With a storm threatening and the certainty that there would be rain, clouds and wind as a prelude we set off for Otford, a place we have intended to visit in the past. We arrived under cloud and rain, parked in the Bull car park for a while as the council car park was full and walked up to the station and back. We returned to find that the car park was emptying and snuck in there. We had arrived during a coffee morning so the Village Hall was full.
However, with coats on, good shoes and a reason for exploring we planned to set off to find the old Bishop’s Palace, and enjoy the listed duck pond, and generally explore the Village.
We took a diversion across the sports field from the car park to examine the Solar System Model installed on the far side. This scale model has pillars topped with stainless steel discs engraved with the name of the planet and its size in scale with the Sun. Earth looks like a nail head – a small nail head. The Sun is a large half globe sunk into the central pillar and although the nearest planets are shown in the field, one is in a street near the cricket club and doctor’s surgery and the others are some distance away toward the downs.
The heritage centre has the details and at one time when the weather is not trying to drown us or blow us away we will do the walk around to locate them and follow a little more of the Darent river. The river was swift and full this day as we saw later.
We walked back from the field and up to the station from where we expected to find the Palace. We were a long way out but we came across a parkland on the other side of the railway which was well worth the walk. We enjoyed the autumn colours washed as they were in the rain under a grey sky with the occasional burst of sunshine and a nibble on wrinkly damsons.
The only distractions, ignoring the weather, were the noise of the M26 not far away and the constant stream of traffic through the village much of which decided that the thirty mile per hour speed limit was advisory. The place needs a restricted zone or a by-pass.
However, Otford is a lovely village with plenty of footpaths leading along the course of the Darent and to Kemsing and the hills above. For the intrepid walker there is the prospect of walking along the river to Shoreham and Eynsford which on a Saturday would be excellent. Wherever you are along the route you can return to your staring point by train.
We had a light, late lunch at the Pond View cafe and although we were too late for a hot meal we had some excellent sandwiches and a taste of their delicious bread pudding. Lovely! The cafe is one of the several traders in an attractive High Street with two local stores and a number of specialist shops including tea and coffee rooms, restaurants, pubs and some ancient houses plus a number of churches.
One such shop struck us as standing out, and that was a milliner’s emporium although others of equal attraction abound including antique shops as would be expected. In spite of the weather the local flower shop was flourishing and there was no lack of shoppers; I suspect that the supermarket along the road near Sevenoaks does much of the groceries but cannot make up for that local touch.
From there we found the palace ruins and were delighted that what was left apart from one tower was adapted for homes with all the old features intact, including the added on sections where rebuilding was done. One tower remains which we thought could be converted into a posh restaurant for the local middle-class spenders and give some of the locals another reason to complain and a few jobs. From the information board we gathered that the Palace was quite extensive at one time. Erected in 1357 originally and eventually left to decline at least some of it remains and no doubt it’s legacy was the formation of the village and the houses around. After all it is in that area where landed gentry were likely to live.
From there we risked our lives to cross the busy road and found a footpath leading to back to the village and a walk along the high street, returning at one point to take another path following the river completing a circular route back to the High Street and on to the car park. The river was already full and running swift but I would say with the extra rainfall it would be a raging torrent late that afternoon.
A change of shoes, after a quick wee, trying to remain fairly dry in the increasingly heavy rain and into the car ready to leave when the heavy rain shower that he’d threatened all afternoon decided to let go. This was the precursor of the coming storm, we thought, expecting inclement weather all the way home only to find the roads dry and the wind the only culprit as we crossed over the Detling hill.
It was a good day and pleasant to be in place we had not seen before other than passing through.