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Write-up of Kent trip October 2017 by Maureen Richardson


The tour was organised by Honor Juniper, in conjunction with ACE Cultural Tours, who provided our Tour Manager Christine Kavanagh, and our independent Tour Director Richard Pailthorpe.  Richard’s wealth of knowledge of historic houses and major heritage sites in the South of England was particularly relevant to our trip.

Day one:

On the Monday, after a punctual start and trouble-free coach trip, we reached the National Trust property, Ightam Mote, early.   A number of people took the opportunity to walk around the grounds and footpaths before the lunch provided.  After lunch, a National Trust guide gave a knowledgeable introductory talk about the house, including its connection with the artist John Singer-Sargent.  The house was currently running an exhibition exploring Ightam Mote’s period as an ‘artistic hub’ in the 19th century. 

We had the opportunity to wander around the house and grounds of Ightam Mote, before leaving to drive to the Abode Hotel in Canterbury, our base for the week, located in the centre of the city.  In the evening, before dinner, Richard Pailthorpe gave an illustrated talk about the various places we were to visit in the coming week.

Day two:

On Tuesday we drove to Rochester, where we visited the castle.  Those who we were willing – and able! – to climb the stairs to the top of the castle tower, enjoyed the views provided.  We then had free time for a coffee and a brief look along Rochester’s high street, before visiting Rochester Cathedral. 

Then we returned to the coach for a short drive to Chatham Historic Dockyard.  We had lunch at the Mess Deck before being joined by our guide Barry, who accompanied us on the coach and described the various slips, docks and buildings as we drove by them.  Finally we went to The Ropery, in a building a quarter of a mile long, to see – and experience first-hand – how the ropes were made.  For those who wished, we could then explore the surrounding dockyard and venture onto HMS Gannet and HMS Cavalier.  It was a beautiful evening for walking around and exploring, before returning to the hotel for dinner.

Day three:

We began the day with an orientation walk around Canterbury, with city guide Liz Minter.  This included a visit to Eastbridge Hospital – not a hospital as we use the word now, but a place that has provided hospitality for more than eight hundred years and still provides accommodation to needy elderly people.  At the rear of Eastbridge was the Franciscan Gardens, a ‘haven of peace’. 

We moved on to Canterbury Cathedral, where we split into two groups for guided tours: one with guide Stewart Coltart and one with Dick Bolton (who had delivered his lecture about Kent to us in Goring the week before).  We then had free time for lunch and further exploration of Canterbury.

After lunch we drove to Boughton Monchelsea Place, a private house in a beautiful location with stunning views south over the Weald of Kent, which were enhanced by perfect weather!  The owner Mrs Marice Kendrick gave the tour, so she was able to provide a very personal account of the house, its history and its development.  We enjoyed cream teas in the clock tower house and then a walk around the grounds.  The nearby St Peter’s Church included some artwork by a local resident of the village, Graham Clarke.

Day four:

We drove to Tenterden for a brief stop, with the opportunity for a short museum visit or a walk along the High Street to see the charming variety of architectural building styles.  From there, we continued to the historic town of Rye.  Many of the group went straight to the Heritage Centre to see a model of the town with a commentary detailing ‘The Story of Rye’ before spending free time exploring the town, with its delightful cobbled streets, traditional shops, galleries and tearooms.

After lunch, we drove to Romney Marsh for a tour of Old Romney and New Romney churches.  At each church a local expert, John Hendy, gave an in-depth talk about the churches and their historical connections.

Once again, good weather had enhanced the views and visits enjoyed throughout the day.  We returned to the hotel for our final evening meal.

Day five:

After checking out of the hotel, we drove to Penshurst Place for our final visit of the tour.  Penshurst was once the property of King Henry VIII and is the ancestral home of the Sidney family – currently owned by Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount De L’Isle MBE.  After a guided tour of the house, we had free time for lunch, further exploration of the house and the chance to wander around the extensive and varied gardens, which were originally laid out in 1346 and still retain some mediaeval features, including more than a mile of yew hedging. 

Thanks to our driver Ian, and a relatively quiet Friday on the roads, we had a trouble-free journey home.

Maureen Richardson