Adventures in Kent

Friday

Ruby the VW is parked at Alderstead Heath Club site just off the M25 near to Caterham. Despite its very close proximity to the M25 it’s a delightfully peaceful retreat set within trees and countryside. We’ve stayed here before and we picked it again as it’s very close to Keith’s dad and step mum’s house. We’re down here catching up for a couple of days so other than a pic I took of Ruby using my new night vision mode on my new iPhone there’s not too much to say about our stay here.

But it’s an ideal base for touring Surrey- there’s a number of National Trust properties close by and Gatwick airport is also close (great for plane spotting and using the flight radar app to see whether everyone is returning from!) We were supposed to visit Chartwell whilst here with Keith’s dad but that ended up not happening due us having to whisk him off to A and E after slicing his hand open whilst washing up!

Sunday saw us change location; we moved down the road to the outskirts of Hever, Kent. Our site for the night was the absolutely brilliant Pigdown Farm. It’s a caravan and Motorhome club Certified location (5 van site) and had nothing other than a water tap, bin and basic emptying point. But at £5 a night and more space than we knew what to do with, plus an easy walk to the pretty and very historical village of Hever what more could we wish for.

We met up with Keith’s brother and sister in law and enjoyed lunch in the pub, the historical Henry VIII which sits opposite to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle.

After lunch we enjoyed a couple of hours exploring the grounds of Hever Castle with our pre booked tickets. We didn’t have Jazz on this trip because we’d read Hever wasn’t dog friendly, but there were loads of dogs out and about so we must have made a mistake. Sorry Jazz, we deprived you of a trip!

Having said that, on our return to the campsite it became clear that not having Jazz was a blessing when our campsite field got invaded by sheep!

We made the most of the fact the campsite was empty other than one caravan literally the other side (probably a third of a mile away!!) by inviting Keith’s brother, sister in law and our friend who live ten mins down the road over for a drink and a catch up which a lovely and the canopy really came into its own as the heavens opened! They were in hysterics as the sheep came! It’s was a lovely afternoon and evening.

Monday arrived and we moved on; our first stop was to Lullingstone Roman Villa,a bucket list visit for Keefy.

Lullingstone was uncovered in the 1930s and is deemed one of the best preserved remains of a Roman villa to be found so far in the UK. It includes a fabulous mosaic floor along with some original paintwork and plaster! Also lots of artefacts have also been uncovered. We enjoyed a brilliant visit here, it blew me away when I got my first view of the villa.

From here we moved onto the nearby Eynsford Castle, equally as impressive because it has absolutely huge (and rare) curtain walls, and they are almost complete. Eynsford is also quite rare because it wasn’t changed or adapted since it was built in the late Norman era.

We had lunch here before stocking up on some supplies and moving onto our next campsite, a 30 minute drive to Hilders Farm, overlooking Bough Beech reservoir. We have electric hook up tonight but no other facilities and at just £12 pn we feel this is a fair price. This site felt much smaller than the previous one (the other one was HUGE!), but we were the only ones here in the end.

A caravan packed up and left after we set up (they were escaping the storm due) and the other caravan was in storage. The weather became slightly mixed but our canopy allowed us to sit out nonetheless. What a great investment that’s been!

We had a bbq for dinner before having an earlyish night. The winds started softly during the night but our tailgate awning did well in it.

Tuesday dawned rainy and we set about our first rainy pack away of the summer! We’ve got it down to a fine art now though and it took us just over 30 mins. We headed the short drove to Penshurst Place and Gardens. When we booked this at the beginning of Aug the Baron’s hall was not open but luckily for us and the wash out that is today, last week the Baron’s Hall reopened so we were able to go and look.

Baron’s Hall is a medieval hall house dating from 1340 and is absolutely wonderful! It’s 60ft high and has a hammer beam roof similar to Westminster Hall (but on a smaller scale obviously!). No pics allowed sadly.

The gardens are extensive and we enjoyed a wander around despite the wet weather.

From here, we could have visited Hever as we were once again very close. There is also a carriage route turned into a footpath between Penshurst and Hever Castle. If it hadn’t been so wet we’d have had a wander down that.

