#151: Knockholt 24/11/2022

Knockholt Station

Thank you, Southeastern Railway, for my journey today on one of the half-hourly stopping services to Sevenoaks. I have to admit, when I alighted on what was a gloomy winter’s day with rain forecast, my spirits were a little low. A quick reminder, however, of why I was making this journey soon brought my focus back on the task – to explore, record and capture. Onwards.

This station is where London meets Kent. In fact, the 2nd bridge in this photo is part of the county boundary, which I will explore a little later. Non-stopping fast trains to Tunbridge Wells and Hastings pass through, but the station has little to offer, with two open platforms and little shelter from the biting wind or the blast of air as these trains pass by.

The station’s waiting room and ticket office are closed, so as a solitary passenger, I felt somewhat abandoned. Maybe at peak times, these services are open, but even the Victorian Royal Mail postbox has given up the ghost.

There is a car park to the side of the station; an indication, no doubt, of how this station serves its community, with commuters travelling from the nearby villages to head into London. The speed monitor at the car park’s entrance amused me as it registered my walking pace as three mph.

Station names are predominantly associated with the name of the nearest town or village. But not Knockholt. Look at a map, and you’ll see the village of Knockholt is 4 kilometres away, as the crow flies, and over 5 kilometres by road. The nearest villages are Chelsfield to the north, Badger’s Mount to the east and Halstead to the south.

The station opened in 1876 as ‘Halstead for Knockholt’ after a five-year campaign during which ‘local parties’ had to financially contribute to South Eastern Railways (SER) to help with its construction. The station’s name was changed to Knockholt in 1900 to avoid confusion with the Essex station of Halstead. Oh yes! The name change was at the suggestion of the railway’s deputy chairman – who happened to live in Knockholt! 

Green Belt or Nimbyism 

The station is only half a kilometre from the M25 spur at Junction 4 and the main A21 Road. So it’s conveniently located for circumnavigating London and reaching Orpington and Bromley by road.

The area is surrounded by rolling hills, woodland, and scrubland, with beautiful scenery ideal for wildlife. Undoubtedly, that’s what attracts its residents to live in some of the area’s delightfully secluded cottages. 

But what follows are two tales of protecting this green belt from further development.

Wheatsheaf Hill Vineyards

There’s an area of scrubland on the land directly north of the station and the railway line, trapped between the A21 and Wheatsheaf Hill. To see it, walk along the footpath that crosses the railway line and the A21 immediately outside the station. Or walk up Wheatsheaf Hill to the east of the land.

The company’s name is misleading as the land looks nothing like a vineyard, but a search of Companies House reveals this is a property development company. There are injunction notices around the land’s perimeter initially naming three people who are ordered not to carry out any works. But in fairness, two of the names have since been scrubbed out.

There’s clearly a story to explain the abandoned and ruined caravans on the hillside. However, I prefer to show them discreetly as a blurred backdrop against a field of teasel.  

The London Borough of Bromley issued an injunction in June 2021 following attempts to prevent unapproved works from happening on the site. One defendant has since been fined for failing to comply with the injunction, which has now been extended indefinitely. The injunction prevents the stationing of any mobile homes, using said mobile homes as dwellings, preparing the land to accommodate said mobile homes and any development of the land. As things are left, it’s all a bit of a mess.

Broke Hill Golf Club

Almost directly across the road from the station is a discreetly signposted footpath leading up an incline. The well-maintained path has good solid fencing and frequent signs warning walkers to stay on the path. The frequency of the signs seems over the top, but I persevere and enjoy the views in the general direction of Well Hill. The shrubland is a magnificent golden colour at this time of year, but not quite tall enough to hide the marching giants that stride through relentlessly.

To my right, I pass abandoned work sheds and, a little further, an out-of-place disused car park with a shell of a burnt-out Portakabin. 

The scene becomes more confusing as I follow a path that skirts Caldocks Hill leading to Halstead. The fields to my right have a feel of an abandoned golf course. However, there’s no evidence that I’m right, other than an old golf ball tied up in a plastic bag hooked on a fence post, and that the fields look reasonably manicured and set out with planted trees that continue the golden theme. 

But the mystery is solved a little further as I head westerly along London Road to its junction with the A21 Sevenoaks Road. There’s a locked gated entrance with signs, somewhat hidden by the overgrowth, declaring this is/was the entrance to Broke Hill Golf Club. My mind spins this into a ‘broken’ golf club if it is no more. Locals will be familiar with the story, no doubt, and it didn’t take much research to reveal the golf club’s plight. So here goes.

The 18-hole golf club opened in 1993, having been constructed with little disruption to the land as it used the parkland’s natural curves and contours to guide golfers around. But in 2017, the Golf club closed when the land owner sold the land to a property developer to build an 800 home development. Consequently, golf members moved their allegiance to Chelsfield Lakes Golf Club, the other side of the A21. 

Long story short: this helpful and very detailed document by the Halstead Parish Council sets out the plight of the land in the prevailing years accusing the new land owner of mismanaging the land by not preventing its use for raves and unauthorised trail biking. And later, in 2020, the emergency services attended the site where the former clubhouse was on fire. The official comment was that ‘the exact cause of the fire has not been confirmed’. I suspect some people may have determined their own conclusion, though.

Proposals for the development continue through the courts, with a planning appeal by the developer being refused in February 2022 by Sevenoaks District Council. Ah, yes, this part of the area is in Kent. So who knows how this will end?

Around the Community

Housing is sparse, other than a small collection of houses along Old/London Road and between Caldocks Hill and Watercroft Road. The Kent dead also have a resplendent cemetery to rest in peace halfway between the station and Badger’s Mount. But I’m still amused by one landowner who has made it very clear that they will not tolerate unauthorised access to their land. The field is even guarded by wind-assisted cameras strategically placed throughout this field.

But let’s end on a positive note. There is one small light industrial employer who brings joy to those looking to brighten up their homes. Chamber Furniture has a workforce of over 40 people at its workshop and showrooms at the bottom of Wheatsheaf Hill. Its facade is covered in wood cladding, helping the building blend sympathetically into its environment. I suspect it is a homage to the Old Timber Yard that once stood here.

Picture of the Day – Welcome to Kent

I’ve chosen this photo as my day’s memory to show how far I can travel courtesy of my Freedom Pass. It’s a brilliant gift for those eligible to get one, for which I am one, and I feel privileged to travel far and wide courtesy of London’s diverse transport networks.

I saw the county sign, partially hidden by the Cow Parsley stalk, and I couldn’t decide which to focus on. The Cow Parsley, Kent sign, or the road marker. Incidentally, it reads 4 miles to Dunton Green and 6 miles to Sevenoaks.

I decided the cow parsley would be my focus to represent the surrounding countryside. So I positioned myself to get the best shot of the Cow Parsley without it hiding the Kent sign and waited patiently for the passing traffic to align to help with the composition. After I’d taken a series of shots, I noticed the cat, which, I think, adds a nice touch to the overall photo. Did you spot the cat?

  • Location: The A224 Orpington By-Pass by the M25 Spur
  • Date/Time: Thursday, 24th November 2022, 12:08 PM
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture -f/6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 125mm; Film Speed – ISO1000

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