14 of us converged from various locations in London and Kent at Otford station on a beautiful sunny day. Some of us had to kick our heels for 30 minutes to await a late-running train, and unfortunately there was no café at the station, but as is the usual GOC way, we filled the time through a lot of chat.
It was 11.15 by the time we had all arrived and our leader Chris Woolls was able to lead us off. Initially we passed through a pleasant snicket past the church and some historic buildings to the village green and pond, picturesque though rather marred by the fact that it lies on a busy traffic roundabout. Its duck house is apparently England's smallest listed building.
We next visited the innermost planets of the Solar System. No, I have not quite lost it (yet) - this is a scale model in and around Otford village, constructed as a Millennium project, showing the relative position of the sun and planets as at 1 January 2000. The model highlights the enormous distances between the planets, whose sizes are indicated not as you first think by the metal discs, but by the tiny dots inscribed on them. Later as we left the village we passed the pillar representing Uranus, much further away and as a much larger body indicated by a small circle. (There is another pillar representing Pluto, though astronomers have since downgraded this from planetary status).
The Darenth valley offers as easy walking as you could hope for, but our walk was a little more strenuous as we ascended steeply up the west side of the valley which gave excellent views over the village of Shoreham and surrounding countryside. We had our snack break at the top of the first ascent, before contouring above the village as far as Shoreham Cross. This large chalk cross is cut into the grassy hill and was made as a memorial to the dead of the First World War. We then descended into Shoreham where surprisingly everyone spurned the offers of its pub and tea rooms, and instead ate their packed lunches on benches by the river.
After lunch we again climbed onto the west side of the valley, passing through a lovely bluebell wood and then into Lullingstone Park with its golf course and again extensive views to the east. We descended again to the valley and followed a pleasant river and lakeside path as far as Lullingstone Castle. The final part of our walk passed a Roman villa, river meadows and under the impressive railway viaduct to Eynsford village. By this time the part had become stretched out as our vanguard made a dash for the tea room, which in true British fashion closed strictly at 4 pm. However their efforts were in vain as the tea room was closed for a private function, though did sell take-away teas and slices of cake to some of our group.
Thanks very much to Chris for his confident walk leading and to everyone for their company.