Monday, 9 June 2014

Going Back to My Roots

This weekend Jean-Luc and I went to visit my parents - or as my brother so charmingly calls them - 'the Olds'.  I come from a very small village in Kent.  So small it only has 1 road - imaginatively named 'The Street' and two cul-de-sacs.  It sits on the edge of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is surrounded by ancient woodlands, orchards, farms; and in the past, hop fields; all set in rolling hills and valleys.

The house where I grew up - my parents no longer live there; we moved when I was about 15.  The house is made from flints - a traditional building material in Kent; a case of using what's available.

The village church.  It contains some of the best brasses in England and dates from the 13th century.  The house in the previous picture backs on to the church yard and was originally associated with the church.  Imaginative children can scare themselves silly listening to creaking stairs and thinking about ghostly monks in the dead of night.....especially after watching Frankenstein.

One of the entrances to the local almshouses - or social housing as we now call them.  They are still lived in by elders from the village and surrounding parishes.

 One of the local pubs, mentioned in Dickens' 'Pickwick Papers'.

The village hall.  We used to go to Brownies here every Friday.

Oast houses; these are where hops were dried before they are used for making beer.  Kent was one of the leading producers of hops for the beer industry and these buildings would have been a common sight in most villages.  Although these oast houses have been converted into homes, when I was a child an oast house further up that lane was still being used to dry the hops and we used to go and watch them being harvested from fields around the village each year.  I can still remember the pungent smell of the hops as the tractors and trailers used to haul them to the oast houses.  We used to collect strings of hops to hang in our house and they a staple ingredient of the church decorations during the harvest festival.

The local big manor house - partially Jacobean in architecture.  This is where the local 'Lord of the Manor' used to live - at various times the families of Darnley, Brooke and Bligh held the title.  It is now a private girls school.  

The mausoleum of the Darnley family.  This edifice sits in the middle of one of the local woods and is now looked after by the National Trust which owns it and the wood.  Thankfully the family never buried anyone here - it was a really rundown and spooky place when we were young children; which has been lovingly restored by the National Trust.

Ancient trees in ancient woodland - most of the woods around the village are now owned by the National Trust or Woodland Trust.  They are being managed as chestnut coppice or as woodland pasture - it's a little startling to come across cattle in the woods but they seem friendly enough.  
I used to love walking in the woods as a child and have fond memories of playing and picnicing with my siblings; looking at the bluebells in spring and chestnut hunting in autumn; so it's wonderful to see them cared for and protected.  It's great to be able to take Jean-Luc to the places I used to love as a child and to find them still there and in some cases; improved.

We walked, we breathed deeply, we gazed and we enjoyed a great time.

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