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Stage 17 - Shoreham Station  to  Westmore Green, Tatsfield  (11.2 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TQ5239361493  Post Code TN14 7RT  StreetMap

If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 17 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

Follow Darent Valley Path across Darent Valley Golf Club, but where it turns left we continue straight on to quaint village of Otford. We join the North Downs Way & also soon rejoin the Darent Valley Path. At Dunton Green say goodbye to the Darent Valley Path for the last time. After half a mile we divert from the North Downs Way to take in Chevening Church and Park with a tough climb. Later we follow the Pilgrims Way along narrow country lanes, then back onto the North Downs Way, before diverting along the Tandridge Border Path thru' Park Wood Golf Club and past the lonely old St Mary's Church to the finish at Westmore Green. It's an undulating and hilly stage.

Starts at the Station Road entrance to Shoreham Station.

A video on YouTube, uploaded by a runner and entitled "Eynsford to Otford via Shoreham (Kent)", follows our identical route of the last 3.9 miles of stage 16 and the first 1.47 miles of stage 17 to Otford. It's worth a watch as the runner has done her homework, it also covers every step of the way from Eynsford on stage 16.

On exiting the station onto Station Road, turn right along Station Road and soon past the entrance to Darent Valley Golf Club. After another 70 yards turn left onto an enclosed path, signed Darent Valley Path.

Follow an enclosed path, south and away from Station Road, signed Darent Valley Path. This leads to The Darenth golf course.

Where the path comes out to cross the golf course a sign at the side of the path notifies of the presence of the golfers and also says walkers and dogs are welcome at the clubhouse.

Look left and right for golfers before continuing straight across the golf course and then through a metal kissing gate. Go straight on around the LHS of the grounds of the Shoreham Village Cricket Club and then veer left just before reaching the pavilion to exit the grounds.

According to the Cricket Club website, there is a very long history to cricket in the village, dating back as far as 1668, and the game has been continuously played on this ground since 1796.

100 yards later, go straight on across the lane (beware of traffic) and back onto an enclosed partly tree lined, partly open bridleway. At the point where we cross the lane, the Darent Valley Path turns right along the lane - we divert from the Darent Valley Path here.

The diversion from the Darent Valley Path at this point makes navigation simpler. The route is just as scenic and it means following a path to the old historic centre of Otford Village. The Darent Path misses most of Otford, but our route does rejoin the path as it crosses the river on the way out of the village.

Filston Hall is just half a mile to the west of here. This is medieval with a listed moat surrounding it. Beyond the hall are Filston Farm and an adjacent old Oast House which has been converted to a private dwelling. All of these properties are built on a much earlier settlement named "Vielestun". It took its name from the Norman Knight Vital, who is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry as reporting back to William the position of King Harold's army just before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Below is part of a more detailed article about Filston Farm entitled "A Wealth of History, Farming and Wildlife" (link broken December 2018) and taken from the "Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" website.

"From the arrival of the Romans to toothpaste connections, from strawberries to orchids, there is a wealth of history and wildlife at Filston Farm near Shoreham in the Darent Valley.  Owner and farmer, John Dinnis, tells us more ...

As with so much of the Darent Valley, Filston Farm is originally a Roman site.  The original part of the current house dates back to the 12th Century, however following a fire in 1690 part of the house was rebuilt.  Filston Farm was the sub manor house to Otford Palace and Cromwell is reputed to have hidden 1000 men here during the Civil War!  Filston farm was then home to the Colgate family and in indeed the house made such an impression that their home in America is also called 'Filston'.

The half moat around the house is a traditional Kent feature and was regarded as a status symbol as well as a source of carp for the table and a rubbish dump!  The moat is now Grade 1 listed as a National Monument..."

On Filston Lane, just west of the driveway to the farm, is a carved wooden sign displaying the Filston Ancient Trackway. According to maps the route of this ancient trackway goes through the settlement and across the golf course. It crosses the Green Belt Way route in the middle of a small wood about 400 yards south of the cricket field. From studying OS maps and looking closely at a "route" I have drawn on mapmywalk.com it is possible to trace the route of this past Filston, then across the golf course and beyond. I did find this article at Kent Archaeology and it does mention the trackway on page 21 of the document and helped me with the mapping of the route above. On a personal note, I think it's a shame that local councils have lost many of these old routes as they should still exist as public rights of way.

300 yards later, as the bridleway becomes a lane, continue straight on past a lane to the RHS (at 1 mile).

After another 450 yards we pass a farm on the left and soon afterwards some converted oast houses.

Behind the houses is with what is / was Otford Cricket Club? To the right through the hedge is the recreation ground with the village's unique model of the Solar System, which I'll come back to later.

The lane comes out onto Otford High Street next to the "Old Forge". Turn right along the pavement staying on the RHS.

Otford is where the route joins the North Downs Way and the Pilgrims Way, and within 220 yards, just before crossing the River Darent, the Darent Valley Path rejoins from the RHS. The route stays with the Darent Valley Path for another 1.6 miles to Dunton Green and with the North Downs Way for over an extra 0.8 miles to just before Turvin's Farm near Chevening.

