will need to cross back again to continue on reaching the church on your right. It’s a tedious beginning but pays off when you…
Cross the road again at the junction opposite the church to take the clear left turn over the rather lovely bridge and ford which is your introduction to the River Darenth and its valley. See feature below for more info about Eynsford village, viaduct and the scandalous Peter Warlock.
Follow the road and the river left passing The Plough pub on your right; cottages and a farm ribbon along the road for about 300 metres. Ignore Savepenny Lane to the right.
As you continue on you will have views over flood pasture on your left. Where the buildings on your right end you will see a footpath sign and the start of rising farmland. Take this path up as it rises diagonally across farmland to eventually reach a pedestrian railway crossing point.
Eynsford Viaduct, over which you and your train recently trundled, rises majestically up to your left.
Taking care here with any canine companions, cross the stiles and railway and continue on along the broad, open valley side. Views south along the Darenth Valley into the distance begin to emerge. In summer these fields can be blanketed in poppies and ringing with skylarks. I have seen an eagle flying along the valley, a resident of the Bird of Prey sanctuary on the top of the hill to your right.
Your direction now is generally onwards for a mile or more along the valley side, so continue on this path for a few hundred metres eventually meeting a tall hedge on your right.
Then with the hedge to your right and the views on the left, 200m further along, follow the path to pass right through an obvious gap in the hedge. The path continues diagonally uphill for another hundred metres to emerge near buildings and on a small road (Bird Sanctuary).
Following the footpath sign, cross the road and continue ahead following the clear track along the valley side to meet another tall hedge visible ahead slightly over to your right.
Keeping the hedge on your right, valley view still on the left, continue on for several hundred metres until you reach an obvious line of trees at right angles to your direction. Take the track right slightly uphill (don’t take the path, left downhill, which would take you to the Roman villa, as you will encounter this later on the way back).
After about 50m turn left through the trees to emerge with a continuing view of the valley. Head for the ‘Lonesome Tree’ about 100m or so onward to your right. Take a moment to share in its glorious serenity.
Your path continues on towards a golf course several hundred metres ahead of you.
Follow the path as it gradually descends between shrubs and trees with the golf course on your left and then instantly rises between trees to emerge in an open pasture with hedge and trees close on your right.
Continue directly on to where the pasture joins the trees. As you do so you might reflect on a remark (mis)attributed to Mark Twain describing golf as, “A good walk, spoiled.”
NOTE: there are two paths adjacent to each other, both leading into the trees. Take the left path (the one with the black dot labelled Lullingstone Loop). If you mistakenly head straight into the wood on the right hand path you will simply have to tramp left through the shrubbery to get to the nearby intended path.
So… Passing between wooden barriers, the golf course will now be on your left and as you wander through the remnants of ancient woodland, for the next 10 minutes or so keep your eyes peeled for venerable ancient oaks.
Keeping the golf course immediately on your left continue on for c 400m until you reach a set of wooden barrier posts. The path divides here; at the T-junction, turn left. (Ignore the gap which gives you a view towards the golf course/club house). Continue on left, heading through the woods from which you will emerge after about 200m, ignoring any paths off.
You’re now in the golf course and will take the partly metalled track going right. Note the venerable oak almost immediately on your left. Better still, greet it, close up. There is a handy bench tucked away on the far side of the oak if you want to have a break.
Your path along the hard-surfaced track continues ahead through the golf course veering right after about 250m. As the path straightens, with the broad golf greens and club house on your right, you’ll see ahead of you a dead tree on the left and opposite it a signpost pointing you left and towards trees. Take this left turn.
About 30m as the trees and shrubs begin, another (half hidden) sign will point you on a clear path down through the trees, emerging after about 100m on a golf link, long and narrow crossing your direction. You cross the link to go straight ahead into the trees once more, now briefly and steeply rising upwards.
Care needed crossing here: there may be golfers – don’t laugh at their trousers.
The short steep path will, after about 150m, reach a T-junction of paths still among trees. Your direction is immediately straight ahead towards the metal ladder stile.
Pass through this stile on the narrow path along the side of the house to emerge into open pasture with donkey paddocks soon on your right. Continue ahead on this path for 400m until you reach the hedge at the end and a stile dropping down to a small road.
