urban75 walk club: Otford circular walk via Shoreham, Kent
Report by urban75 editor, Feb 2005
On a cold, cold winter's morning, the urban75 walk club met up at Victoria railway station ready for a good afternoon's trudging.
We'd decided to take walk 43 of the Time Out Book of Country Walks - a circular walk based on Otford in Kent (TQ532594) going via the Fox and Hounds at Romney Street (TQ550614).
Although all trace of snow had disappeared from London, I was delighted to see a white cap draped along the tops of the nearby Downs - I was ready for some snow action!
Ducks crossing, Otford Village Pond
Otford's village pond, complete with duckhouse, is a listed building and provided the main source of water for the village until 12th century.
The name Otford dates back as early as 800AD and may be associated with the battle that Offa, King of Mercia, fought in the district against the Kentishmen about the year 776.
The name Offa could have been corrupted to Ottenford and then to Otford.
Old oast house near Otford station.
Oast houses are freestanding kilns used for drying hops for the brewing trade. Most oast houses consist of 3 rooms in an oast; the kiln (oven), the drying room, and the cooling room.
Beer has been brewed in England since Roman times, and for more than a millennia it was customary for inns to brew their own beer.
Beer brewed with hops became popular in the 1400s with the South East providing hop orchards.
Up until the second world war hops were picked entirely by hand with trainloads of Londoners traditionally enjoying a hop picking 'holiday' away from the grime of the capital.
Most hops are now imported, but the brewing heritage remains with hundreds of distinctly-topped oast houses still extant in south east England.
Climbing to Greenhill Wood
The walk followed the North Downs Way out of Otford, with the snow getting thicker as we climbed. Lovely!
Walking through Greenhill Wood.
A wintery path through the wood.
Out of the woods
After a pleasant walk through the woods we emerged into a snowy clearing.
We briefly paused to grab a team shot. For some, those clean clothes and pristine shoes would soon become a thing of the past.
Slip sliding away
Things got very slippery around this point, with much sliding over muddy paths. One of our party (no names mentioned!) unwisely elected to bring along his near-brand-spanking-new 'style' shoes.
They may have cut a dash around Camden, but out in the wild proved to have as much grip as a lubricated eel in a soapy bath.
Up the hill
As the afternoon wore on, the temperature plummeted downwards, with more snow looking increasingly likely.
Across the hilltop
Trudging across an open field with a dark sky looming behind...
Snowy field and trees
It was freezing by now, and we all had one thing on our minds.... the pub! Where was it?!!
Fox and Hounds, Romney Street, Knatts Valley, Sevenoaks
Boy was this a welcome sight!
After leaving our mud-encased boots outside, we hopped inside this traditional pub and got stuck into some no-nonsense hot stodge.
The pub employed an unusual 'wooden spoon' system of keeping track of food orders.
I wolfed down a most pleasing veggie burger and chips combo that definitely 'found the spot'.
Enjoying a drink in the Fox and Hounds
There were some good real ales on offer, and I plumped for a delightful pint of Cottage Merchant Navy (that's 4·7% alcohol, beardy CAMRA types!)
Note one member of our party snaffling a chip from someone else's plate!
Mein host, Fox and Hounds
The landlord was a pleasant chap. Here he is bidding us farewell as we hopped out of the pub in our socks, ready to don our muddy footware for part two of the walk.