Thursday, 1 May 2014

River Darent fieldwork – A teacher guide

This blog post is written for teachers considering using the River Darent to collect primary fieldwork data on rivers.  The Darent is possibly one of the most measured rivers in Kent owing to its proximity to south-east London ease of access and safety.  It rises close to Westerham, flows East to Sevenoaks and then North via the beautiful Darent Valley, finally meeting the River Thames at Dartford.  The River runs parallel to the M25 from Junction 6 anticlockwise to Junction 1a making it highly accessible for school parties.  Using the A25 and the A225 it is easy to stop off at various sites.  Lullingstone Country Park lies halfway along the river’s course and is a handy toilet stop.

I will now describe the sites we use for fieldwork and explain why they are useful.  For more information please do get in touch via Twitter!

Site 1 – Westerham
Westerham is a picturesque village in West Kent 1 mile north of the source.  Site 1 lies to the south-west of the village and lies along the Greensand Way long distance footpath. It is the closest point the public access to the source which is 1 miles upstream in the Greensand hills.   At this point the Darent is a small stream flowing through a gentle V-shaped valley. 

Access: 5 minutes’ walk from the drop off point. Coach drops you off on the A25 Westbound at the bus stop near Mill Lane.  Coach waits 1 mile to the West in a large pub.  Call the driver when you are finished and get the coach to meet you on the opposite side of the road facing Westerham.

Site 2 – Lullingstone
Site 2 - Lullingtone
Lullingstone is the perfect stop for school parties.  It lies in the gorgeous Darent Valley, is easy on the A225 for easy access, had toilets, food (chips etc) a large car park and most importantly a useful site.  The data collection site lies behind the visitor centre just round its northern corner.  There are some stepping stones are for the cautious students.  The river can get quite deep on the opposite bank.

Access: If you are heading North on the A225 the turn into Castle Road is too sharp.  Proceed for another 500m and turn the coach around in the entrance to Lullingstone Castle.  Castle Road will then be much easier!

Site 3 – Eynsford
Site 3 - Eynsford
Eynsford is a picture postcard village and in the Darent Valley.  Its ford, humpback bridge and church steeple make it an easily recognisable place.  This site is safe.  The water can be relatively fast flowing but is quite shallow.  The flood plain is easily visible with both agricultural and residential land use.

Access: Heading North on Station Road A225 pull over into the bus stop on the left immediately before the Riverside turn. Walk the students over the bridge and you will easily get to the river.

Site 4 – Franks Lane, Horton Kirby
Site 4 - Franks Lane
Franks Lane is another pretty site.  The river is very shallow here making it quite a safe place to conduct fieldwork.  The channel is tree lined on both sided making it very lush and green during the summer. The Darent Valley footpath runs along the western bank providing easy access the various parts of the site.  Pick the site you want.  The ideal place is 30m north of the bridge.  A meander of sorts lies 5 minutes north where it is possible to pick up some quite rapid river velocities.  We had a ‘hunt the thalweg’ activity here and measured an impressive 1.15m/s.
Access: Heading North on Dartford Road A225 pull into the bus stop opposite Franks Lane.  Take real care in crossing the busy road here and walk the group downhill along Franks Lane to the bridge.

Site 5 – The Mouth
The mouth is a highly contrasting location.  By this point the Darent is a tidal creek of the River Thames and flows across a coastal flood plain.  For safety reasons it is too dangerous to measure the river here but is a great site to see how the river features change. The Dartford Creek flood barrier provides an impressive example of hard engineering designed to protect Dartford and Crayford.

Access: Via Northend Road A206 in Erith.  Turn along Manor Road and park by Alsford Timber at the Darent Industrial Estate.  Walk along the byway up to the levee and then walk along the London Loop footpath past the flood barrier to the mouth. It’s a 15 minute walk from the coach.