At the road turn left then after 150m take the signposted turn on your right into the farm ‘Green Acres’.
Follow this track down the side of the house where it narrows tightly to emerge again in open pasture, a tall hedge on your right. Continue straight ahead.
While the view here is limited, keep going for another 600m to reach the hedge across your path at the far end, passed through the stile, where the path now descends to your left giving views across the valley.
This is a good place for a break. In spring and summer wild marjoram and thyme offset the odd thistle. In calibrating your lunch/rest stops you can picnic here, or 20 minutes later above Shoreham; or opt for pub/vineyard lunch in Shoreham itself.
Descend the obvious track between the trees on the left and fenced meadow on your right. After a few hundred metres it emerges onto the road. Turn left heading downhill, noting the lovely avenue of mature trees which are now sheltering you.
After several hundred yards the road gently rises to a T-junction. Turn right uphill. About 15 to 20m on your right, just past the junction and hidden slightly, raised up and through a gap in the hedge lies the mysterious Cockerhurst Memorial Stone. Try to decipher – then indeed interpret – the intriguing inscription to the four victims of an aircrash here in 1934. See Feature below for info and explanation.
Keep climbing up this fairly steep road section – NB a little road sense needed here as there is no footway. Ignore the road downhill on your left after about 20 m (however the eagle eyed among you may spot a small ancient stone signpost buried in the hedge on your right around this point) and continue uphill to reach the grand house and gardens directly ahead of you. Cross the road and take care with your choice of directions here.
Ignore the path heading steeply downhill into trees directly on the left.
To the right of this track you have the options of:
a) Taking the short cut over the stile, into the meadow and down into Shoreham Village, turning right at the bottom of the hill to go into the village, passing The Crown pub (garden in summer) and rejoin the main walking route by the teashop and mini air museum at #22 below; or
b) Following the suggested route below (#20 – 21) which will give you one last short stretch uphill to a final panoramic Kent view directly above the famous chalk White Cross which dominates the hills above Shoreham Village – and picnic spot if needed.
For the longer route b) pass the minimal barred gate just to your right to take the obvious path that runs along the front of the grand house and garden and up along the side of the valley.
The path immediately rises for a few hundred metres then levels out with trees on your right and a hedge on your left behind which emerge intermittent views of the valley.
Continue along this path until, after a few hundred metres, you’ll come to a small obvious gate. This places you at the top of the ‘Shoreham White Cross’. Entering this area you’ll have both views down the valley and a poignant story about the origins of the cross.
Benches and meadow here for picnic in good weather.
Leave the area of the cross through the gate on your right which takes you diagonally downhill through a lovely open meadow. Passing a solitary tree on your left, after about 300m look out for the circular metal gate and a nearby wooden gate in the hedge to your left. Pass through this gate and follow the obvious descent down into the village.
You’ll emerge in the village by a teashop and the air museum.
Options for lunch/refreshment: The Crown pub is a few hundred metres to your left; an alternative teashop is directly across the road. There is also another pub, The Two Brewers also nearby going left which seems to have turned itself into a restaurant and one I haven’t tried because it didn’t seem walker friendly. The other pub is The Kings Arms at point #24. Updates welcome.
See feature below for information about Shoreham’s and its remarkable wartime history.
Our onward route is right. You will immediately arrive at a T-junction where you will turn left. Before you do so look for the old red brick alms houses on the corner of the street on your right with another poignant inscription.
Having turned left heading down towards the river you will pass the Kings Arms pub on your right (note the dodgy looking character in the cubby hole) soon after reaching, and crossing, the River Darent.
To explore the village, reach The Mount Vineyard and its restaurant and to visit the splendid Church of St Peter & St Paul (see feature below), turn right at the river. The Mount vineyard will be a 100m or so on your left. The Old George pub on your right is a little further along and the church straight ahead.
(For the weedy, weary or otherwise indisposed, there is the option of taking the train home from Shoreham station nearby. Best not to mention it, I find).
From the river and bridge: your route is now left, following the river for most (but not all) of the way back to Eynsford.