The village blacksmith has long gone and the old forge is now a restaurant. The centre of the village is just to the left and is built around a roundabout with a pond in the middle. The pond is fed by a stream rising near the station and is unique in being classified as a listed building. The ducks have their own little house in the centre and are given a food allowance by the parish council. In 2014 this won The Roundabout Appreciation Society, "Roundabout of the Year".

From excavations there is evidence of settlement in this area for at least 3,000 years. The route of the Ancient Trackway on the way into the village, from the east, helps to confirm this, although if the track was also used by later pilgrims, or not, I have been unable to ascertain. Also, to the east of the village, just south of Pilgrim Way East, remains of a very large Roman villa have been uncovered. This has been listed as a Scheduled Monument.

History sources state two bloody battles took place at Otford. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded "The Battle of Otford" in 776 when local Kent forces under Egbert II fought to regain their independence against King Offa of Mercia (757 - 796). Although no outcome is stated in the Chronicle, it can be deduced that the battle was won by the smaller Kent army as Egbert ruled the area afterwards (however, some sources dispute this).

In 1016 (240 years later) battle raged once more at Otford. This time Edmund Ironside (989 - 1016), son of Ethelred the Unready, and the Dane Canute the Great (died 1035) fought over the throne of England. Edmund chased Canute's depleted army from London across the Thames and through Surrey before re-engaging them at Otford. Most of the Danes were slaughtered and the remainder fled eastwards. Edmund continued to chase Canute and what was left of the Danish army east through Kent, but from taking ill advice he let them go. Soon afterwards Canute regrouped and rebuilt his army. He came back in force later the same year and besieged London, eventually defeating Edmund at the Battle of Ashingdon.

Ten years after the first "Battle of Otford" Offa was once again in control of Kent. It is thought he built a large house near the site of his earlier battle and gifted the house and the lands in the area to the Archbishop of Canterbury as a penance for those who died. Otford was highly prized by Canterbury. It was used as an Archbishop's Palace and many great clergy resided there through the years. One was Thomas Becket (1118 - 1170) who was so pleased with the place he often stayed. Many legends and myths surround Becket, one such story is when Becket resided at Otford Palace. He was unhappy with the taste of the water supply to the palace, so struck his staff against the ground and immediately a well appeared with a supply of crystal clear water, thus providing a clean water supply for the palace. The story has never been proved or disproved, but on private land near Castle House Trout Farm Becket's Well can still be seen. Today it supplies fresh water for the fish ponds on the farm.

From Anglo-Saxon times until 1537 the palace was one of a chain of houses belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury. It was rebuilt around 1515 by Archbishop Wareham to rival Wolsey's at Hampton Court. Henry VIII forced Archbishop Cranmer to surrender the palace in 1537.  When Henry died the palace fell into ruin. The principal surviving remains of Otford Palace can be seen a few yards south of the duck pond. They include the North-West Tower, the lower gallery, now converted to cottages and a part of the Great Gatehouse. There are further remains on private land, and a section of the boundary wall can be seen in Bubblestone Road. The entire site, of about four acres is designated as an ancient monument.

Here are links to two videos of Otford Palace. The first is a short history of the palace, the second is an aerial view of the part of what remains.

To the east of the palace is St Bartholomew's Church dating from c1050, and said to have the oldest standing wall in the area.

The village sign depicts the duck pond, the church and the old palace (see video). The placing of each on the sign is quite accurate. It is well worth taking the short diversion to view all three.

Much of the village is designated a conservation area. This contains 37 listed buildings, plus most of the site of the Royal Palace which is a scheduled ancient monument. 

There are many other interesting buildings in the village, including a Heritage Centre (with a model of the palace) and three pubs, all on the High Street.  The Crown is 16th Century and overlooks the duck pond and the pub website claims it is haunted by four ghosts; The Woodman also overlooks the duck pond, was originally built in the 18th Century as a wheelwright's and converted in 1861 to a pub - many sources claim the pub is haunted. The Bull dates from 1512 and contains a "wishing chair" from the old palace and claimed to have belonged to the Saintly Thomas a Beckett himself. According to the Historic-Kent.co.uk website (link broken), the Bull was once a refectory of Otford Monastery and was granted a license by Papal Bull in 1538. The pub sign displays a large beast (bull) but apparently the name originates from the Papal. Inside the pub is also a board detailing the history of the inn and a wooden carving of Henry VIII and one of his six wives;

There are other information boards in the village telling of the history of the area and a novel one showing the local recreation ground as the centre of a model of the Solar System at midnight on 1st January 2000. The model keeps the Solar System within the village and explains that on the same scale the nearest star "Procima Centauri" would be as far away as Los Angeles. It claims to be the largest model of its type in the world and the website is well constructed and full of information on the planets. 

