by Janis / 6 comments - Orginally published:10th August 2021

Cosy country cottages, a folly, and my own nostalgic memories

Anything that Farningham lacks in size undoubtedly makes up for in charisma and character; it brought back so many enjoyable family memories for me.

It had been years since I last visited Farningham; I’d forgotten how picturesque and quaint it was. Although, to be fair, it has been over forty years since I was first taken to Farningham as a child. Then most recently twenty years ago.

In the summer months, we used to meet my grandfather at the historic Lion Hotel. It was located on the banks of the River Darent and an ideal playground for my brother and me to burn off our excess energy and see who could fall into the river first.

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How to get to Farningham

By Train - You can catch a direct train from London Victoria to Farningham Road Station, which takes around 40 minutes. Farningham Road Station is about 2 miles (3km) from Farningham, so a little distance to walk. However, the charming village of Eynsford is only 1.4 miles (2.2km) further on, and you can catch a return train from Eynsford.

By Car – Farningham can be easily accessed from the M25 (jct. 3) and M20 (jct. 1).

Farningham cattle screen

Or is it a folly?

The iconic characteristic of Farningham is the cattle screen, which is sometimes referred to as a folly adjacent to the old medieval bridge.

The cattle screen was built around the mid-1700s and was erected to stop livestock wandering up or downstream of the Darent. However, this cattle screen is believed to have been created as a little bit of indulgence by the Hanger family to show their wealth.

Looking up the high street past the red brick Lion Hotel on the edge of River Darent in Farningham, Kent
 Lion Hotel
The cattle screen could have been constructed much simpler with the hanging swing gates supported by a beam, but this wasn’t to be. Instead, the hanging gates are part of an ornate structure designed to look like a bridge built out of brick and flint.
A brick-built, three arch structure, with wooden gated suspended from each arch over the River Darent in Farningham, Kent
Cattle screen – bridge with swinging gate
Personally, I loved it as a child, climbing onto the swaying gate from one side, shimmying my way across to the dry land. All the while swinging back and forth, trying not to fall into the shallow water below. As you can imagine having an older brother, he made this teetering crossing a little more difficult and gave the swinging gate a helping hand in my fall from grace.
A side profile of the brick-built, three arch Cattle Screen folly over the River Darent in Farningham, Kent
Cattle screen folly
How different it was different in the 70s; today, there are now signs asking you to ‘keep off’.

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Serene country surroundings

In the heart of the Darent Valley

While strolling through the tranquil streets in Farningham, I couldn’t believe that this picturesque village was only 2 miles (3.2km) from the murmuring lanes of the M25 and M20. I didn’t hear the motorway at all during our visit, perhaps as Farningham lies in the Darent Valley, which makes it slightly sheltered.

Farningham village is now a Conservation Area and covers 15 hectares, including forty-six listed buildings and structures.

The impressive early 18th-century red brick Farningham House just off the high street
Farningham House

Parking along Farningham High Street is free of charge, although there is a payable car park by the Lion Hotel if you struggle to find a space.

Take a look at the self-guided walk of the village which Farningham Parish Council has compiled.

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’.

A little slice of Farningham history

With a French twist
Well, I say a little slice of history, Farningham’s incredible past dates back to the Neolithic era, with the discovery of prehistoric flint and tools. I now understand why flint is used to construct so many homes and buildings in the Darent Valley.
A brass plaque, set in a flint wall, detailing Hic Est Wadard and his place in history at the Battle of Hastings
Hic Est Wadard

Then came the Romans in the 1st-century who certainly left their mark on Farningham and other surrounding villages. There is evidence of six settlements in this small region, three villas and three farmsteads.

Farningham was undoubtedly mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086 and bizarrely can boast at having one of its noble landowners on the Bayeux Tapestry. Wadard was an 11th-century Norman who came over to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Wadard is also depicted on the Farningham street sign.

Another notable frequent visitor was Captain Bligh of the 'Munity of the Bounty'.

A bright red letterbox next to the Farningham village sign featuring the image of Hic Est Wadard copied from the Bayeux Tapestry.
Farningham village sign

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.