We were close to Chartwell and Emmett’s Garden National trust here, so as you can see this area is certainly worth basing yourselves in. Keith’s stepmother tells me them at Emmetts garden is worth a visit for the Bluebells so we will make a visit next spring for sure.

We however moved an hour further south from Penshurst for our third and final campsite of our mini break. We arrived at Devenden Farm just near to Cranbrook, Kent. At just £7pn it was another no frills basic site with just a tap and emptying point, but the views were fabulous across the Kent Weald.

Again the field was large and as we didn’t have hook up we could pitch anywhere. We are both really enjoying these quiet sites. We shared the site with a tent right at the other end. By now the rain had stopped but it was a bit drafty so we got our canopy and awning out to dry which it did very quickly. We managed the awning up until bed time but took it down as it was blowing a hooley!

We cooked a lovely chicken saag curry for dinner and enjoyed watching the sun go down whilst drinking Kent ale and Kent gin!

We slept very well despite the wind and woke up Wednesday to glorious blue skies and sunshine.

We packed up and drove the short distance to Bodiam Castle. What a treat!! Bodiam Castle is a spectacular fairytale moated 14th century castle. The inside is ruins (and also not open currently due to Covid) but the outside is worth a trip alone! We LOVED it!

From here we made the short journey to Bateman’s National Trust site- once home to Rudyard Kipling. I made Keefy laugh as I thought it was the home of exceeding good cakes! But he reminded me all the books I had read by Kipling, my personal favourite being the Jungle Book.

The house itself is a wonderful Jacobean Manor House. It also has a brilliant example of a Oast House; we’ve seen many as we’ve driven through Kent this week. They were built to store hops. We’ve also noticed many of the houses in these Kent villages have slate on the exterior walls.

The gardens were lovely at Batemans and we will definitely revisit when the house reopens as apparently it’s been left exactly as it was during Kipling’s time here.

For now though, it was time to head back home. We’d had a lovely time away again. Interestingly we’d used Ruby differently this time, moving on to a new campsite each day. I was worried about this when we booked the trip however I needn’t have. We’ve got it down to 30 mins now set up and pack away!

The stars of the show were the 5 van sites with no hook up. We are Loving these whilst it’s warm enough to shower in the awning. We perhaps need to consider a larger leisure battery to enable us to do more of these in the future. Who knows. The thing about our camping is it constantly evolves!

Hoping to have a weekend away towards the end of September but for now it’s all about the return to work. So wish us luck on that!

Until next time

Lx

The Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 4, Sandwich- Romney Marsh and The Royal Military Canal 

Bluebell the motorhome is on a lovely little Caravan Club certified location on the Romney Marsh Nature Reserve, a stones throw away from the banks of The Royal Military Canal.  The sun is shining, and although it’s a bit blustery, we are both rosy cheeked and enjoying the warmth of the sun on our faces! 

This morning we left Sandwich Lakes via The White Mill heritage centre on the outskirts of Sandwich. The museum, which is run entirely by volunteers, claims to be one of the only windmill sites that still has its original millers cottages and farm buildings set out in its original form. The volunteers here couldn’t have made us feel any more welcome, they even instisted we take Jazz in, and knew all about the history, which was very interesting.  They are doing a fabulous job in restoring all the buildings, and were busy during our visit this morning doing work on the exterior walls, gardening etc. 

  

  

  

Jazz even managed a trip up the windmill!

   

The windmill, which was built in 1760, hasn’t been in use since 1951 and it’s almost about to have a new set of sails, or sweeps as they are known as in Kent, put on- when they are on its going to look fabulous! We were so lucky with the weather, despite it blowing a hooly, the bright blue skies made a perfect backdrop for the the White mill to be photographed! 

   

   

 

Next up was the seaside town of Deal, just 10 miles outside of Dover- it’s interesting being so close to the gateway to Europe, having travelled through so many times it’s really nice to be exploring this area- we are sure it must get hugely overlooked.

 

Whilst Deal isn’t in the same league as Sandwich with its historical listed buildings everywhere, there is still a lot to be seen- it’s a nice example of a Victorian seaside resort. We were sad not to catch the ball dropping at the Time Ball Tower, but enjoyed a good hour wandering around the town. 

