, 2022-12-02 09:13:00,
An hour after leaving London Blackfriars, the Thameslink train emerges from a long tunnel into a rural Kentish idyll. As we pass over a Victorian viaduct a bucolic view beckons from the south: a meandering river between wooded chalk hills. Water meadows, poplars and an ancient church tower complete the scene. It’s like a fleeting glimpse of a picture book showing the Garden of England. We have entered the Darent valley, which, despite being on London’s doorstep, offers several secluded walks – and more than a couple of great pubs.
Shoreham is a hub for many hiking routes, but when the train pulls in, a smartly dressed group disembark alongside us, none of them wearing walking boots. They’re heading into the village for stone-baked pizzas and wine at the Mount Vineyard. The vineyard team has also taken over the 15th-century Ye Olde George inn and, after a thorough and tasteful revamp, reintroduced it to the world in April as the Samuel Palmer.
In the 19th-century, artist Samuel Palmer was inspired by this North Downs “Valley of Vision”, as he called it, and moved into a rundown cottage in Shoreham, where he produced two of his best pastoral paintings: In a Shoreham Garden and A Cornfield by Moonlight, both in watercolours.
Palmer was “rediscovered” in the 1950s, despite a lot of his work having been burned in 1909 by his son Alfred, who did…
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