Otford village is well served by road and rail. The A225 (the main road from Dartford to Sevenoaks) goes through the centre and the railway station is only 450 yards east of the pond. During excavations for both transport systems many remains of bodies were found, many more were found close to the river. These were mainly soldiers who died in both battles, but Stone-Age, Iron-Age and Roman remains have also been uncovered. Some of the artifacts are on show at the Otford Heritage Centre.

On the wall of church hall on the High Street is a stone mosaic telling the story of the history of the area (mosaic1, mosaic2, mosaic3). The mosaic was designed and constructed by Oliver Budd and commissioned by the Otford Society to mark the millennium.

After walking along the High Street, and shortly before reaching the River Darent is a very well-preserved 15th century timber-framed house named Pickmoss. The house and adjacent cottage (c1700) are grade II* listed. 100 yards later, on the LHS and soon after crossing the river, is the entrance to Broughton Manor. Its grounds sit on the River Darent. The manor house dates from the 16th century and is again grade II* listed.

After crossing the river, continue along the High Street for 650 yards to just after Frog Farm (at 2 miles). Then turn left to cross over and into Telston Lane, signed "North Downs Way". Follow the road straight uphill through a housing development and then, after 370 yards, when the road turns right, go straight on along a narrow road (still Telston Lane), signed "North Downs Way".

The lane continues between fences and houses for 200 yards, then opens out with a large field to the RHS and a hedge to the LHS. If you are lucky to be here at the right time of year, the field to the right may be a carpet of lavender.

100 yards after the lane opens out, follow it right past Oast Cottage, then left past New Barn Farm. Continue straight on, gradually uphill, eventually past a large house (Heather Cottage) and onto a narrow track to cross a bridge over a railway line, then over a stile (next to a gate) and straight on across a large field. Follow the path as it crosses a track and enters a wood. On exiting the woods bear left to follow the path downhill to cross a stile, then along the edge of a field to cross over another stile and along an enclosed path past the Donnington Manor Hotel.

The path comes out onto a road (London Road) with the hotel to the right. Turn left along the pavement (at 3.1 miles). After 230 yards and just before the junction, turn right to cross over and past the Rose & Crown to your RHS, onto Morants Court Road (the A224). Stay on the pavement on the RHS along this busy A-road for 700 yards. On approaching the bridge over the M25 motorway cross over to the LHS and over the M25 via the pavement.

North of Dunton Green, near where Pilgrims Way West crosses over the M25, on Polhill was found an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. It was on the false crest of the hill and would have been visible from Otford and across the Darent Valley. The cemetery contained between 180 and 200 graves dating from the 7th and 8th Centuries. To read more see the entry at Wikipedia.

The Donnington Manor Hotel and the Rose & Crown are in the north part of the village of Dunton Green. The area around the hotel and pub are sandwiched between two motorways. The M25 is only a few hundred yards to the north and the M26 is 200 yards south of the junction by the pub, thus cutting this small area off from the rest of the village. The junction of the two motorways is less than a mile to the west.

Parts of the Donnington Manor Hotel dates from the 15th Century with some additions from the 16th and 17th Century. These are on the north side of the hotel and are now Emma's Restaurant. This part is Grade II Listed.  Some of the hotel is mock Tudor, built after World War 2, but done very tastefully. The history section of the hotel website states it was once owned by the "Kray Twins" and named the Emma Hotel. However, the connection cannot be proved because it wasn't held in their names. The hotel website also contains much more history on the Manor of Doddington going back to the early 14th Century and the origin of the hotel.

100 yards after turning left along London Road is the entrance to Great Dunton House. Just past the entrance and sitting back against the hedge is an old milestone stating 21 to London and 3 to Sevenoaks. It shows how London Road was once the main road between here and London and also on through Sevenoaks to the coast at Hastings. It meant that the Rose & Crown was an important coaching inn on the route and a stopping off point. The old road was the A21 but is now just a quiet country lane. The Rose and Crown dates from at least 1839, but an older inn named The Chequers sat on the site during the 17th Century. At that time the inn is thought to have overlooked the village green. The Rose & Crown is now owned by of Vintage Inns. You can read more about the history of the pub at the link. 

Just past the pub the Darent Valley Path turns left to cross the road and disappear for one last time through the hedge into a field. The field was acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1999 and through their "Woods on the Doorstep Project" they have planted some 5.5 hectares of native trees, creating Crown Meadow Wood, to provide a valuable area for public recreation and local wildlife. The Darent Path goes south downhill between the trees and after 200 yards goes through a subway under the M26.

Dunton Green railway station is reached by going south along London Road (A224) for 400 yards and then following a footpath east along the southern edge of the recreation grounds. It can also be reached by following Station Road, 200 yards further south along London Road. The station opened in March 1868 and is on the Sevenoaks to London Bridge line. In July 1881 a spur called the Westerham Valley Branch Line was opened. This was 4.5 miles long and ran from Dunton Green to Westerham with stops at Chevening Halt and Bransted Halt. Unfortunately, this closed on 28th October 1961 due to competition from roads. Some of the line has disappeared for good under the M25 motorway. However, it is still possible to walk the course of this old steam railway west for a mile from London Road to the Chevening Cross Road by the M25 / M26 junction. What is left of the railway is also crossed by the Darent Path just south of the M26.

