Walk of the month: Horton Kirby
PUBLISHED: 23:17 25 September 2013 | UPDATED: 23:17 25 September 2013
Follow along the banks of the River Darent as it winds through fields and copses on this relaxing walk
This enjoyable 3.2 mile walk will follow gentle slopes past a former castle, through the nostalgic village of Farningham and back towards Horton Kirby.
Starting conveniently from the sports field car park, go through the gate to follow the way-marked path towards the river as it bubbles over the weirs.
Wander along the tree-lined banks until you reach the road, before turning left to cross over towards the manicured village cricket field.
Follow the path past the grand gardens and admire the impressive red-brick Tudor mansion of Franks Hall.
The valley soon widens where the Downs begin to level out, an important factor in this section of the Darent Valley’s heritage as a key transport corridor.
Pick your way through the stretch of open fields to rejoin the river as it arcs across the sweeping landscape; this gently sloping patchwork is home to grazing ponies and sheep.
Passing under the M20 and A20 towards Farningham, you’ll stroll past the Lion Hotel, a popular haunt for generations of anglers, including Charles Dickens.
Farningham was once an important stop for 18th-century seaside visitors on their way from London along the old coach road. To this day the village’s fine inns are popular with locals and visitors.
One of the finest mills in the valley stands opposite the Lion Hotel, where corn was ground until 1900. A glance up the winding main street of Farningham will reveal the relatively unchanged flint-faced and weather-boarded cottages and shops of a traditional village.
However, it is believed that there was once more to Farningham than peaceful lanes and charming cottages.
The White House before you is said to have been the front of a thriving smuggling business, transporting spirits and silks from the 19th to the 20th centuries.
Cross over the main town bridge and past the site of the former castle and medieval fairs, now Market Meadow, the village’s green open space. The well-preserved main street with its stately Georgian houses lies ahead; continue along this grand avenue and turn left just after Farningham House, opposite the Pied Bull public house to the path across the fields.
Keep your eyes peeled for the yellow-breasted grey wagtails, regularly seen along this stretch of river. You’ll note the numerous holes which line the banks, clearly the homes of small creatures such as the water vole.
Wrens can also be spotted regularly foraging around the base of the many trees which line the banks.
Cross over the road and you’ll soon return to Horton Kirby on the eastern side of the river, following the path over the bridge across the weir to the car park.