The Darent Valley Food and Drink Rail Trail
The Darent Valley and Sevenoaks are lucky enough to have dozens of amazing food and drink producers working in and near the area. In this suggested trail we introduce you to just a few of the many talented people working here. The Trail is designed to work within the framework of a day’s travel, but can of course be adapted by you to spend more time in one location and just catch a couple of the other venues. Follow your palate!
Arrive at Sevenoaks station – head up the hill to your right and fork left soon after up St Botolph’s Road (another hill). Pause to admire the Vine cricket ground before heading right for the High Street. Go straight into the centre of Sevenoaks. Head to Life on High (on the left soon after Pizza Express, on the High Street) – 15 mins depending on your speed.
Life on High
Your options are to have one of their in-house roasted and ground coffees, or if you are already beginning to feel hungry, you might be tempted by one of their delicious cakes or even a picture-perfect vegan burger, piled high with colourful and edible decorations.
We chose Life on High primarily because they take so much care with their coffee, sourcing the beans with carefully selected producers, shipping the produce to Sevenoaks then roasting the beans in-house to make sure they are just right for the customer. Keith, one of the co-founders, will only grind the coffee beans when they are about to be used, so their freshness is at its maximum. There are plans afoot to run coffee roasting workshops, so watch our Events pages. Co-founder Anna Sofianos and the chef have also focused on the menu, with incredible vegan offerings. During the day these include ridiculously healthy burgers and soul bowls, plus colourful smoothies and, for special event evenings, delectable tapas dishes to accompany smooth cocktails and DJ beats. It’s also worth mentioning that during the pandemic, the team here went the extra mile to share food with key workers, tirelessly setting up a stall outside the café to offer dishes to worn-out personnel. Top work!
Head right down the High Street and perhaps pop in to Italian delicatessen and restaurant Marco’s Delicatessen and Restaurant on the way – at the very least the window display is sure to delight. Shortly beyond the traffic lights and on the left is award-winning Sevenoaks Bookshop, an independent bookseller with an impressive offering of books together with a Writer’s Cafe. Browse the bookshelves, enjoy the images of writers associated with the area – 3 mins. N.B. if you have time and prefer to have lunch in Sevenoaks, do have a look at Number Eight or Hidden Jen, both off the High Street and both keen supporters of local produce and sustainability.
Sevenoaks Bookshop and The Writers Cafe
This lovely award-winning bookshop (independent bookshop of the year in 2021 no less!) is truly independent and run by a team of experienced, enthusiastic and welcoming booksellers. The best books for adults and children – the very latest and the finest classics – are in stock and incredibly knowledgeable staff are on hand to recommend the perfect book for you. The bookshop often gets very special extras from publishers for the latest books – lots of signed editions, events, lovely canvas tote bags, posters and much more. There are also many brilliant events (check their website), beautiful and unusual greeting cards, notelets and gift wrap, not to mention the atmospheric cafe with delicious cakes and images of the many writers linked to the area plus a few loved by the owner Fleur Sinclair and staff.
Next take a twenty minute stroll down the hill to the Bat & Ball traffic lights, go across the busy junction then turn right soon after to find the beautifully restored Victorian splendour of Bat & Ball station – 20 mins.
Bat & Ball Station Café
At the wonderfully-restored Grade II Victorian station Bat & Ball, another café awaits, stocked with freshly-made cakes, local produce, sandwiches and quaint loos should you need them! Open Monday to Friday from 6.30am to 2pm, this picturesque cafe also stocks the Darent Valley Line posters in all sizes, with prices starting at £6. Vegan supper clubs held here too (www.batandballstation.com for details).
Catch a train from Bat & Ball station to Shoreham. Thameslink Trains depart every half hour along the Darent Valley, taking you to Shoreham station, two stops along the line. 8 mins.
Arrive at Shoreham (Kent) station and walk down the hill using a new footpath in the field on the right, then pass through the churchyard, continuing down Church Street to the Mount Vineyard . The driveway entrance is the village on the right after the Samuel Palmer Inn (by the way another food and drink destination in its own right – more to be added here!). 7 mins.
The Mount Vineyard
Explore the vineyard, take in the view and try an aperitif or go for the full pizza/platter lunch. This could be the moment to indulge in an award-winning wine-tasting session, or perhaps a tour of the charming ten acre vineyard (book ahead). If you have saved a bit of space, there are platters full of melt-in-the-mouth local cheeses and imported charcuterie to sample, or crisp pizzas produced on site laden with healthy ingredients. Stock up at Ten Acres Shop if you have a sturdy backpack.
Turning right out of the Vineyard drive, connect with the Darent Valley Path, following the course of the Darent River to the Hop Shop. 30 mins
Hop Shop at Castle Farm
Arrive at the Hop Shop at Castle Farm. Enjoy the sweeping valley views and meander along the riverside on the way. If you visit in June or July you’ll be treated to the heady perfume of the lavender fields for which the farm is Insta-famous. Aesthetic benches positioned in just the right place within the rows provide exactly the right backdrop for stylish photos. Book ahead for picnics to enjoy next to the fields on golden summer evenings. Explore the well-stocked farm shop with plenty of lavender gifts and more on offer. Try delicious lavender ice cream or buy their essential lavender oil to take home.
From here you can either retrace your steps to catch the train home from Shoreham or press on for another half an hour to find Eynsford station.
For Eynsford station, follow the Darent Valley Path past Lullingstone Country Park (toilets, café), Lullingstone Castle and World Garden (check opening times), Lullingstone Roman Villa (English Heritage) and either continue in to Eynsford village for more pubs and cafes, or turn right past New Barn Farm to join the A225 and find the station up on the right-hand side to return home N.B. the path along the A225 is not yet official, but we are working on it – 30 mins