Farningham village life

So beautifully English
All along Farningham’s charming High Street are beautiful cosy cottages in all shapes and sizes. Some with white weather-boarded fronts, others in the eye-catching flintstone, and so many striking English country gardens, with fragrant roses bobbing in the summer breeze.
A beautiful detached white weatherboarded home, with its cottage garden flowers in full bloom on the London Road, Farningham, Kent
Weatherboarded cottage
What I especially loved about Farningham was the true village feel throughout the community. The traditional Farningham Butchers have been catering for the everyday needs of the locals for almost 200 years.
The traditional Farningham Butchers, nestled at the end of a terrace of pretty little cottages in Farningham high street, Kent
Farningham Butchers
The Wadard book shop selling antiquarian and rare books was just calling for you to go in and immerse yourself in the historical pages of literature. There’s something wonderful about a book shop that just draws you in, and you want to get lost in the minds of others.
The Wadard Antiquarian Books store with its white weatherboarded exteriors, trimmed in black edges, in Farningham, Kent
Wadard Books

Farningham’s iconic watermill

And charming flint country cottages
A few other notable buildings in Farningham are, of course, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, which sits proudly in the heart of the village and dated from the 13th-century. Sections of the church tower were added during the 15th and 19th centuries. The church also suffered bomb damage in 1941.
The flint built Norman church of St. Peter and St. Paul's in the centre of Farningham, Kent
St. Peter and St. Paul Church
The presence of a water mill in Farningham was first noted in the Domesday Book. The existing watermill dates from late the 18th-century and was powered by the River Darent. The restoration was completed in 2013, and the eye-catching three-storey weatherboarded mill is another icon of Farningham village.

Where to stay near Farningham

- 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.
The white weatherboarded 18th-century Farningham Mill in Farningham, Kent
Farningham Watermill
Wandering through Farningham, you’ll spot various buildings that have now been converted into lovely homes that were once a bakery, post office, pharmacy and Village Club. All the essentials for a community to be self-sufficient.
The old Bakery in a white weatherboarded 18th-century building in Farningham, Kent
The Old Bakery, Farningham

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.

Farningham certainly won’t go thirsty

Neither did Dickens
You will undoubtedly notice the number of pubs in Farningham; there are three along the High Street. The Chequers opposite the village butchers’ dates from 1797 and is a cosy pub with interesting artwork dotted around.
The brick-built Chequers Inn on the corner of Dartford road and the High Street in Farningham, Kent
The Chequers Inn

In the middle of the High Street on the banks of the River Darent is the 18th-century Lion Hotel. The Lion has played a prominent role within Farningham over the centuries, including billeting troops passing through on their way to mainland Europe.

It is also believed that Charles Dickens visited The Lion while he enjoyed participating in the excellent trout fishing that the Darent River provided.

Parasols up at tables in front of the Lion Hotel on the High Street of Farningham, Kent
The Lion Hotel
Last and by no means least is the Pied Bull further along the High Street. The Pied Bull Inn was built circa 1612; however, it became a busy coaching inn by the 18th and 19th centuries. It was located on the main road between London to Dover, and the stagecoach house could stable up to fifty horses.
The well maintained Pied Bull pub on Farningham high street once used to be a historic coaching inn.
The Pied Bull Pub

Things to see and do nearby Farningham

Within a short distance of Farningham, 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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  1. I love Kent it is one of my favourite counties in England. Lived in the county for 20 years before moving to Belgium . Live in Hayes nor far from Bromley. near to the Kent country side nearest village was Keston and Down where Charles Darwin lived in Down House which is open to the public and worth visiting as I have done by walking to down by foot not far from Hayes.

    1. Author

      Yes, there are some beautiful places to visit in Kent. We’ve lived here many years now and still find new places to explore.

      Which region of Belgium do you now live in, is it in Flanders or the Wallonia?

    2. Sadly the butchers is now up for sale- am pretty sure it has only just gone up for sale this week!!

  2. Are you able to enter the Farningham mill compound?just want to take photo of the white bridge.

    1. Author

      Hi, I believe it is now private residences, so I’m unsure if you are able to stroll in. You may just need to ask someone while you are there.

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