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Details

  • Start: Eynsford
  • End: Eynsford
  • Country: England
  • County: Kent
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: 162
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Description

From Roman villas and Norman castles to historic palaces and stately homes, the Darenth Valley is one of Kent's greatest hidden treasures

Walk of the month: Darenth Valley


From Roman villas and Norman castles to historic palaces and stately homes, the Darenth Valley is one of Kent's greatest hidden treasures


Location: Eynsford DA4 0JA


Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9km), allow 30 minutes


Terrain: fields, rolling hillsand roads


Step count: approx 2,600 (2 stiles)


Parking: Lullingstone Roman Villa car park


OS Explorer Map: 162



Eynsford stands at the centre of the Darent Valley, where youll find some of Kent's finest heritage, from Roman villas and Norman castles to historic palaces and stately homes.


The waymarked path is 19 miles longand follows the meandering River Darent from the Thames at Dartford through the Kent Downs AONB to its source in the Greensand Hills above Sevenoaks.


The excellent network of footpathscriss-crossing the Darent valley offers walkers of all ages and abilities everyhting from gentle strolls between historic inns or churches to bracing climbs to the top of the Downs.


The lovely village of Eynsford dips its toes in the River Darent at the place where it cuts through the North Downs. Crossed by a 17th-century hump-backed bridge that shadows the shallow ford, its a favourite place for families with children to picnic, paddle and play on warm summer days.


The invigorating circular walk around Eynsford starts a short distance away at Lullingstone Roman Villa, one of the best-preserved and displayed examples of Roman remains in Britain. What was an open-air attraction is now enclosed in a modern, wheelchair-accessible building that houses separate exhibition and event space, lecture rooms, a shop and toilet facilities.


A stones throw from the villa across the tree-lined river is Lullingstone Castle, set in 120 acres and one of Englands oldest family estates, dating back to the time of Domesday. Overlooking a 15-acre lake, the present manor house and gatehouse were built in 1497, and have been home to the same family - the Harts - ever since.


The castle and its grounds are now famous for Tom Hart Dykes innovative World Garden, (open Apr-Sep) where cutting-edge horticulture meets plant heritage, thanks to a nine-month kidnap ordeal suffered by botanical enthusiast Tom in 2000 while on a plant-hunting expedition in South America.


Nearby Lullingstone Country Park is a natural playground for walkers, cyclists and horse riders all-year round. Internationally important for its collection of ancient trees, with more than 300 veteran oak, beech, hornbeam, ash and sweet chestnut, its rolling chalk grasslands grow many species of wild flowers in summer that include rare orchids.


The park also has an 18-hole golf course, described as one of the best in the south east. The visitor centre is accessible for the disabled with a cafeteria, gift shop, toilets, educational facilities and car park.


The route of the walk travels up the hill above Lullingstone Castle and the Roman Villa, where the summit offers panoramic views for miles over the Darent Valley. On the top of the Downs youll find Eagle Heights Birds of Prey Centre, one of the UK's largest, with around 150 raptors on site at any one time.


The wildlife park is also home to a great many different species of animals, including cheetahs, meerkats, porcupines, otters, snakes and lizards.


Wheelchair and pushchair friendly, the park and its tearooms are open all year round, and you can also try special hands-on falconry and animal experience days and raptor handling courses.


Eagle Heights Park day tickets include an exclusive tour of the Husky Kennels - perfect for dog-lovers who can book to take (or be taken by) one of the 26 Huskies on a short walk through the surrounding countryside.


The walk travels on to Eynsford, passing its ancient parish church of St Martin. To the north of the villageyou'll findEynsford Castle, one of the earliest Norman stonework defences in the country. These days thesite and its ruins aremanaged byEnglish Heritage.




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