 

  

 

  

  Horatio Nelson was a visitor to Deal and lodged in a nice looking hotel/bar on the seafront- a perfect excuse for a swift pint in the sunshine, if ever I’ve known one!    

Deal Castle is also worth a look- although we couldn’t go in with pooch, so settled for a walk around the perimeter.  

By now, time was pushing on, so we said goodbye to Deal and made our way 45 mins drive to our campsite just in time for lunch outside the van- for the first time this year! If that’s not worthy of a selfie stick moment, then I don’t know what is…!  

Wednesday arrived and we were to be treated to wonderful blue skies again! We had a light breakfast, made a packed lunch and offloaded the bikes- we were heading to Hythe along the Royal Military Canal. Sadly, we couldn’t join the canal path straight away as hoped, as a local had blocked off his section of the bridle way so we had to take a couple of quiet roads and join the canal a bit further down. Still, once we were on the canal path,  we were in for a treat- not only did we cycle past a zoo but also another Roman Fort remains, and a castle! 

   

  

 

  

  

There wasn’t a massive amount to see in Hythe, which was probably a good – my cold seems to be catching up with me today and I’ve felt a bit fluey- mind you we still managed to stop for a swift medicinal pint of the very tasty Whitstable Lager in the oldest pub in Hythe, the Kings Arms, where there has been a pub there since Tudor times. Later on, soldiers were signed up here for the army during The Neopolian war. 

The Whitstable lager was so good we were happy to see a local wine and ale shop, where we were able to stock up on a few bottles, along with some delicious local cider too. 

  Before heading back to our bikes, we had a little picnic on the banks of the canal. 

   

After a quick look at the 11th century church, we headed back to Bluebell the motorhome for a well earned nap!

 

 

Until next time

Lx 

  

Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 3, Herne Bay to Sandwich 

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the very quiet Caravan Club Certified location on the outskirts of Sandwich: Sandwich Lakes. As the name suggests, it has its own fishing lakes, and a rather large well kept field for up to 5 caravans. Each pitch has 16amp hookup, and we think it’s a bargain at just £12pn. 

  

Sunday dawned a wet and wild day so we opted for a lazy morning on the aire at Canterbury. When it came to being time for us to move off (at the end of our 48 hours since arrival) we went off to the pay station to pay our parking charge- £6. The ticket machine kept spitting out our ticket though, branding it as “unrecognisable” and after about 20 mins trying to reach someone by pressing “help”, a bus driver gave us an emergency contact number. We were told to drive up to the barrier, flash our lights and they would remotely lift the barrier for us. We followed their directions and sat for probably 5 minutes flashing our lights, to no avail. On calling the emergency number again we were told they could see us and we’re trying to let us out but their remote system had failed and they were struggling to connect! We were told to sit tight and they would get us out asap!   

45 mins later, still no barrier release, and my phone rang- the man said their system had died so they needed to send someone out to manually release the barrier! We obviously are well and truly in holiday mode as we found the situation rather amusing. Probably wouldnt have done if we were going on to catch the tunnel or a ferry though! Next thing a high vis man turns up and tries to direct us to a TINY gate in the main fencing, saying he has a key to the gate and that we need to “squeeze through” as he can’t manually lift the barrier as he doesn’t have the right override key! Er, joke over, Keith and I say “no way, we’d rather sit and wait til tmorrow and matey returns with his key!” 

  

Mr high vis man disappears  and next thing the barrier opens. We still have no idea how, but suffice to say it was a welcome sight! We ring the number back, as we still haven’t paid and don’t want to return home to a bill but get told not to worry and that call it a freebie as they’ve wasted our time trying to get out! 

So rather later than hoped we set off towards Herne Bay and Reculver, although having waited over an hour meant that the worst of the rain had passed. We parked up on the sea front of Herne Bay and enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade. Herne Bay reminded me a lot of Cromer- it has a nice seaside feel but isn’t as pretty as Whitstable. There is a pier and clock tower and a quaint bandstand, but the whole place felt deserted (probably the weather- although it did clear up). You can cycle from Herne Bay to Reculver Towers on the Oyster Trail, which basically follows the sea front, but we didn’t fancy doing that today’s as we are a bit sore from yesterday’s epic bike ride!

