Yet another Darenth Valley delight, this time ascending to the eastern rim before heading towards Otford then dipping down to the valley floor. Great views, butterflies, birds and wild flowers on the protected chalk hillsides. Perfect to do on a train trip because it starts and returns from Shoreham station. Can be combined with the Shoreham circular mk1 (and the other Darenth walks here) for an overall seven-mile hike with a superb pub, plumb in the middle. Doable in 90 minutes.
Distance from SE London: 35 min drive from Sydenham, 40 min from Peckham Rye station on train
Steep bits? Yes, but only between points 1 and 2 as you ascend the eastern valley wall.
Getting there Trains direct to Shoreham (Kent not Sussex!!) from SE London (Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Catford etc) on Thameslink. Click here for live departures from Shoreham (Shoreham about 40 mins’ train ride from Nunhead).
Dogs? Not suitable for larger dogs because there’s a crossing of a railway line involved which would be dangerous with a dog and also livestock in the vicinity at point 4 (Warren Farm)
THE WALK (3.5 miles/90 mins)
1-2 850m Take the footpath uphill almost opposite Shoreham train station. Ignore the path off to the right up White Hill after about 100 metres (although it also ends up roughly in the right place). Continue (slightly left) to the top of the hill (steep) through glorious, ancient-feeling Dunstall woods. The path eventually goes up steps as the hill steepens further. Almost at the top you hit at a path T-junction.
2-3 250m Turn right at this path t-junction (beyond, in front to the east, are the fields of Dunstall Farm and beyond that, Romney Street eventually). Emerge soon on Fackenden Lane.
3-4 230m Turn left on Fackenden Lane. After 230m on this quiet lane, take the footpath on the right that initially uses the farm track for Warren Farm
4-5 800m This track goes past Warren Farm buildings. Soon the track stops and you enter a field over a stile on the footpath. Cross the field then enter a second field heading south with a great view of the valley. Walk across this field slightly diagonally to the right and exit it via light woods on its right hand side about two thirds of the way along the field. Ignore the path heading straight down the hillside on the right and continue to emerge from the trees with a great view south and west with a bench slightly uphill from you. Ignore the path that continues along the top of the hillside behind the bench (although worth exploring for a few minutes for its superb views – see pix below) and now keep right to start descending the path right in front of the bench.
5-6 350m Descend the hill heading generally south west on this path between wire fences through Fackenden Down SSI with brilliant chalk plants and wildlife. Great for butterflies on a sunny day. (If you want to take a scenic short cut back to Shoreham take the path on the right at a path crossroads two thirds of the way down the hill. Eventually you reach a path fork where you ignore the stile on the right and head through a gate onto Fackenden Lane. Walk up uphill on the lane for a couple of hundred metres then take the path on the left under a metal gate bar thingy which takes you in about 10 mins back to Point 1-2).
6-7 150m Towards the foot of the hillside you reach Shoreham Rd (the busy, speedy A225); cross it, then turn left and walk along the road for about 100 metres then take a signposted path heading 90 degrees right (west) into the valley.
7-8 700m Follow this path. Soon, cross the railway by foot on the little pedestrian level crossing. Continue until it meets the main Darenth Valley path. Turn right (north) towards Shoreham. (You can carry on all the way back on this if you like but I prefer the lower path, hence …)
8-9 1km… On reaching a path crossroads, take the left-hand path heading west. On reaching a t-junction, turn right and follow it until you hit a quiet land – actually a continuation of Fackenden Lane (can turn left here to the river to pick up Shoreham circular mk1 without pub break).
9-10 1km At this lane turn right (east) uphill. Look out for the cricket pitch on your left and the pavilion. Soon after you pass this, take the path sharp left (marked for Shoreham Village) that goes back behind the pavilion. This fringes the cricket pitch then goes through the Darenth Valley golf course and back to Shoreham. emerging between the splendid Olde George pub (100m round the corner to your left) and the station (400m right). After a drink, return to the station or do another great Shoreham walk (walks 2, 3, 5 and 14 on this website – see menu at the top of the page.)
This description was corrected May 6 2018 to remove erroneous mention of Mill Lane and to add detail to walk. Also the PDF was corrected – it had been missing several points – apologies!
Other reasons to visit Shoreham
There’s plenty more of interest in the village – Castle Farm and its stunning fields of lavender (en route to Lullingstone – a superb farm shop too with renowned beef, dried flowers etc), the Shoreham Aircraft Museum on the High St (so many of the villages of this area keep the memory of the Battle of Britain alive), the boutique Mount Vineyard…
Magpie Bottom was apparently on a smuggling route from the coast to Dover. The ruins of a pub, the Pig and Whistle, can still be found off the lane on the western side of the valley, a pub where smugglers would rest up before their final route into the capital. Apparently, a red light would warn of the presence of customs officials. Also, in Great Wood and Dunstall Woods there are ‘deneholes’, where chalk and maybe flint was excavated by pre-medieval peoples. More famously, the village was home for a while to the great landscape painter Samuel Palmer in the mid-19th century. He lived in a rundown shack/cottage he called Rat Abbey before joining his dad in the rather more salubrious Water House, next to the river (you’ll pass it on these walks). His friends, the Ancients (including William Blake) would often swing by.
Shoreham was the birthplace of the first unfortunate soldier to be executed for desertion in the first world war. Private Thomas Highgate was shot after the Battle of Mons, on September 8, 1914. Several aircraft have crashed here too, most notably an Airspeed Courier in 1934 (during a thunderstorm) at the junction of Cockerhurst and Castle Farm Rd (very close to walks 2 and 19) and a Dornier 17 during the Battle of Britain (details and mementos of the latter in the Shoreham Aircraft Museum – this was the incident where the crew ended up in the pub). More on Shoreham here.
The Grade I-listed church, made of flint, brick and wood, is definitely worth a visit. It really is the quintessential English country church. Here’s a very Vicar of Dibleyish YouTube vid for it. The churchyard, with its line of yews and eroded gravestones, and aged wooden entrance is very evocative of the rural past. Here’s a beautifully written blog, paying homage to Shoreham and the valley, and once resident artist Samuel Palmer.
The great Aussie actor (Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Mulholland Drive, Flirting, The Impossible, etc) was born and spent her early years in the village. Her mum was at the time an antique dealer and set/costume designer and Dad was a roadie for Pink Floyd. I’ve no idea where she lived though… can’t imagine there’s a blue plaque in the offing.
In 1896-7 the manned-glider pioneer Percy Pilcher tested some of his gliders at Austin Lodge in the valley (a mile or so to the north of this walk) just east of the Darent, which is on Walk 14 – there is a memorial to him between points 4-5 of that walk. There are pictures of Pilcher, who died near Market Harborough in a flying accident in 1899, at Eynsford/Austin Lodge here. Another site about him, with maps of where he flew at Austin Lodge here.
Shoreham is well connected by rail to London Victoria and London Blackfriars and is on the Sevenoaks/Thameslink line. The line passes through Elephant and Castle, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Crofton Park, Catford, Bromley South etc. It takes about 30 minutes from Catford, 40 from Denmark Hill. Live departures from Shoreham
There are many good walks from Shoreham on marked footpaths. On this site is the one to Lullingstone (returning from Eynsford station), the Otford via Romney Street, which can be done as a circular or return from Shoreham station.
Also try Walk 19: a similar route but takes in superb Magpie Bottom and Austin Springs