Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Walking Week - Lavender Fields in Kent

Besides eating, making and thinking about food, one of my other passions is taking in the great outdoors, stretching my legs and discovering new and picturesque landscapes. This week I'm posting entries depicting scenic summer country walks.
This post relates to "The Lavender Walk". We call it this, as we first discovered it during the Lavender Festival which takes place in the first two weeks of July in Shoreham, Kent. It brings a little bit of Provence to our doorstep. This is a relatively easy 8 mile circular walk.
Our starting point was Eynsford train station where we parked for free (yes, you heard me free, but only at the weekend!).
Ford over the river Darenth in Eynsford Village
Crossing over the hump-back bridge in Eynsford village, we were placed nicely in full view of all those paddling, and casting their fishing nets in the ford. The Plough Inn on the right hand side was worth remembering as we called for a well deserved chilled Chablis at the end of the walk. Continuing down the road, we were met with the option to take a small grassy hill on the right with a yellow sign indicating public footpath. Following the incline, we immediately found ourselves isolated from the rest of the world and in a great expanse of vegetation. Looking over to the left, a former Roman acqueduct came into view.
Former Roman Aqueduct in Darent Valley
This forms part of the rail infrastructure for South Eastern trains and before too long, we were crossing over the tracks with some trepidation. The paths are relatively easy to follow as previous walkers have carved out a route on the terrain.
A place we thought was a great spot to pause and watch the world go by was beneath this solitary tree. Feeling you are miles from London, with a view overlooking the Darent Valley, yet you are actually only a short car journey away!
Single Solitary Tree
Following on from this spot, we had to cross a few open fields. The striking difference from before was the colours that greeted us; a wave of poppies. A vibrancy of colour, against the parched sandy earth.
A wave of poppies
A few fields further on and we were traversing a wood (which I believe is Beechen Wood), to be parallel to Lullingstone Golf Course and then crossing over the golf course (10 seconds maximum!) to end up on Castle Farm Road. From there, we continued to hike up the road taking a left at the brim of the hill at a green public footpath sign. This allowed us to walk parallel to Shoreham village but from a great height, taking in some spectacular scenery.After walking for about 10 minutes, the path levelled out and we had the option to descend the fields into the village.
Shoreham itself depicts a typically charming English village. You can stop for lunch and dine al fresco at The Two Brewers Pub or if you are in need of a sweet treat, walk further down the main street to come to The Honey Pot which serves a selection of cakes, scones, teas and coffees.
Photo credit: The Two Brewers Pub
Just down from The Honey Pot, a little bridge, beckons you to cross the River Darent.
The Honey Pot. Photo by Kfoftis
We followed the river in the direction of the left so that we were passing beautiful residences and cottages along the way. Oh to have a country house in Shoreham! Bliss!
Village Life: Beautiful residence in Shoreham
The river bank is a popular spot for families and dog walkers alike, it attracts a lot of buzz as people congregate to take advantage of the bursts of sunshine. The river bank route eventually led out to open fields where lavender crops were in full bloom and I was immediately reminded of the South of France.
Lavender Field in view
The scent of lavender intensifies as we approached the Hop Farm Lavender Festival. The festival prides itself in selling fragrant lavender bouquets, lavender cakes, biscuits, ice cream and crisps. Even lavender oils are used to provide massages.
The Lavender Festival is in full swing.
Photo Credit: The Hop Farm Shop

Small windmill at Hop Farm
There is an events diary which can be reviewed for tours and talks but the shop itself is open daily and specialises in selling local produce, some of which are made on site.

Last Year's Festival :Cooling off in the River Darent
Last Year, following a visit to the festival and farm shop, we were joined by the others on the grassy bank of the river to dip our toes in the water. Ah! cool and crisp water, oh now my feet were longing for you! However, this area is now continually cordoned off as a health and safety measure. It is a working farm and therefore has to observe strict health and safety guidelines. Leaving the festival we took the route that follows the river and passed Lullingstone Country Park and we eventually came out at the grounds of 15th century Lullingstone Castle .
Lullingstone Castle
We followed the main road back, passing Lullingstone Roman Villa  and crossing under the aforementioned aqueduct. This brought us back to the village of Eynsford where had a wee drink and soaked up the sunshine.

Lavender season runs from June until early August, so even if you have missed the festival, you can still take in the wonderful views around Eynsford and Shoreham and stock up on goodies at the Hop Farm Shop.

Trains run from London Victoria. If you are taking the train, allow 6-7 hours for the day . This includes travel, food and the walk itself.

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