 

^Reculver Towers as seen from Herne Bay  

  

^ the promenade which you can cycle between Herne Bay and Reculver on – Known as the Oyster Trail

        

     ^Herne Bay

We were hoping to warm up for half an hour in a pub on the sea front, and nipped into the historical Ship Inn, but sadly they couldn’t accommodate us with Jazz, so we hit the road to Reculver to see the English Heritage maintained Reculver Towers and Roman Fort.    

     

The towers were an impressive sight, but we had to rush our visit as we couldn’t park the motorhome anywhere legal(!)   Actually, we were a bit miffed, we’d driven 2 miles down a fairly narrow slim lane to find a council run large car park, with height barrier. It was tight to say the least getting turned around, and we only just got turned round. We managed to park in the “keep clear” bus stop/turning circle for 5 minutes to get these pics but only cos it said no buses on Sunday’s (or bank holidays). So, if you’re thinking of travelling down to see these impressive towers I should think carefully if you’re in anything bigger than us! We quite fancied a meal in the pub there, but lack of parking prevented this so we had lunch on route to the campsite, pitched up and enjoyed a restful afternoon!  

^Plenty of moorhens looking for their tea around our van- Jazz is fascinated by them 

  

We awoke on Monday to beautiful clear blue skies, a real welcome sight after being battered by a storm last night! Wanting to make the most of the weather, we had an early start, and set off on our bikes to Sandwich – a short 1.5 mile cycle from the campsite. Neither os us knew much about Sandwich, so were pretty blown away from the moment we passed the “twinned with Honfleur, France” (incidentally another of our favourite places to visit!) welcome sign at the entrance of the town. 

The town of Sandwich, which apparently gained its name when someone invented the sandwich here(!) is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Every single house in the main town is medieval and holds some history, which is generally described on the handy town trail signs dotted about. A visit here gave us an insight into many different eras, most of the houses remain in their original form. The town was set out in a way I’ve not experienced befor, and it actually took us all day to to see everything! There were nooks and crannies dotted everywhere! Obviously we managed time to fit in a sandwich in Sandwich- a rather tasty one at that, washed down with a couple of pints of their own ale, in the Crispin inn, right on the main junction of the town. 

  

The toll booth that you can see in the above left photo was used between 1500s and 1700s to collect money from travellers using the bridge to cross the river. Prior to this being used, a ferry was used to transport visitors across the river, the ferry master lived in the house in which the pub at we drank in, The Crispin Inn, occupied.  

 

The town trail took in the river, as well as the remains of the town walls, as seen in the above photos. 

As an extension of the town trail walk we decided to extend the walk with a walk from our AA box of walks- a “gentle 3mile town walk” that actually was nearer 6 (and not through our* dodgy navigating (*my!) ) it took in the nearby Richborough Roman Fort. I have to be honest the extended section of the walk wasn’t very inspiring at all, and we got to see the less picturesque area surrounding Sandwich, however the fort itself was interesting to see- there were lots of remains left to see (probably a good thing as I may have gotten a bit grumpy if we’d have trekked up there to see an empty grass field!!!)  

 

There is a nice looking windmill that we plan to nip into on our onwards journey tomorrow  – looking forward to hearing the story behind it only having one sail!

 

 

^The Guildhall 

 

^Dragon Hall 

   

     

^this last picture is of “The Kings Lodgings”- apparently Henry VIII stayed here twice, and Elizabeth I also was a guest here. 

We absolutely loved our visit here, but one thing we did both come away saying was what a shame it was about all the traffic. I’m not kidding, at times, it felt like we were in central London! The roads here are literally tiny, cars were parked all over the place, it was near impossible to walk on the pavements safely. The village occupies a one way system, but it is a shame the main sections can’t be pedestrianised. Cars were driving like loons, double decker buses SQUEEZING through every gap possible- everyone was in a rush! I know we are used to the slow pace of Norfolk traffic but it did feel at times like we needed an extra pair of eyes bringing up the rear!

Nevertheless, Sandwich is a real gem of a place to visit- I’m not sure if my photos did it justice today so be sure to pop by next time you’re down this end of the country!