On the right of Morants Court Road, 400 yards north of the Rose & Crown is an old thatched house (or to be exact, three adjoining cottages). The roof has for years contained thatched sculptures of birds on the top. It has recently been re-thatched, and look closely to see that the birds have also been redone.

A few yards later a lane goes off to the left. This is the entrance to Morants Court, a large house with a history which can be traced back to the 14th Century, during the reign of Richard II when it was owned by Sir Thomas Morant. One story about the house and from the One Sevenoaks website tells a melancholy tale.

"There is a sad tale associated with the small village of Dunton Green. It concerns the daughter of the owner of a large house called Morants Court who fell in love with a highwayman. Her father, who disapproved of their friendship, forced his daughter to betray the villain's next ambush at the foot of the nearby Star Hill.

The father's servants intercepted the highwayman and promptly hanged him, cut off his head and made a cruel present of it to the shocked daughter. She was so horrified by the gruesome spectacle that she went insane.

The ghost of the headless lover has been seen jumping the stream behind Morants Court on his stallion. The sound of horse's hoofs upon cobbles) - heard by people working in the fields at dusk - is immortalised in Walter De la Mare's poem 'The Highwayman'. The cobblestones have long since been removed."

You can listen to a version of the poem at YouTube. 

Once over the M25 motorway, turn left at the roundabout. Follow the Sundridge Road (B221) west as it runs downhill and parallel to the motorway. Stay on the LHS as there is a pavement some of the way.

After 630 yards, and 280 yards after Morants Court Farmhouse, the North Downs Way turns right and disappears uphill through a field. At this point, for safety reasons, cross over to the RHS and continue straight on along the road for another 230 yards, past Turvins Farm and then left around a long sweeping corner. Near the end of the corner and immediately before two semi-detached cottages (at 4.2 miles), turn right past a gate and onto a wide enclosed grass track, signed footpath.

The path leads directly towards a church after 600 yards. NOTE: On this wide path / track (after 440 yards) you pass an old metal kissing gate, to the RHS and no longer in use. Immediately after this the path narrows between trees / hedgerows and can be overgrown. However, you can still get through and it soon opens out again.

Where the path comes out behind Chevening Church, stay left (the church will be to your RHS). This takes you out to Chevening Village.

Chevening village is tiny and hidden away under the rolling hills of the North Downs. There are just over a dozen houses, no shops and no pubs. The only services are an old Victorian red post box and red phone box. The village (if it can be called that) is dominated by the Norman Church of St Botolphs, with the stately Chevening House hidden behind the walls of its large park.

The early history of Chevening seems to be somewhat sketchy with a few gaps. GenForum, presented by Geealogy.com states: 

"The earliest records of the area of Chevening:... [Chevening] first mentioned in records in 766, when it was the site of the battle with Offa. In various charters between 785 and 822 different parcels of land were ceded to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Mercian kings Offa, Chenille and Ceowulf. The area, including Shoreham to the north, Seal to the east, Chevening to the west and stretching into the forest of Andredsweald to the south, became known as the manor of Otford.

Chevening land lay along the western border of the Manor of Otford. In the later Saxon times another east-west track had developed along the southern slopes of the Downs, along the route now called the Pilgrims Way...

The name Chevening means either Cefn's people, derived from the Saxon name of the first family to settle in the area, or "the people of the ridge" in the pre-Roman Celtic tongue; either suggests an ancient origin.

"The de Crevequeurs were the first recorded tenants of Chevening, in 1171, owing one knight's fee for land they had acquired from Haimo, the steward." As part of the victorious Norman army they had other lands in Kent, including Leeds Castle. Although de Crevequerers are noted in various records there is no suggestion that the family ever resided in the manor; the steward would have been sent to collect the revenue from the servants. It is assumed that this is Chevening I."

The "Textus Roffensis" (compiled 1122 - 1123), records from Rochester Cathedral, refers to the parish of Civilinga - the Anglo-Saxon name for the parish now known as Chevening. This suggests a church and a settlement. It seems strange Chevening is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. However, it is later recorded as being owned by Sir Adam de Chevening from 1199 to 1216. He was Justice of the Assizes to King John. The de Chevening family held the manor until 1432 when it was acquired by the De la Pole family. It was sold to John Lennard in 1540 and stayed in the Lennard family until 1717, when it was sold to Major General James Stanhope.

The village is at the foot of the North Downs and was next to the confluence of two ancient communication routes. The Pilgrims Way ran east to west along the lower reaches of the Downs and just north of the church; the old Rye Road (also known as The Fish Road) ran north from Rye on the south coast to London. Merchants with their ponies loaded with fish would pass through the village before climbing the Downs on their way to the London markets. The Rye Road is now called Chevening Road and is the only approach road. It runs north from Chevening Cross and abruptly stops just north of the church. Earl Stanhope closed off the road in the late 18th Century. The Pilgrims Way is also no longer accessible through the area.

