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long evening journey in mist, we arrived at our ‘accessible’ cottage, Hexden Lea at Rovenden in Kent, only to
find that my friend had left the key to her mobility scooter in her own car
back at my place! We’d be limited to sightseeing by car, or short walks using a
So you can
imagine what a welcome surprise it was to open the door and find two large cups
and a packet of lemon shortbread thins on the table! A quick recce revealed
that the place was stocked with teabags, fresh milk in the fridge, washing-up
liquid, dishwasher tablets, washing powder, kitchen roll, handwash, an ironing
board, a selection of novels, local area leaflets, and even a cozy throw! It’s
the little touches that make the difference. The bathroom - a priority for
anyone with mobility problems - achieved top marks for its modern,
wheelchair-friendly fittings and a portable shower seat.
intrigued by the odd snuffling noise we could hear from the decking, but the
mystery was solved next morning; we had a field of friendly sheep just the
other side of our garden fence!
was warm, snug and draught-free. Both the large bed in the bedroom, and the
sofa bed in the sitting-room, were extremely comfortable. We slept soundly.
first cups of tea on the decking next morning, whilst watching the birds on the
bird feeders and trying to count the sheep, we remarked on the beauty and tranquillity
of the location, the style of the furnishings, and the easy-on-the-eye decor
(neutral with a splash of teal). And we loved the rocking chair! The
information file contained everything needed for a trouble-free stay.
Margaret and Bertie, called over to introduce themselves, and couldn’t have
been more helpful or welcoming. We learned that they had stayed in the cottage
themselves before letting it out, so that they could understand the guest
experience and improve anything that needed to be improved. Friends were
invited to stay, too, on the promise of honest, critical feedback. This has
definitely paid off as the only improvement we could think of - and this was to
benefit them and not us - was an additional doormat for the floor inside the
French doors in case of wet weather.
lazy morning (we really didn’t want to leave that view, and were getting on
well with the sheep) we pottered into the 15th century Bull Inn at
Rolvenden for an early lunch, eating outside in the sunshine - the best fish ‘n
chips for many a year! A 10 minute drive past oast houses on a quiet road,
brought us to Tenterden, one of the Cinque Ports until the River Rother silted
up. Today the varied architectural styles - including pretty, white, weather
board buildings - are evidence of a long and prosperous history. On to the
Station to catch the Tenterden to Bodiam steam train!
is a heritage gem boasting an old-fashioned ticket office, trolley truck wagons
piled with old cases, classic metal signs, railway carriage works, friendly
staff in old-time uniforms, a cafe, shop and railway museum (the train ticket
includes entry). The Station car park is only yards away on the other side of
the manually-operated level crossing, and the train and platform are fully
accessible. It wasn’t cheap, but the slow trundle to Bodiam and back through
miles of unspoilt countryside, was worth it: we were in a different world.
Pheasants and black-faced sheep watched us go by, and we spotted partridges, a
buzzard and a heron. On the return journey we treated ourselves to a cup of tea
and a pastry from the trolley.
into picture-perfect Rye - another of the Cinque Ports - for the evening, and
drove slowly through the picturesque, cobbled streets, past lively bars and
eateries in converted warehouses, and tiny independent shops. Our favourite
street was Mermaid Street, the home of the Mermaid Inn (rebuilt 1420!) and
cottages with evocative names: ‘The House Opposite’, ‘The House with Two Front
Doors’, and further along, ‘Gull Cottage’ and ‘The Santa Maria’. The 900 year
old Church of St. Mary, dominating the town, has the oldest working turret
clock in the country (construction began in 1515) unique in that the pendulum
swings in the body of the church. In the1930s it was discovered that the same
15 cwt pendulum - at that time hanging over the heads of the choristers - was
resting only on a two-inch rusty nail!
drive on to Battle - just to say we’d been there - we were able to see some of
the preparations for the October 2017 Battle Festival, as well as the exterior
of the magnificent Abbey and the 1066 sculpture on the roundabout on the way
in. With its roots in the defeat of King Harold 11 by William the Conqueror in
the 1066 Battle of Hastings, this town definitely merits a day of exploration
in its own right. We could see there was something for everyone, including
shoppers and bon viveurs (plus the spectacle of ‘Battel Bonfire Night’ in
Next day it
was on to the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, driving through pristine Benenden
(where Princess Anne went to school) and Cranbrook on the way. Cranbrook’s
Union Mill loomed over the long high street, with its weather board cottages,
timber framed houses, medieval cloth halls and the handsome St. Dunstan’s
Church. We glimpsed plenty of independent shops and busy tea rooms: another
beautiful town to visit on another day.
at Sissinghurst - uncrowded at this time of year - we picked up a mobility
buggy. Flashes of autumn colour and fruit-laden trees were a delight to the
eye, and helpful chalkboards explained exactly what the gardeners were doing in
each garden ‘room’. We caught the ‘Speak Its Name’ exhibition in the Oast
House, which chronicled the lives of the garden creators, Vita Sackville-West
and Harold Nicolson, and their friends in the ‘Bloomsbury set’, listened to a
talk and sampled the home-grown food in the restaurant.
a ‘Market’ sign outside the Village Hall, as we went through Rolvenden on our
way home, we picked up artisan bread, locally grown veg and Marsh lamb for an
evening meal on the decking instead of eating out. But we went on to celebrate our
visit to Kent with a couple of real ales in ‘The Star’ back in Rolvenden,
whilst enjoying yet more beautiful views of the local countryside from the
pretty area! And we’d barely scratched the surface of what there was to see: no
time to visit Smallhythe Place, Bodiam Castle, Scotney Castle, Lamb House,
Batemans, the Rare Breeds Centre, or any of the local, specialist museums.
I shall certainly be back - anyway, I have to finish counting the sheep!
Find out more about Kent & Sussex Holiday Cottages.
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