Hever Castle

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Hever is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.  As well as being seeped in history, it has beautiful gardens to enjoy and is great fun.  A real win – win and a fantastic family day out.

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Hidden garden

One of these days we will have a nice leisurely amble through the gardens.  But meanwhile, the children love running and racing through, stopping occasionally as something catches their eye.  The gardens really are stunning and we need to know how they get their tulips to grow so straight!  This time we found a “hidden” (at least we had missed it on previous visits) Italian garden.  Perfect for contemplating the meaning of life…

We aren’t history buffs but love the castle here and the cast of characters that often roam around outside.  There is something about Henry VIII (“divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” may have something to do with it) that just fascinates children.  The castle contains a great collection of armour and torture instruments from Tudor times. Very grisly!

Picnicing

Choose your picnic spot!

We eschewed the restaurants and opted for a picnic.  There are many pretty spots to enjoy a picnic (if the weather allows!) in the grounds.  Some are not too far from the car park so there is shorter distance to haul all the stuff.  And of course the cafes have a great supply of ice creams for later in the day (although on a warm, sunny day the queues can be longer than the selection!)

Next stop for us was the adventure playground.  This is great!  Lots of things to climb on and slide down or just swing…  Perfect for burning off energy after lunch.

The yew maze is a must.  Despite having been in goodness knows how many times,  I always get completely lost!  Keep hold of your children or be prepared to run to keep up!

And finally of course the water maze.  This is absolutely the thing to do last.  Why?  Well the object is supposedly to get to the centre without setting off any of the fountains, but if you are under the age of 16 the object appears to be to set as many off as possible and push your brother/sister/dad/mum/friend into the them.  We thought we were well prepared with a towel and change of clothes, but speaking from experience, can we suggest you may want to bring spare shoes too!!!

Getting wet compulsory!

Getting wet compulsory!

 

Hever Castle is open 10.30am – 6pm until 24 October.

A family ticket is £39.70, adult £15.50, child £8.70 (castle and garden)

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This weekend we are….

 

Shopping at Apple Ducks RVP, Tunbridge Wells

Little Blue Zebra prints are available from http://www.lovefromkent.co.uk

Apple Ducks is back at the Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells.

We will be popping in to see some of our very talented makers, including Fat Pudding with their handy noticeboards and Little Blue Zebra with their gorgeous animal prints.

Lots of other great Kent makers will be selling their wares there too.  Find them all there this Friday and Saturday, 29th and 30th March.

 

Going out for lunch to the George & Dragon, Speldhurst

One of the oldest inns in the county, nestled in the pretty village of Speldhurst.  This is a recent discovery of ours and we were so impressed the first time, we are heading back again.  With a fabulous menu for Mother’s Day it is just a question of what to have…

 

Enjoying a long soak in the bath after a run in Knole Park

We love love love the smell of Wild Planet’s lime and bergamot range.  Handwash, bath and shower gel and body lotion.  We can’t get enough of it!  Smells divine, and what is more, it is made with essential oils so good for your skin too.

Made in the Darenth Valley.   Overlooking the lavender fields.

A long soak in a lime and bergamot fragranced bath.  Just the tonic after a run (or even without one!!)

 

Going to see Marti Pellow in Evita, Marlowe Theatre Canterbury

The gorgeous Marti Pellow in one of our favourite musicals at one of our favourite theatres.  We can hardly contain ourselves.  Unbelievably, tickets are still available.  On until Saturday 5 April.  Wonder whether he will manage to sneak in a “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes”???

 

And making breakfast in bed for mum

Of course

 

 

 

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Afternoon Tea

IMG_0024Afternoon tea is a wonderful British invention, believed to be introduced in the early 1840s to stem the hunger before dinner at between 8 and 9pm.  The 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon (we know exactly how she feels…).  The solution for the Duchess was a pot of tea and a light snack (not polishing off the kids leftover fish fingers), taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Over time, she started to invite close friends to join her, to exchange news and stories over tea and light refreshments, and gradually these kinds of afternoon teas became fashionable.  Before long all of high society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.

We may not live in those times, but there is something very decadent about Afternoon Tea.  “Posh” sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and cake.  Loose leaf tea drunk from china cups, good company and nice surroundings…

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We love afternoon tea.  One of our favourite places is the Fir Tree tea rooms in Penshurst.  Gorgeous sandwiches, crumbly scones with homemade jam and cream and, rather than dainty little pastries, large slabs of cake.  We tried the chocolate (of course), lemon and orange & walnut (our favourite).

Delicious.

Fir Tree tea rooms is open weekends 2pm to 5.30pm until the end of March (2.30pm  to 6pm every day except Mondays April to October).

Penshurst has some gorgeous walks to exercise off some of the indulgence if you feel inclined!

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And if you like your tea, or know someone who does, we now sell beautiful bone china cups with Shakespeare quotes hand calligraphed by Ellen Waldren at her beautiful workshop in Appledore, Kent.

As Peter Pan asks, “Would you like an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?”