The closure of these old routes was probably a blessing in disguise as since the 18th century very little has changed at Chevening. The houses which once serviced the estate still retain their Georgian and Victorian character. Lennard Cottage, now a private dwelling, was once a public house. The stone pavements are centuries old and blend in well with the red brick of the houses and much older church.

St Botolphs Church (see video1 and video2) dates back to at least 1122. However, there are Roman slates in the walls which are thought to be from a nearby villa. The church was enlarged during the 13th & 14th Centuries with the tower being added around 1518. Inside there is much to see including the Lennard family tombs and many memorials to the Stanhope family. There is a splendid monument by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey which depicts the white marble figure of Lady Frederica Stanhope who died at childbirth in 1823. This is considered to be one of the finest works of the sculpture. Botolph is the patron saint of travellers and at the gates to many towns and cities, including London, there are churches dedicated to St Botolph. The church at Chevening has welcomed many travellers throughout the centuries on their journeys along the two ancient routes which passed through here. The church website is a wealth of information and has a detailed write up on the history and contents of the place. 

Chevening House (also referred to as Chevening Place) is the second to be built on the site. The first it seems was Norman. The second has its main front facing north towards the Downs. The central block was built between 1616 and 1630 to a design by Inigo Jones for Richard Lennard, 13th Earl Dacre. Parts of the older house still exist in the foundations and the walls of the current one. James Stanhope (1673 - 1721) bought the house after the death of 15th Earl Dacre in 1717 for 28 k pounds.

Stanhope was educated at Eton and Oxford. He pursued a military career from an early age and obtained a commission in the British army in 1695. In 1701 he entered the House of Commons, but continued his career as a soldier. In 1708 he was appointed commander-in chief of the British forces in Spain. After many successful campaigns his army was defeated at the Battle of Brihuega in December 1710 and he was taken captive. He remained a prisoner in Spain for over a year. On his return to England, in August 1712, he abandoned the military for politics, and played a major role in establishing the House of Hanover on the throne. He masterminded the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and held many political posts including First Minister to King George I. In 1713 he married Lucy Pitt (1692 - 1723), daughter of Thomas Pitt, Governor of Madras. They had seven children including two sets of twins. In 1718, the year after he bought Chevening, he was created 1st Earl Stanhope. He planned major additions to the house but died three year later on 5th February 1721, a day after taking ill whilst vigorously defending the government in the House of Lords. He was given a full military funeral through London and later buried privately at Chevening. It was left to his widow to carry out the alterations to the house. The outcome was one of the finest Georgian houses in England.

Stanhope's grandson Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl (1753 - 1816), was a statesman and scientist. He was well known for his outspoken democratic views and often referred to as "Citizen Stanhope". He changed the appearance of the house drastically between 1786 and 1796 by refacing it in stone and cream coloured fire proof tiles.

The house stayed in the hands of the Stanhope family until 1959, when it was presented to the nation by the James Stanhope, 7th and last Earl (1880 - 1967). James Stanhope was a successful politician and also inherited the more senior title of Earl of Chesterfield in 1952. He never used the Chesterfield title.

Stanhope also gave an endowment of 250,000 pounds for the upkeep and maintenance of Chevening. He wished that after his death the house would be used by a cabinet minister or a descendent of King George VI. The "Chevening Estate Act of 1959" turned his wish into law. He died in 1967 and with no offspring both titles became extinct. Since then house is managed by trustees and occupied by a nominee of the Prime Minister. 

From 1970 an intensive programme of renovation and began. This lasted for four years and exhausted most of the endowment. It undone the work of Citizen Stanhope and restored the house to its original Georgian glory.

In 1974 Prince Charles accepted the prospect of using the estate as a country residence. At the time he was considering marriage to Amanda Knatchbull, granddaughter of his great uncle Earl Mountbatten and great niece of the last Baroness Stanhope. If all was to happen it would has made a lovely story for the last Earl. However, Charles' proposal of marriage was refused and after visiting the house on many occasions, in June 1980 he wrote to Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minster at the time, to decline the use of Chevening. Since then Chevening has been the official country residence of the British Foreign Secretary.

Two weeks after declining Chevening, Prince Charles bought Highgrove in Gloucestershire and soon afterwards started dating Lady Diana Spencer. He still resides at Highgrove to this day. 

Since the death of the 7th Earl of Stanhope occupants of the house have included, Lord Carrington, Lord Hailsham, Geoffrey Howe, Jack Straw, Nick Clegg, William Hague and Boris Johnson. Chevening village was designated a Conservation Area in 1978 and this was renewed in 2007. The private park covers an area of over 3,000 acres and within it there is much to see including the landscaped gardens, the lake and the Roman tombstones. However, they grounds are only open to the public a few times each year.

I found Chevening in the 1999 and thought it an idyllic and peaceful place. I was organising a relay run around London's Green Belt at the time, and by 2002 had changed the route to take in the village. The change added extra distance and a huge hill up onto the Downs. This made it one of the most difficult stages in the relay and also one of the longest. However, if you have time to divert to see the church and the village, it'll be well worth your while.