Note the War Memorial and, soon after, the house of Samuel Palmer the painter (see feature below).
From here on for a mile or two you will be following the course of the river. So, continue on by following the river past an attractive riverside cottage/terrace on your left. Note occasionally the path is interrupted by crossing routes or a small road. Your direction is always to pick up the riverside path.
After several hundred metres you will eventually emerge into open land and the valley on your left. You continue straight on the obvious path ahead (can be very muddy after heavy rain) always following the river’s direction.
After several hundred metres more the path leaves the tree-lined river on your right to head slightly angled left across open farmland towards and through a clear line of poplar trees about 300m ahead of you. Pass between the trees crossing the track and continue on.
Emerging into open farmland, continue on into more open farmland; on your right, further along the obvious path, and in the same direction that you’re walking, you’ll see tall poles indicating that you are passing one of the smallest Hop farms in Kent. Further away, in the early to midsummer the valley sides opposite and to your right provide a purple backdrop of lavender fields.
You will emerge at a small road. Crossing with some care at this bend, you will see almost directly opposite, and the slightly to your left, your path continuing onwards through a small gap in the hedge. The path continues on paralleling the direction of road. Note other lavender fields now on your left.
After a few hundred metres the hedge on your right opens up to reveal Castle Farm Hop Shop on your right across the road – always worth a visit if open.
Continuing on the path you’ll soon meet the road again but your path will continue onwards following the river, passing a café and WC just to your left.
Pass through the trees and here you can either follow the river in the shade or, if you prefer, find a break in the trees on your left emerging into open land and follow the path alongside the trees which are still tracking the river.
A few hundred metres further on you will emerge at Lullingstone Castle and The World Garden. Taken together with the Roman Villa further on, these two historical sites would, by themselves, make an excellent day out from Eynsford or Shoreham stations. See features below.
Continuing on past this impressive feature the path becomes a car wide track with houses on the left and meadows opposite. After less than a mile you will emerge at Lullingstone Roman Villa – again, worth a visit if you have the energy.
You have three options here for returning to Eynsford Station.
1. Via Eynsford Village (30 mins to Eynsford village). This is the longer more scenic route indicated on the map, taking you for one last view of the valley, back to the village from where you can retrace your route over the river/ford and up to the station.
Take the path immediately at the left end of the Villa rising up into small trees. This will climb up the side of the valley for about 8 to 10 minutes. Ahead you will see the line of a long hedge clearly visible towards the top of the rise running left to right across your path. This is the hedge you passed on the way out earlier on. Turn right when you reach the hedge and, staying on its open side with a view of the Valley and the viaduct, carry straight on to retrace your steps back to Eynsford. While heading along the ridge take a moment to glance back over your shoulder to this later-in-the-day view of the Darenth Valley.
2. Road walk to Eynsford village (20 mins).
Continue directly on along the road ahead from the Villa, this road is busy in high season and as it is narrow you will need to take care. This will take you under the railway viaduct and back into Eynsford village.
3. The shortest route (15 mins direct to the station) via a 6 minute road walk. NOTE this has a busy road crossing.
Immediately opposite the Villa take the track across the cattle grid over the river heading up between farmland with, soon, a last glimpse of the elegant viaduct on your left. Pass an intriguing looking farmstead (Newbarn Farm) and battered old phone box on your right to eventually emerge, after about 500m from the river, at a very busy road. The station is about 600m to your left.
Don’t be tempted to try to cross the road here, the apparent footpath on the other side runs out at the brick bridge. There is a just about usable narrow footway on your left taking you slightly uphill towards the brick bridge. Upon reaching the bridge, take extreme care as this is a blind bend, walk further along for better visibility to cross over to the welcome refuge of Eynsford station.
Browse more walks…
Lucky you. I’ve walked several thousand miles of footpaths and city streets to distil out a choice selection of rambles for everyone to enjoy. There is no way of knowing whether a walk is worth doing except by walking the route every step of the way; a lot of terrible walks, dull vistas, and frankly boring trudges have been endured and discarded. Lucky me, I love walking and being outside so it’s all been worth it. I hope you can find the time to explore a route or two.
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VICTORIA/ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL
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