From Sevenoaks to Ightham Mote on the Greensand Way
A disappointingly small number of people suggested that they'd be going on Ken's proposed walk when asked at the club on Thursday evening. My perception is that this has been the case for a few walks now – although more subsequently have turned out than indicated beforehand.
So it was that I travelled to Victoria Station to meet just Ken and Fred - on Saturday 27th May – and did so at the proposed time, by 8.55. The station was as busy as usual as we were getting our tickets - only £3.10 for a Day-return to Sevenoaks with our Freedom Passes and Travelcards. However, as we were being served announcement began that the Underground part of the station was closed due to a person on the line. While waiting for our train, Victoria Station became as populated as a miserable winter Sunday in the '60s.
We hang on outside the ticket barriers where our train was at the platform, hoping that there might be some further arrivals from the Group, but realising that even if there were, they would have had trouble getting there, with the closure. Then Lynne went past. So fast that Ken and Fred didn't even see her and certainly faster than any of the trains at the platforms and probably anybody else on the station. She was through those barriers before my brain could get my mouth into gear to shout, but with Ken's assistance our combined voices caught her attention, and she joined us. And that was it...then there were four.
From Sevenoaks station it is a bit of an uphill haul along town roads and past the back of a T...'s store and near the bus station before you exit the town through a small gate and are suddenly in the countryside of Knole Park. Immediately there were grassy, grazed hillsides, bosky woods (whatever they are) and a herd of fallow deer that didn't pay much attention at all to passing people. There were more deer than there were passing people. We, as people, passed the deer, and then more, and more deer. There were a lot of deer, all beautifully marked in traditional colours – not like the more unconventional costumes that our Epping Forest ones are sometimes prone to wearing. And all more or less unconcerned about our passing – at least until you try to stroke them.
We picked up (but not literally) the Greensand Way, which is a long-distance footpath actually marked on O.S. Maps. I remarked that the name – and indeed the markings on the maps – are not very descriptive because although it might be sand, it ain't green. That didn't deter anyone, so we continued, past Knole House and through very nice parkland country until – crossing a road marked in yellow on the map (which of course was not yellow, or brick) we entered more natural-seeming country, with sandy heaths and scattered trees. Sometimes the scattered trees got together to form woods.
We had been generally climbing from Sevenoaks Station, and at Carters Hill (about 630ft) we emerged onto a path running east along the scarp face of the Greensand ridge, overlooking the Weald to the south. It is a very pleasant route, with a variety of lanes, paths, tracks, wood, grassland and scrub to add interest. Unfortunately, I was suffering foot-wise – and had been since leaving home – so much of the pleasure was negated just by walking. A Paracetamol at a brief rest-stop led to some abatement, but not much.
We were very lucky with the weather. The day before had been hot and clear. Today sometimes a bit of cloud – even a few specks of rain – and there was a breeze. This meant it was neither humid nor burning, and was good for walking. Never quite reaching 700ft, the route took us along the scarp with some short ups-and-downs at about 650ft until we reached the edge of the Ightham Mote estate which – the house being in a hollow – meant that we descended slightly, past some oast-houses and to the garden-grounds of the house itself.
Ightham Mote is a Grade 1 listed mediaeval manor house, surrounded by a moat, and is owned by the National Trust. After having tea (and, for me, another pain-killer) at the cafeteria we showed our N.T. passes and went in to the grounds. We listened to an introductory talk about the origins and history of the manor, then went inside the manor to spend some time looking around the very interesting building.
Our concern at the finish of the tour was to get back to Sevenoaks, and as the manor house is some 2 miles by narrow road from Ightham, and walking narrow roads did not enthuse us, we decided that our best route was to walk by way of footpaths to the A25 road some way north, and hope to catch a bus. That option was at least shorter than walking back to Sevenoaks.
As is often the case – at least I have found – beginning a walk from a particular location is the most difficult part. It begins with orientating oneself with where you are in relation to where you want to be. Essentially, we were in the car-park of a National Trust property, and wished to find an appropriate footpath out. By means of two different scale O.S. Maps and a “You are Here” map of where we were in the grounds, we made our way out, and onto a bridleway. It was a very sharp-stoned bridleway, and unfortunately the wrong one, as we discovered after some few hundred metres. We gained the correct paths, and proceeded to walk the 2 miles to the road – mostly uphill and sometimes steeply so. Strangely, after my pain of reaching Ightham Mote, this for me was a relatively painless and thus more enjoyable part of the trek. Paracetamol is good stuff.
Reaching the pub by the A25 – by now all tired and wanting a bus – Lynne went ahead to see if she could find a bus-stop, and I went into the pub to ask where was one. Lynne's was the better option, because after I'd found out and we'd followed her, she appeared ahead waving her arms madly and encouraging us to run. We tried, but the bus driver did not want to wait a minute or two so we missed the penultimate and hourly bus by minutes.
Anyway, having then plenty of time for a leisurely drink, we got the last bus of the day an hour later, which deposited us at Sevenoaks station in two-minutes time for the train, and we went home.
Thanks to Ken for organising the walk, and to Ken, Lynne and Fred for the company. It was a good walk, totalling 6.7 miles, ascending 1069 ft and descending 909 ft.
Paul Ferris, 28th May 2017