The Weald.net website has some lovely old black and white sketches and photos of the outside and inside of Chevening House and of the grounds and church. 

Chevening House was where Boris Johnson and his girlfriend disappeared to in early 2020, just shortly after being elected as Prime Minster. According to press reports, at the time, he hid here during storms, floods and the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. Apparently, he missed many COBRA meetings, and was lambasted by the press. There are hundreds of different versions on this, and I'll let you research them yourself.

Turn right, along the road, past the lychgate and after another 80 yards, turn right onto a gravel track, going past the north side of the church. After 120 yards turn left onto an enclosed path heading north and directly away from the church.

I recently changed this as I didn't believe it was fair to divert you to Chevening without seeing the church, the old houses and all that is going on here.

The enclosed path going north from the church runs along the east boundary of Chevening Park. The route is easy to follow as you need to try very hard to turn off the path. 

Just a few yards along the path a sign to the LHS states, "Please keep to the path and keep dogs on leads". Take the advice as top members of the UK Government live just to the left and there is lots of security and, in the past, some have been arrested and charged for diverting from the public footpaths we use on this route.

On studying maps, some show the old route of the Pilgrim's Way once crossed this path about 400 yards north of the church (see map). However, this part of the Pilgrim's Way was closed by Earl Stanhope in the late 18th Century so he could enlarge the park northwards.

600 yards north of the church turn left over a wooden stile (easy to miss) and straight on along the lower edge (LHS) of a field (at 5.1 miles) (there maybe cattle in the field). At the opposite side of the field cross over another stile to a lane  Cross straight over the lane (to the left a sign says "Private") to climb a path, up the verge, to a wooden stile. Once over the stile, turn left to follow the edge of the field with trees to your LHS. Soon the path turns right and the trees on the left disappear to give a great view to Chevening House.

Continue straight on along the edge of the field (and now with a fence to your LHS) to cross over another lane and enter a second field. Follow the fence to the opposite corner and then turn left along the edge of a wood.

At the next corner turn right, up to and over a stile and into another field. Stay straight on uphill along a well-trodden path with the woods to your RHS and the large open field on the left. At the top go straight on over a stile and along an enclosed path which veers slightly right through the trees.

On studying old maps, it appears the first lane crossed on the route through Chevening Park (see map) is the continuation of the old Rye Road from the village which was used by the fish merchants and many years before by King Harold and his army on their way to the Battle at Hastings. The climb up the side of the wood, after crossing in front of the large house, is long and steep. However, don't think it finishes where the path enters the wood, the steepest bit is yet to come. On the climb, look left for the views of Chevening House, towards the High Weald and the historical towns of Sevenoaks and Westerham, the M25 below and the Weald and Gatwick Airport to the south. Shortly after entering the woods, there is a small viewing area on to the right with a bench to rest on and enjoy the view through an opening in the trees.

After another 120 yards the path levels off. Shortly after this, turn left along a wide track through the woods. Stay straight on along the track for 450 yards to and past a cottage (Keeper’s Cottage) and out onto a quiet road (Sundridge Hill). Turn left along the road (at 6 miles) and follow it down a steep hill. After 950 yards and near the bottom of the hill, turn right onto another narrow road - Pilgrims Way.

The route rejoins the Pilgrims Way and it's just a few yards back from this point where the Pilgrims Way is closed off to public as it enters Chevening Park on its way eastwards. For the next 2.5 miles our route continues almost in a straight line along the base of the Downs, following country lanes along the course of this ancient trackway. It is the best opportunity we get to follow the route travelled by pilgrims for hundreds of years (in the opposite direction) on their way to the Shrine of Thomas a Becket, at Canterbury. There is the alternative of rejoining the North Downs Way staying along the top edge of the Downs escarpment, but it would be a shame not to take this opportunity. For much of the route, along the lanes. the hedgerows are high and old, but in spring and summer they are awash with flowers and fruit. However, please be careful as there is no pavement.

A video taken from a car, entitled "Pilgrims Way Titsey to Sundridge Hill" follows our route along the Pilgrims Way, but in reverse. It joins where we leave the Pilgrims Way at 5 minutes and 15 seconds in, and finishes where we join the Pilgrims Way at Sandridge Hill. It does show that you need to take care along this 2.5 miles of the route and it maybe wise to wear hi-vis clothing.