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Bluebells at Emmetts Gardens

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It is hard to think of a more beautiful sight than the sun shining on a woodland floor carpeted with bluebells… Emmetts Gardens at Ide Hill near Sevenoaks is particularly renowned for its bluebells.  And we love bluebells, so for that one day at the beginning of May when the sun shone and the bluebells were out, we packed up our car and headed off to Ide Hill.

We were certainly not disappointed with the sight of the bluebells.  We had a beautiful walk through the woodland gardens at the far end.  Although on the side of a hill, it is not a difficult walk at all.  The only difficulty is not stopping every few yards to take another photograph!

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The rest of the gardens are pretty too.  There is a lovely rockery area and we managed to catch tulips out too (how do they manage to get them to grow so straight?)

Although not the most interesting of gardens for children, credit must go to the efforts put in by Emmetts.  There are large magnifying glasses and binoculars for children to borrow and they also have 4 geo-caches onsite/nearby with the Garmin equipment to find them if needed (ask when you go in – they have a few that can be borrowed).

It is not a very large site, and at the time of the bluebells gets pretty busy.  We gave up on the tea room (queue was so long…) but the shop sells ice creams and was far less busy.

Emmetts Garden is another National Trust property and therefore free to members.  If you are not a member, the cost is £6.50 per adult and £2.70 for children, for lots of bluebell photographs!

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Sissinghurst Castle

“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful” Vita Sackville-West

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We presume Vita very much had Sissinghurst in her mind when she wrote this.  Nestled in the beautiful village of Sissinghurst is Sissinghurst Castle, where Vita Sackville-West lived and wrote.  Now owned by the National Trust, the “Castle” (it is not in the league of Leeds or Hever castles) is perhaps more famous for its gardens.

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It was a beautiful sunny late April day when we visited.  Everywhere looks better in the sunshine (not least after the long winter) and we caught the gardens full daffodils.

We climbed the many steps to the top of the tower (a bit of exercise in readiness for the cake to be consumed).  It was a very clear day and we could see for miles across the beautiful Kent countryside.

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To be honest it wasn’t the best time of year for the rest of the gardens, but in a few weeks time it will be amazing.  The Spring bulbs were beautiful though.

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The garden is only covers 5 acres but is packed full of interesting features and is just a gorgeous garden.

Sissinghurst is free for National Trust members.  There is the usual National Trust restaurant with cakes in an old granary (although at 3 in the afternoon when we visited it looked like it had been visited by a plague of locusts, or at least coachfuls of over 60s!).

There is also a coffee shop by the car park.  The gift shop is not the most exciting (National Trust need to stock more local goods) but there is a lovely plant shop.

There is always lots going on at Sissinghurst.  We will be there on 1 and 2 June for their Arts and Crafts fair.  Come and see us!

Love from Kent
x

www.lovefromkent.co.uk

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Kent Life

Spring is the time for lambs and farm visits with small children.  And there were just a few signs of Spring at the weekend so it was off to Kent Life in Maidstone.

There are many things that I could criticise about Kent Life, but the visit was all for a  5¾year old.  And she loved it!

The best thing (although the 5¾ year old disagrees) was the closeness of the animals.  We bottle fed lambs (well tug of war may have been a more accurate description), hand fed animals (feed purchased at £1 a bag), cuddled rabbits and guinea pigs and stroked numerous animals.  The animals (well except the lambs) were all pretty docile and seemed happy or at least resigned to being handled by small children (and a fair number of dads too!).  There were plenty of staff around to help with the animals and they were happy to talk to the children about them too.  The children were also reminded to wash their hands after handling the animals.

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The programme of events lets you know when you can participate in the feeding of different animals (lambs, goats and horses on the day we went).

The play area was a big hit, with a pretty cool giant swing, rocket like climbing frame with slide and climbing wall amongst others.  There were also junior quad bikes (additional cost), zorb like balls on a pool (additional cost), fairground swing carriage (additional cost) and carousel (you guessed – additional cost).

IMG_4637-1Other things to keep small children entertained included alpacas, horses, goats, chickens (from eggs incubating, to little chicks and somewhat larger chicks) and tractor rides.

For poor weather there is also pottery painting (additional cost) and an indoor playbarn with the usual soft play area and coffee bar.  There is no additional charge for the playbarn and whilst not the largest, it is a welcome add-on and the equipment kept the 5¾ year old sufficiently entertained.  There is a separate part for smaller children.

There are also a number of “heritage” interests including a farmhouse set up as per the 1950s.  Fascinating for children to see the size of tv and parents/grandparents to reminisce about only 2 or 3 or 4 channels and childrens’ programmes for no more than 2 hours per day.  I think the 5¾ year old thought I was making it up!

We (ok I) liked Dotty’s tea room.  Late on a fine Saturday afternoon cakes were in fairly short supply but the flapjack was delicious, staff helpful and friendly, it was fairly clean and the menu looked better than at most of these sorts of places.  The prices were not too extortionate either.

As is usual at these sorts of places, the exit is through the gift shop.  The usual tat (but plently of not very expensive tat for children to spend their pocket money on) and not enough locally sourced items (Kent preserves excepted) for me.

Cost?  Adults are £8.95, children £6.95 (under 3s free) and concessions £7.95.  You can also buy an annual pass.  The biggest criticism is that there are a number of things which are not included in the entry price, meaning that you should expect to pay more than this (unless you have an iron will/non pestering children with you).

