A new home in Otford
In early 1994 we returned to the UK to begin our new life.
After a few weeks in Blackpool we made the journey south to Kent. My wife had got a job in London and I had started working about 35 miles outside the capital. We decided that the logical thing to do was to settle in a place roughly in the middle. Sevenoaks, on the mainline from London to Tonbridge and Ashford, seemed to fit the bill and we headed there first.
We spent the spring of 1994 in a small rented house in Sevenoaks. Whilst we were there we planned our wedding blessing ceremony together. We held the ceremony at a church in London in late July, and we invited family and friends from Japan and the UK. My American friend from Yamaguchi flew in and did a fantastic job as my best man.
After the ceremony we settled in Otford, a small village 3 miles to the north of Sevenoaks, and we have remained there ever since.
Otford is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and currently has a population of about 4,000 in about 2,000 houses.
The village offers a choice of pubs, restaurants and shops. Although these days most of the shops are antique shops. At the centre of the village is a roundabout with a pond located in the middle. It is the only listed pond in the UK.
Our house is not far from the pond and a short walk takes us to Otford Station.
Otford has frequent trains to London Victoria (37 mins) and to London Blackfriars (1 hour). In the opposite direction trains head for Maidstone, Ashford and Canterbury and also, on the short branch, to Sevenoaks itself. Connections are available at Sevenoaks for London Charing Cross, London Cannon Street and also Tunbridge Wells, Hastings and Dover.
When we returned in 1994 the services were still operated by the Network South Eastern arm of British Rail. They were using old trains from the 1950s and 1960’s and the service had become increasingly unreliable. This was a source of great frustration to someone, like my wife, who was used to the efficiency of the Japanese railway system.
French company “Connex” took over in 1996 after privatisation. They painted the old trains yellow and gradually ordered some new ones. In 2003 the government removed the franchise due to Connex mismanagement and stepped back in to run the trains themselves. In 2006 they awarded a twelve year contract (expiring in 2018) to Govia .
Govia then painted the same trains blue and chose the name “South Eastern Trains” to operate under. By 2017 Govia, had the lowest satisfaction ratings amongst all the UK rail franchisees.
That said, the train service operates quite efficiently most of the time and the link to London in less than 40 minutes makes Otford a very convenient place to be.
It is a beautiful part of the world too. Here are some photographs –