The Pilgrims' Way runs for 120 miles from Winchester to Canterbury. Today we think of it as an old route which became popular with pilgrims walking to Canterbury after the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. It was used by the pilgrims, but the road dates back much further than this, maybe even as much as 250,000 years ago when used by Middle Paleolithic hunters. After England was finally separated from the continent (about 5,000 years ago) it is thought the road was used as a trade route to bring metals from the West Country to ports along the Kent coast and on to Europe. Finds from the pre-Roman Iron Age Era (500 - 450 BC) provide evidence to suggest this. The route generally follows the lower southern slopes of the chalky North Downs, below the exposed escarpment but above the lower lying clay where forests and swamps could hide danger. During Roman Times (between 43 AD and 410 AD) Winchester was an important settlement and during Anglo-Saxon Times became the capital city. However, after the Norman Invasion of 1066 the importance of Winchester declined with London taking on the mantle of capital city. Valuable metals were mined elsewhere and some were imported. It meant the use of this ancient track was also in decline. However, it is thought that with the murder of Thomas Becket the track was saved by the pilgrims going to Canterbury. It continued to be used as a safe route for other travelling and for drovers to move their animals. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (written between 1387 and 1400) his pilgrims take a different route from the north through London and along Watling Street to Canterbury - apparently there were many routes taken by the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. The route we have just joined, Pilgrims Way seems to have got its name in the 18th Century and has stuck, although some people refer to it as "The Old Road" - the link is to Hilaire Belloc's book of 1904. It appears as "Pilgrims Way" or "Ancient Trackway" on OS maps but is only accessible for about a third of its route. People did try during the mid to late 20th Century to establish a footpath along what we know as the Pilgrims Way, but with industry, mining, private landowners and not being able to source or access most of the route, another footpath was established and opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1978. The North Downs Way does follow some of the route of the Old Road but in the main follows the top of the escarpment of the North Downs. The next section of our footpath around London follows the route of the ancient trackway or Old Road. It is one of the longest stretches still accessible, and I hope you enjoy my decision to divert from the North Downs Way.

You can read a more detailed version of the history and thoughts of this ancient trackway at Pilgrims Way Canterbury, or visit the entry at Wikipedia.

After 0.6 miles the road comes to a T-junction. Turn right, and after just a few yards turn left, staying on the Pilgrims Way (at 7.2 miles). Continue straight on for 1.8 miles to a crossroads with the busy A233, named Westerham Hill to the RHS and London Road to the left.

To the left, 800 yards after the staggered junction, is the driveway to Court Lodge Farm. 250 yards later go straight over Hogtrough Hill crossroads by the lonely Hogtrough Cottage on the corner. The hill to the right is a popular climb for cyclists. 

For the next 1.35 miles to Westerham Hill this old lane is gently rolling with high hedges on both sides, only breaking intermittently to give pleasant views of the fields to both sides.

Turn right along Westerham Hill, crossing over (with care) as soon as possible, and after 150 yards turn left into The Avenue (at 9.1 miles). It is a private road, but it is also where the North Downs Way rejoins us from the right, and is a "public right of way".

Follow this private road for a mile to a Y-junction. Turn left along Chestnut Avenue, signed North Downs Way. Then straight on for 0.72 miles, to just after the entrance to Park Wood Golf Club (at 10.5 miles).

Along The Avenue and Chestnut Avenue the route climbs gradually, but the road is not great underfoot. Beware of potholes. After 0.75 miles look out for the North Downs Way milestone, next to a wooden fence, on the RHS. It's tasteful with an engraved acorn in the centre. It states - "Farnham 48 miles, Canterbury 65 miles and Dover 77 miles". It also has the distances in kilometers. The acorn is the symbol of the North Downs Way, Farnham is the start of the North Downs Way; Canterbury is where the Pilgrims walked to for centuries to the site of the murder and the shrine of Thomas Becket, and Dover is a port and for thousands of years the gateway to and from the European mainland.

The Kent-Surrey boundary is just 125 yards after the milestone. It is marked by a small pillar, to the RHS, just after the gateway to a large house. 

After another 210 yards, at a Y-junction turn left onto Chestnut Avenue. On the corner an old red post box serves those who still use mail instead of e-mails and a few hundred yards afterwards to the left an attractive house named Mole End has some tasteful paintings of animals on its front walls.

At the Y-junction we also join another long-distance path - the Tandridge Border Path. This is 50 miles around Tandridge Borough and is waymarked by green and white discs. It's not marked at every point, but we do follow it from here till the end of the stage.

35 yards after the entrance to the golf club turn right, by a wooden marker, onto a footpath through trees and along the edge of the golf course. After 200 yards the path comes out into the car park of Tatsfield Church. 

The lych gate to Tatsfield Church is just a few yards to the left and the detour to visit the church and churchyard is well worth it. The church is 790 ft above sea-level and probably the highest in the southeast of England. There are wonderful views across to The Weald and South Downs.

St Mary's Church dates mainly from the 11th & 13th Centuries. It is Grade 2 listed and is passed by on our route half a mile before reaching the village. The exact date of the church is unknown and although it is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, St Mary's decided to celebrate its 900th birthday in 1975. For many years the church has played host to a duel congregation of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. In the church graveyard there is an ancient yew, and on the tombstone of Timothy Burgess (died 1876) a novel inscription reads:

"Once I stood as you do now,

And gaz'd over them as you do now,

And you will be as I do now,

While others thus look down on thee."

It is thought the original settlement was around the church and there was once a manor house nearby on Church Lane called Tatsfield Court Lodge. According to British History Online it was pulled down, by its owner Sir John Gresham before his death in 1801, and a new house was built at the foot of the North Downs near to the Pilgrims Way.