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Westerham

Westerham is one of our favourite towns/villages in Kent.  It is just the right size to while away a couple of hours and has lots of independent shops (in case you hadn’t guessed from our last blog, we are big fans of independents).  It is also just down the road from Chartwell which is one of our favourite National Trust properties.

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We always start with a stop at Food for Thought on the green with Churchill looking on.  It doesn’t look much from the outside (and the inside is somewhat dated too) but they make “proper” tea in a teapot with tealeaves, served in a cup and a saucer and the food is excellent.  Bacon sandwiches, soup, and of course the homemade cakes.  It is a busy tearoom (and welcomes children).  Every town or village in Kent needs a proper tearoom!!

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Then we like to pop next door to Annies Attic, one of our favourite shops.  It has jars of buttons, reels of pretty ribbons and reams of fabric.  It also runs workshops where you can make things.  The next one is on 7 April to make “love” cushions.  They claim to cater for complete beginners but have not tested them!  Nonetheless we always come out with something and a determination (never followed through) on things we are going to make.

Around the green are other lovely shops.  Beverley Deen Interiors is worth a browse for inspiration.  Chocs on the Green has, as the name suggests, a wonderful selection of handmade chocolate truffles which we struggle to resist and Vintage Home is a real treasure chest of bits and pieces for the home.  Another real find is Amelia Rose, at least if you like handbags (which we do)!  We could spend half a day in there trying to choose between the many gorgeous bags they stock.

Steamer Trading is a chain of about 28 shops in the South East, but is a wonderful shop packed full of kitchenware.  They claim to stock over 10,000 items.  All those things that you never knew you needed!  The staff are very helpful and cheery too.  Stile Interiors is a new shop (6 weeks old!) which deserves to do well in Westerham.  It has Scandinavian influenced homeware (think grey cushions) and clothes.

The Interior Design Studio is another relatively new addition to the village.  It has certainly added some bling to the very traditional shopping in Westerham.  It is next door to an antique shop.  Quite a contrast!!  Also on that bit is the independently owned Prelude, selling stylish clothes.

If you want to make a day of it we highly recommend Chartwell, the former home of Winston Churchill and a National Trust property.  It doesn’t have the largest of grounds but provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our most admired leaders.

Westerham is also a great walking area.  You can walk to Chartwell from Westerham.  It is about 2 miles (each way) and the National Trust tea room at Chartwell is open all year round if you are in need of refreshment before the return journey!  Alternatively, you can park around Toys Hill and Ide Hill.  Yes it can be quite hilly but there are lovely views.  If you are there on a weekend watch out for all the cyclists!

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Tenterden

Tenterden is a classical Kent town.  It has the charming combination of slightly more upmarket high street shops (we didn’t spot a pound shop!) mixed with independents.  Ok, we would love to see more independents, but I guess that is the problem of high street rents!!

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What did we do?  Well, a cup of tea has to be the first priority so it was off to the Lemon Tree for cream tea.  The Lemon Tree itself is in one of the nicest buildings in Tenterden, a 14th Century heavily timbered former Wealden hall house, reputedly visited by King Henry VIII (at least according to their website).  Wonder whether he had tea and scones???

Tenterden high street is a nice place to while away an hour (it would be a struggle to make it longer).

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We loved Mia Home, a beautiful quirky gift and homeware shop with the best window in town!  It did have some competition from the wonderfully named Liquid Pleasure (another independent).

We also loved Elizabeth Rose (although it is a shop for women of a certain age…); it has a great selection of “mother of the bride/groom” outfits upstairs.

The Waterstones in Tenterden is one of the best we have seen.  No doubt previously an “independent” bookshop but now part of a chain, it has retained a sense of cosiness about it.  And it has a great collection of books (particularly for children).

Our favourite shop (or collection of shops) though has to be Webbs.  It is one of those fantastically old fashioned shops where you can buy almost anything that is useful.  The hardware shop dates from 1917 and is still run by the Webbs (third generation).  The cookshop is a bit more recent (1963) and is run by the sister with a linen shop added in 2007.

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But one of the nicest things about Tenterden is just wandering.  The glimpse of St Mildreds Church from where once the signal beacon warned of the approach of the Spanish Armada. The wonderful play area for children.

We finished off our visit to Tenterden with a visit to Chapel Down and the Swan at Chapel Down restaurant.  Unfortunately the vineyard was closed (well it was February!) but we definitely want to come back in the summer for one of their tours.  We had to make do with drinking the wine in the Swan itself (a tough life!)

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About us

About us

We live in the beautiful county of Kent, England and we love it!

We found that there are lots of very talented people living in Kent who make some fabulous things and were inspired to set up Love from Kent. At Love from Kent (www.lovefromkent.co.uk) we sell gifts and homeware all made in Kent. Click on the Love From Kent logo or any of the product shots to visit our site.

On our trips to find and meet makers we get to see some of the beautiful county and thought we should start a blog about what we find.

Hope you enjoy it!

You can follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/LovefromKent and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LovefromKent

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