by Janis on 24th August 2021 / 0 comments

Picturesque cottages, charming shops, and a listed duck pond

The charismatic village of Otford in Kent is located in the lush Darent Valley. It is named after the River Darent, which snakes its way through the heart of the Kent countryside. Darent Valley is also referred to as the Darenth Valley, but hey, I’m not going to argue with either.

When the River Darent reaches Otford, it gurgles beneath the quaint High Street. It gently flows through woodland, passing oast houses and beautiful Kent stone cottages along the way.

We visited Otford during our mini road trip around the Darent Valley after making two nostalgic childhood stops at Farningham and Eynsford en-route. Which truly enhanced our happy, youthful memories.

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The 16th-century red-brick Bridge Cottage on the banks of the River Darent in Otford, Kent
Bridge Cottages

How to get to Otford

How to get to...

- By Train
You can catch a direct train from London Victoria to Otford Station, which takes around 35 minutes. Other London stations serve Otford; however, the travel times vary.

- By Car
Otford can be easily accessed from the M25 (jct. 5). There’s a central carpark in the village which is free for the first hour, and then there is a tiered tariff.

A little history on the village of Otford

An Archbishop’s Palace

Amazingly, this small village has some incredible history dating as far back as the iron age.

Romans ruled the land during the 4th century, and traces of an ancient Roman villa were excavated during the 1930s and more recently by the West Kent Archeological Society.

The Saxon’s also played a role in Otford’s past and were not content with staging one Battle of Otford in 776; the Saxon’s also fought the Danes in 1016 at the Battle of Otford.

The Otford village sign on a green in front of traditional buildings
Otford Village sign

Then following the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066, the village of Otford was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

However, Otford Palace, also known as the Archbishop’s Palace, undoubtedly placed Otford on the map. The land was gifted to the Archbishop of Canterbury around 790 and on which a palace was built.

The red-brick tower, which was once part of the 14th-century Ashichbishops palace, also known as Otford Palace, stands alone.
Otford Palace tower and gatehouse

Though, it was during the early 16th century that Otford Palace was reconstructed, and one of England’s largest palaces was built, covering 4 acres of land. The Palace was comparable in size with Hampton Court Palace.

Many notable guests and royalty stayed at the Palace. Still, after the death of Henry VIII, Otford Palace slowly fell into decline and ruin.

The remaining tower and gatehouse of the Archbishop’s Palace can still be seen today and underwent a recent restoration completed in 2017.

A fence alongside the path to a remaining tower of Otford Palace
The ruins of Otford’s Archbishops Palace

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Picture-postcard Otford

With its English country gardens

Otford is a beautiful village to stroll around; there are so many eye-catching cottages that wouldn’t look out of place on the front of a chocolate box. Charming, welcoming doorways with fragrant rambling roses were bobbing in the breeze and hanging baskets tumbling with floral displays.

It’s the quaint little wooden windows that I love; they bring so much character to the cottages, they almost seem to be peering down upon you.

The picturesque Chantry Cottage in the village of Otford, Kent
Chantry Cottage

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

The 16th-century red-brick & tiled Bubblestone Farmhouse next to Otford's Village green
Bubblestone Farmhouse

At the western end of Otford High Street, prior to leading onto Pilgrims Way West, is the unusual old timber-framed building, ‘Pickmoss’.

Pickmoss and Pickmoss Cottage is a grade II* listed building. The Medieval open-hall house was reconstructed in 1951. The western half of Pickmoss preserves its original 15th and 16th-century timbering. It’s incredible to see these historic dwellings still retaining their original character.

The 16th-century timber-framed Pickmoss on the High Street of the village of Otford, Kent
Pickmoss and Pickmoss Cottage
Oast houses can be found in Otford, along with homes constructed of local Kent flint and stone. Elegant manor houses begrudgingly peeking out from behind the immaculately manicured gardens.