Today the focal point of the village is around Westmore Green and a half mile northwest of the isolated church. The population of the village by the start of the 1880 was only 168 people but soon started to grow with an influx of Londoners being attracted by the open spaces, fresh air and "lofty hills of Kent and Surrey". Presently about 1,800 people live in the village, most are to the north and east of here. This has stayed relatively stable since the 1950 due to the introduction of the Green Belt and the building restrictions which go with it.

Go out through the entrance of the car park and turn right along the road, past Church Farm and Gwynedd Close.

After another 100 yards, just after a large gate and as the road turns right, go through a gap in the hedgerow and follow the path across a golf course.

The path passes a tee-box, goes through trees and then crosses a fairway (take care), then through trees with a field / paddocks to you RHS.

Follow the path as it zig-zags downhill, over a stile and across a track, then across two more stiles before skirting a school and out through a metal kissing-gate onto a road (Ship Hill).

The photo at Geograph is from the metal kissing-gate, looking back along the path in the direction of Tatsfield Church.

Cross over Ship Hill and turn left along the pavement. Then after 80 yards turn right by a wooden bus stop and just by Ye Old Ship pub, turn left to cross road to finish on Westmore Green, next to the horse trough.

Westmore Green is at the southwest corner of the built-up area of Tatsfield Village. Tatsfield is referred to in the Domesday Book (1086) as Tatelefelle. However, the name appears to derive from the earlier Saxon period and translates as either "a look-out place in a clearing" - the look-out place thought to be the higher land on which the church is built, or a second as offered by The English Place-Name Society, "a field or clearing belonging to Tatol (or lively one)". The village sign on The Green depicts the latter story. There are many earlier signs of human activity in the area including Stone Age artifact found between the village and Clarks Lane; an Ancient Trackway called the Ridgeway ran from west to east through the village and on through what is now Park Wood Golf Club, it was used by drovers to move their cattle; a Roman Road skirts the west and south side of the village and still forms much of the parish boundary.

The village is perched on top of the North Downs in a small corner of Surrey with Biggin Hill and London to the north and bounded by Kent to the east. At 790ft above sea-level, it claims to be the highest village in Surrey and it is said its inhabitants saw London burn in 1666. In more recent times, during periods of extreme snowfall, the village has been completely cut off and had to rely of food parcels being dropped from the air.

"Ye Old Ship" pub overlooks Westmore Green as does the Old Bakery which has now been converted to "The Bakery" restaurant. A few yards north along Westmore Road is the local shop (Linda's Stores), which also doubles as the village post office and newsagents. There are a few other scattered old buildings around Westmore Green plus the Village Hall, extended and renovated using a grant from the 21st Century Halls for England Fund, supported by the Millennium Commission, the local councils and Tatsfield Parish Council. Like Westmore Green, Tatsfield Green and many other parts of the village including the hall are owned by the parish council.

On Westmore Green, just opposite Ye Old Ship is an old horse trough which remembers an era of transport before the motor vehicle, and in the centre is the village duck pond - the sign next to it states "Beware Deep Water".

Famous people associated with Tatsfield include:

John Surtees (born here on 11 February 1934) was Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula 1 driver. He is the only man to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels. Surtees' father (also named John) owned a motorcycle dealership and thus developed an interest in motor sports. His first incursion into professional motor sports was at the age of 14, riding side-car with his father on three wheels, which they won but were subsequently disqualified as he was underage at the time.

Rev. Thomas Streatfield (1777 - 1848), was firstly Curate of St Mary's at Long Ditton, then Chaplin to the Duke of Kent and later Curate at St Mary's, Tatsfield. He wrote many books on the history of Kent = only one was published and some 50 unpublished are stored in the British Museum. He married twice, had 14 children by his two wives and through the first one acquired a fortune. He spent a lot of money altering and repairing the little church at Tatsfield and an inscription in the porch reads:

"Be it remembered that the masonry of this porch and tower is the free gift of the Rev. T. Streatfeild, of Chart's Edge, Curate, 1838. Thomas Barrett, Timothy Ringoss, churchwardens."

Donald Maclean (1913 - 1983), was a British diplomat educated at Cambridge University. His father was Sir Donald Maclean, Leader of the Liberal Party and his mother was Gwendoline Hope, a descendent of Charles II. Whilst at Cambridge he was recruited into Soviet Intelligence by Anthony Blunt as part of what later was known as the Cambridge Five. Between December 1950 and May 1951, he lived with his wife and children in a house in Tatsfield. During this time, he often frequented Ye Old Ship pub. On his 38th birthday, 25th May 1951, under suspicion and waiting to be interrogated by MI5 and the FBI, he fled to the coast with Guy Burgess, caught a ship to France and from there went on to live the rest of his life in the Soviet Union.

You can read more about the history of Tatsfield at Wikipedia, by visiting the Tatsfield Village Website, or at British History Online. For old photos, maps, stories and more about Tatsfield visit the Francis Firth Website. 

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