 

Oh yes- and can anyone settle a 2 day discussion between my beloved and me- would we class Sandwich as on the North coast of Kent or the South Coast?! 

 

Until next time 

Lx  

Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 2, Canterbury to Whitstable

Bluebell the motorhome is still parked up on New Dover Rd P&R- we had a wonderfully quiet night last night and would really recommend you pay this place a visit!

  

Today we’ve done a massive bike ride- from our pitch here at the park and ride to Whitstable and back, a return journey of 20 miles, many of those up a gradual ascent!! Having said that, we have thoroughly enjoyed it, although I have no doubt we will be hobbling around tomorrow!! 

We cycled to the other side of Canterbury (nr to Canterbury West train station) where we picked up the old disused railway line, now turned into cycle and foot path. It was a massive hill out of Canterbury but it is totally off road and you go through the campus of Kent Uni, which looks a lovely place to study by the way.

The Crab and Winkle Way is a lovely off road route that take you past ancient vineyards, through some pretty woodland and then down into the very picturesque bay of Whitstable.  

      

We loved Whitstable, it reminded us of Aldborough and Southwold on the Suffolk coast. There is a lovely pretty working harbour andromeda nice shops and a handful of pubs to explore.  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

  

As you walk around the harbour there are lots of stalls selling fresh oysters straight off the boats- sadly neither Keith or I are fans of uncooked oysters otherwise we definitely would have purchased some!  

   

There was an interesting looking fish market/ restaurant though which we eyed up for some fresh mussels for tea, and cod and chips to get us back to Canterbury, washed down with some local ale! We sat outside in the terrace overlooking the harbour. What a fab location! 

           

Seeing as it took us about 2 hrs to get to Whitstable from the motorhome we decided to set back about 3pm, stopping briefly at Tescos to get a French baguette to accompany our mussels for tea! 

The journey out of Whitstable was HARD! About 2 miles uphill!! But then as we aprrocahed Canterbury it became 2 miles downhill so it cancelled it out I suppose!

All in all a Brill day, and cannot wait to eat our mussels later! 

Until next time 

Lx 

Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex – Part 1, Canterbury Tales

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the wonderful “aire” for motor homes, nestled within New Dover Rd Park and Ride, Canterbury. We’ve been meaning to visit for a while, and were pleased to arrive as we’ve both had the lurgy this week!   

 

Canterbury council have opened their park and ride car park for motorhomes to stay overnight for up to 48 hrs, and included a stand water pipe and black and grey water waste facilities for our use. It’s £3 a night amd that price includes return bus fare into Canterbury for up to 6 passengers!! Bargain! Canterbury P&R info

 ^ dogs welcome aboard Canterbury Park and Ride buses 

We have enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring the very pretty Canterbury- my iPhone app is telling me we’ve walked over 6 miles! 

  

^ Our first glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral peeking above the historical lanes 

  

^ the impressive Pilgrims gateway to the Cathedral quarters (couldn’t get any further in without loosing pooch, and become £10.50 pp lighter!*

  

^ enjoying a cider in the sunshine – reminded us of being in France!

  

^ couldn’t resist a pooch pic 

   

     

^ historical town streets and buildings 

 

^ glimpse of the cathedral from our walk around the city walls and beyond  

   

 

^ Norman Castle ruins 

 

^ city wall walk 

   

 

^ another glimpse of the cathedral, this time for on top of the mound!

   

  

 

^ a nice treat- we were allowed to enter the cathedral quarters for free at about 16:45- ticket booth had shut for day and you were able to walk right up to cathedral (and inside for evensong if you didn’t have pooch!)

  

^ Jazz enjoyed seeing the cathedral! 

   

^ riverside walk and another glimpse of the cathedral for another angle! 

We’ve had a lovely day, and we’re so happy to be able to get a full glimpse of the cathedral. The city is full of nice shops and pubs, obviously we had to sample some! We liked the Buttermarket pub for sitting out and soaking up the atmosphere and The Thomas Becket for atmosphere and dog friendliness 

Tomorrow we are planning on staying another night here and are hoping to cycle the Crab and Winkle line – a dismantled railway from Canterbury to the seaside town of Whitstable!

Until next time

Lx