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National Trust Knole, Sevenoaks along the Darent Valley Line

Awe-inspiring architecture

30 April 2021

Discover some of the most inspiring and iconic buildings in the city of history before heading south to explore quaint traditional villages with 12th century churches and onwards to uncover a 400 year old archbishops palace.


This itinerary is to help you make the most out of your time exploring the history and heritage along the Thameslink railway network. Be sure to check out our other heroic heritage itineraries for other parts of the lines including: Romans to code-breakers, pioneering history and extraordinary artifacts. If you're short on time, or just looking for day trip ideas, simply pick your favourites from our suggestions below and build your own itinerary.

From an afternoon or a day trip to a short break or longer holiday, however long you spend there's plenty to keep you busy!


Often referred to as the city of history, you'll begin your journey at Cambridge, home to one of the most impressive collections of museums in the country. Join the University of Cambridge on a historical journey through its eight museums, from archaeology and zoology to science and polar exploration, there's lots to explore.

See the sights as you explore the city centre with magnificent libraries, beautiful courts and breath-taking views from the Bridge of Sighs and the mind-boggling Mathematical Bridge.

Mathematical Bridge in the sunshine, Cambridge. Photo: Jamie Sugg from Pixabay
Photo: Jamie Sugg from Pixabay

When you're willing to move on, head to Cambridge railway station and get ready to discover the history behind quaint English villages and towns along the picturesque Rhee Valley.

First stop is less than 10 minutes along the line at Foxton where you'll find the Grade I listed Church of St Laurence dating back to the 13th century, this is the start of the Rhee Valley Listed Church Trail. While you're in Foxton take some time for a peaceful stroll along the memorial trail. Visit the village War Memorial and the 'company' memorial at The Burlington Press, a common sight after the First World War.

Optional activity

Continue along the memorial trail as it passes an ancient dovecot and well restored oast house. From here you can follow a track about a mile, uphill and down again, past Foxton Wood to Fowlmere.

Skirting the RSPB Reserve brings you to Fowlmere Airfield, a former Royal Airforce station used in the first and second world war. Here you will find a USAF War Memorial, commemorating not only the US personnel who served there, but also the hospitality of Fowlmere "our haven in that war".

Fowlmere also has a stone celebrating 50 years of peace from VE/VJ year and a village War Memorial, commemorating from the Second World War one killed and one "missing".

The Chequers pub in Fowlmere is housed in a coaching inn dating back to the 16th century, which once hosted Samuel Pepys. It features a good collection of photos of RAF Fowlmere, serves home cooked food and drink, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat before heading back to Foxton, and is dog and family friendly.

Teacake Tearoom, Shepreth. Photo:

Head back to Foxton railway station and continue 5 minutes on the train to Shepreth, where you can visit the 12th century Church of All Saints built in the Early English style. Before heading back to the station be sure to stop off at the Teacake Tearoom, housed in a 17th century thatched cottage with a charming walled tea garden.

The next stop is Meldreth railway station, another 5 minutes down the line. From here you can walk to nearby Melbourn to see a church font that dates back to the 11th century, located inside the Church of All Saints. In Meldreth Village you'll find the striking Holy Trinity Church, dating from the 12th century and with an unusually long chancel. To explore the Rhee Valley Listed Church Trail in full download the guide here.

From Meldreth you can catch a direct train taking you back into London Kings Cross. To continue your journey leave Kings Cross and cross the road to St Pancras International. From here you can take a train straight to London Blackfriars railway station in around 15 minutes.

Optional activity

Once you arrive, take time to explore some of the country's most important heritage sites located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from London Blackfriars Station.

Aerial view of London Blackfriars station
Photo: Network Rail

Iconic attractions including St Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Somerset House are all within a 30-minute walk from the railway station.

Located in the middle of the Thameslink rail network, London Blackfriars provides a good base for exploring north and south of the Thames.

Take the train from London Blackfriars to Otford, with a journey time of around an hour. Otford village sits at the heart of the beautiful Darent Valley, where the clear water of the chalk Darent River cuts through the North Downs.

The hills rise to either side, with views south towards Sevenoaks and the Weald and the gentle folds of the valley which inspired artist Samuel Palmer to the north.

Take a short stroll along Station Road (towards the heart of the village) in front of the church and at the junction with the duck pond, famous for its Grade II listed duck house and from here you'll pick up the Heritage Trail.

Otford Station, along the Darent Valley line
Photo: Sarah Newman

The Heritage Trail tells the stories of 28 of the village homes, but also explores the history of Otford Palace (once bigger than Hampton Court but now known as the vanished palace) and the battle between Edward Ironside and Cnut over the ford.

Ten heritage boards are dotted around the village with watercolour sketches detailing how each house might have looked at its prime. Each board has a QR code as well as a NFC tag, enabling those with smartphones to listen to a two-minute commentary about each location. If you are with a school group, an accompanying series of worksheets can be provided to form part of the local curriculum and children are encouraged to search for a hidden mouse in each panel.

Head back to Otford railway station and catch the next train further along the Darent Valley Line to Sevenoaks, less than a 10-minute journey. Turn right out of Sevenoaks railway station and walk up the slight incline into the heart of the town. Here you can grab a bite to eat at one of many cafes and restaurants dotted along the high street. After your pit stop, continue walking to the other side of the town and you'll pick up signs for Knole, a National Trust property boasting over 400 years of fascinating history. It takes around 35 minutes to walk from Sevenoaks railway station direct to Knole.

As you approach Knole, you'll be amazed to see a remarkably preserved and complete early Jacobean remodelling of a medieval archbishops' palace.

National Trust Knole, Sevenoaks along the Darent Valley Line
Photo: National Trust

See many artifacts ranging from throughout the palace's 400-year history and learn about the area's royal links with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Explore the rest of the estate including the Gatehouse Tower and lookout for the wild deer roaming the nearby landscapes. Be sure to stop off at the Brewhouse Café for some homemade treats before heading back to the railway station to begin your journey home.

From Sevenoaks railway station you can catch a direct train to the capital, arriving at London Bridge railway station around 25 minutes later using the fast service. If you fancy taking the slow train to take in the picturesque scenery of the Darent Valley Line, your journey will take around 1 hour 10 minutes.

We'd love to hear about your scenic rail adventures over on our social media channels. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and share your photos!

To make your days out as enjoyable as possible, we encourage you to plan your trip in advance and check for disruptions before you start your journey. Visit our travel safe page to see what you can do to make planning easy.

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