With predictions of cloud and rain and the Eurovision contest looming to spoil the day we set off to Farningham and stopped after a drive up Wrotham Hill, past Brands Hatch at the Red Lion where we had drink and intended to return later for a light lunch. More of that later if you will.
In the meantime the weather was kind and presented us with a fairly good day with a little sunshine as well as the cloud that made walking pleasant. The idea was to walk from Farningham to Horton Kirby and maybe a little further. The Darent river is a narrow, swift stream, shallow in in summer but likely in the winter, or after heavy rain to swell up and flood its banks.
The Darent begins somewhere near Riverhead past Sevenoaks where streams and rivers converge in a confusing mess of blue lines on the map. It flows through Otford, Shoreham, Eynesford, Farningham, Horton Kirby and on into Darenth and Dartford. It is not a long river but it was a stream used by the Romans (those buggers got everywhere) and on the map there are a number of Roman sites noted, the most well known is Lullingstone, and when you walk you are aware of the region’s ancient history.
We walked along the river path to Horton Kirby where there is a weir, and convenient loo stop. We followed the river path which although is pleasant begins to show signs of the industrial town of Dartford – but most rivers bear the brunt of the stuff we want to hide up – and although the fences and buildings began to show it was low level stuff. The walk was still enjoyable.
We walked to the viaduct at South Darenth, had a gander at what was ahead and walked back along the road to Horton Kirby passing hop fields along a pleasant hedged pathway set off from the road. The village school was running a noisy fete that sounded like fun and we strolled through listening to children squeaking, music playing and people laughing.
We were pleasantly surprised at the church and the buildings surrounding it as part of the village, discovered a pub that looked good, and had a chat with the new owner of Jasmine Cottage. She says they are working toward getting in good shape including Jasmine around the doors. The pub was the Fighting Cocks at Horton Kirby.
From there we walked along the road until we saw a footpath that led us back to the river path opposite the Horton Kirby Cricket ground where a game was in progress – ah the smack of leather on willow, the swearing of the players when someone drops a catch – and horses in the adjacent paddock who were interested in getting a nose tickle.
On the way back we met a vandal – a graffiti artist who was finishing a motif on the road bridge wall. He explained he had plans to paint a depiction of the London Riots on one wall, and maybe if he could find his wellies paint a similar scene on the other wall where the river flows. The urban warrior!
We walked back along the river path to the Red Lion where we expected to lunch. We took a menu, selected our food, and was told that there was a wait of one and half hours! Evidently there was a sudden crowd arriving at the restaurant and casual diners were expected to wait that long. We saw at least a dozen who went somewhere else. We had a drink but that was a polite reaction to being in the bar and settling down to expect a meal.
One lad behind the bar was brilliant, unflappable, organised but overworked deserved a compliment, but the senior man looked harassed and confused and angry. He was sharp and short in his replies to customers and staff and looked as if he was overwhelmed by the amount of business. What did he expect? A few people arriving in orderly procession. It was Saturday, Farningham is popular and the weather was good. Cope with it!
We left the Red Lion to stew in its incompetence and wandered into the village intending to have a sandwich at the Pied Bull – they seem to manage – but on the way we got waylaid by the friends of Rachel, a local lass raising money to go to Malawi, who offered cakes, sandwiches and tea in the village hall.
This was a good move.
We had good, home made cakes, fresh sandwiches and good tea and coffee and did some good. I liked that. We walked for a short while afterwards to have a look over the slopes near the top of the village and came back down to where we had parked, and then home.
I would suggest that if you wanted to do that walk, by all means park at the Red Lion, have a coffee and a drink – if you want lunch order your lunch and a table or alternatively have a coffee or a drink and eat at the Pied Bull.
Whatever the gripes, the walk was an excellent stroll and opened out prospects for further exploration. The Darent is beautiful in the Spring and although we might manage to walk from South Darenth into Dartford, we might be feeling more inclined to walk to Otford and Shoreham instead. We can travel on the train if we need to.