Bat & Ball
Bat & Ball station is a beautifully restored Victorian building on the north side of Sevenoaks. With a welcoming cafe (Bat & Ball Station Cafe, open weekdays, 6.30am to 2pm), lots of events and two large meeting rooms for hire, this was the inspiration for the Darent Valley Line. It is a useful stop for the four nearby secondary schools, the new Bat & Ball Community Centre (just over the footbridge), the shops along St Johns Hill, Sevenoaks Hospital and Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve (run by Kent Wildlife Trust). It is also possible to walk to Knole Park from here, via St Johns Hill.
History: Bat & Ball station was the original Sevenoaks station, built as part of the branch line from Swanley to Sevenoaks. Later this became known as the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. The railway specialist Thomas Crampton was awarded the contract and opened the line by 1862. An official visit to Knole (in Sevenoaks) in 1866 resulted in the Prince (later Edward VII) and Princess of Wales travelling through Bat & Ball, with Queen Victoria also visiting in 1867.
Industries in the area included brickmaking, quarrying (still active today), light engineering, a large gas works (only recently demolished), printing and publishing, all of which brought new employees into the area. Building homes for commuters became a major industry in its own right and by 1901 the population of Sevenoaks had doubled. Schools were expanded or built to educate the children of all these new people, including Sevenoaks School – which took in boarders – and Walthamstow Hall School for Girls, relocated from north London 20 years after the railway arrived.
The station is near a group of shops including a little Sainsbury’s, a chemist, florist, takeaway food outlets, Kake and Kocktail cafe/bar, hairdressers, a nursery specialist (as in babies/toddlers) and numerous other businesses. Pick up a picnic, then set off on a ten to fifteen minute walk along the (fairly busy) A25 to the amazing Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, created out of the gravel pits which once supplied the construction of the M25. The 73 hectares comprises five lakes surrounded by woodland – there is a visitors’ centre with indoor seating, hot and cold drinks, snacks and local produce (check website to make sure it is open). With so many amazing wetland birds to view, there are several hides (one of which is fully accessible) dotted about the lakes, together with the offer of guided tours to learn about bats at dusk, glow-worms, and diverse fungi. Hidden below the surface of the water, a healthy population of invertebrates and fish populate the lakes.
The station now also benefits from the brand-new Bat & Ball Community Centre, with a range of events taking place, including Tea Dances. The development includes a large main hall, a smaller hall for multi-use, a kitchen and a meeting room. There is a multi-use games areas outside and capacity for events of up to 240 people, all conveniently close to the station if anyone fancies leaving the car at home!