Where to stay near Otford

- Donnington Manor Hotel – Is located just 1 mile from Otford along the London Road. The rooms are comfortably decorated, and it has an onsite restaurant. If you are driving, they also have complimentary parking.
- Castle Hotel – Is in the delightful neighbouring village of Eynsford. It is located in the heart of the village, with Eynsford Castle opposite. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and if you are driving, they have an onsite free car park.

Exploring Otford

The High Street awaits
In 2002, Otford won the Kent Village of the Year competition, and it certainly hasn’t lost its appeal over the years. The independent boutiques, antique shops, tea rooms and the delightful village barbers look so in-keeping with the feel of the village community.
The quaint little powder blue Otford village Barbers shop
Otford Village Barbers
Otford’s main High Street isn’t especially long; however, charming and characterful buildings hide behind weatherworn brick walls and ornate garden gates.
A range of independent little shops set in the base of historic buildings on Otford High Street
Otford High Street

Throughout the village, you’ll discover the signs for Otford’s Heritage Trail. It tells the stories and shares memories of 28 village homes and interesting facts from Otford’s rich past. Otford Conservation Area covers some 16 hectares and contains around forty listed buildings.

You’ll also spot on the side of Otford’s Village Hall and colourful Millennium Mosaic depicting life from the iron-age through to the present day

The Otford Antique & Collectors Centre set in a historic building on Otford High Street
Otford Antiques and Collectors Centre
For a little more information on Otford, head to the Visit Otford website.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

Farningham and Eynsford are located along the Darent Valley. They are just north of the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To explore the hiking trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey maps that will help you along the route is no. 162, ‘Greenwich & Gravesend’ and no. 147, ‘Sevenoaks & Tonbridge’.

Otford’s Listed Bird Pond

The centrepiece of Otford

If you arrived in Otford from the eastern end of the High Street, you wouldn’t have failed to have noticed the beautiful village duck pond, which doubles as a roundabout.

Otford can boast of having the only listed duck pond in the country, granted this status on 16th January 1975. The pond is believed to date back to Anglo Saxon times when it was probably used as a drinking hole for local livestock.

A mottled goose standing at the edge of Otford's listed village duck pond
Otford’s listed duck pond
There’s no easy way of getting onto the central island; you just have to play chicken with the traffic. Although it was worth seeing the cute ducks

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

Discover Otford’s social side

From its churches to inns
Opposite the bird pond and slightly setback is the Church of St Bartholomew. It’s believed that a church was founded on this site during the mid-10th-century by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, St Dunstan. However, the present building dates from the 11th-century and the tower from the 12th.
Otford's war memorial in front of the 11th-12th century Church of St Bartholomew
The Church of St Bartholomew, Otford

Otford has three other churches, Otford Methodist Church, Otford Evangelical Free Church and the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

However, as so often with historic country villages, the number of churches frequently coincides with the number of pubs and inns.

Up until recent years, Otford was welcoming patrons to four pubs and coaching inns. Unfortunately, due to modern-day tendencies, only two pubs remain. The Bull in the middle of the High Street and The Woodman near the duck pond.

The Bull pub on the High Street of the village of Otford, Kent
The Bull, Otford
I remember visiting one of the pubs that have closed, The Crown, a 16th-century inn, about 25 years ago, and I had an urge for a roast dinner. It was the height of British summer, but that wasn’t going to stop me, so we sat and ate in their delightful courtyard garden, happy days.

Things to see and do nearby Otford

Within a short distance of Otford, there are plenty of other attractions and activities to keep you occupied. Here are a few that you may enjoy.

Eynsford Castle - English Heritage (Free entry)
Lullingstone Roman Villa - English Heritage
Lullingstone Castle & The World Garden
Lullingstone Country Park
Eagle Heights Wildlife foundation
Farningham Wood Nature Reserve
Brands Hatch
Darent Valley Path
Castle Farm - Lavender Farm (seasonal)

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