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  • Writer's pictureAnne B 10milesfrom

Kent minibreak in Buzzbee the campervan July 2021

We made a quick minibreak to Kent in July to visit close friends that we had not seen since before lockdown, but, being us, fitted in some sightseeing at the same time. Kent is a large county with a great variety of scenery and sights. We love the central countryside, known as the garden of England. Full of rolling hills, orchards and pasture, but more importantly, hop fields and oast houses, which are the traditional hop drying kilns.

Many have been converted into houses but a few still dry the hops. Alongside hops go pubs, and Kent has many lovely traditional pubs, often with dried hops lining the bars. We stopped at a great example, the Pepper Box Inn near Harrietsham. Hidden away it has been a pub for over 200 years, and run by the same family since 1958. We only stopped for a lunchtime drink, but the sandwiches looked amazing, so we succumbed. Wow. Good decision. The local sausage and onion were delicious, and the freshly cooked bacon, brie and mushroom even better. It wins our 'Best Sandwiches' Award!

Refreshed, we headed to Godinton House (Historic Houses Association) near Ashford. We had prebooked a house tour, which gave a great insight into this house which has interiors dating from mediaeval, Jacobean and Victorian eras. No indoor photos sadly, but well worth a visit. The surrounding gardens were stunning with lots of different areas, ponds and sculptures.

Leaving here we headed to our campsite, Norlands, in the village of Staple, midway between Canterbury and Sandwich. It is a Camping and Caravanning club certificated site. A large field with electric hookup, all usual disposal facilities and a loo and shower was £17.50 per night. The owners have pet ferrets who seemed quite friendly (the ferrets and the owners!). Just 10 minutes walk away is the charming Black Pig pub. More hops, both around the bar and in Chris' beer, and some really excellent fish and chips to round off a great first day. Thunderstorms and rain were forecast but we had none!

Saturday saw us head to Deal for a quick walk along the beach, and a visit to the castle (English Heritage), before meeting our friends for the rest of the day. Built in 1539 by order of King Henry VIII, Deal is a beautiful artillery castle protecting the sheltered anchorage between the shore and the Goodwin Sands. In later years it was the home for the Garrison Captain, who had a suite of rooms here. Now unfurnished, the castle contains lots of information about it's history. The rounds is a vast area of basement tunnels which can also be explored. The castle obviously need to keep their neighbours under control!

Three coastal forts were built on this stretch of coast, the others being at Walmer and Sandown. Walmer castle is also worth a visit. it became home to the Warden of the Cinque ports, a role held by the Duke of Wellington, and latterly the Queen Mother. Walmer castle is furnished and has beautiful gardens surrounding it.

Across the road from Deal castle is the Captain's Garden. Once neglected, it is being brought to life by a Community project, and is worth a visit. This magnificent walnut tree, full of fruit, was great for a spot of forest bathing! Plant sales and donations help them keep going!

There is an interesting maritime museum in Deal too, but it was closed on the day we visited.

Sunday was also spent with friends. The forecast was terrible, but the rain never came, so we enjoyed a walk along the Royal military Canal, and a coffee on the beach in lovely Hythe. The canal was built as a line of defence between 1804 and 1809, in the time of the Napoleonic wars, and stretches 28 miles from just outside Hythe almost to Hastings. Then it was off to another lovely old Kentish pub, the Gatekeeper at Etchinghill, where we all had superb Sunday roasts!

Monday saw us heading for home, stopping at 2 Roman sites on the way. Richborough castle (English Heritage) was once a very important port town and defensive fort, at the site of one of the main landing and entry points for Romans arriving in Britain. Built around 43AD, at one time it had a huge Triumphal Arch in white marble, fitting for greeting Emperors and important visitors. The fort walls are 12 feet thick, and have foundations 12 feet deep. The guide told us that during the bad weather last winter, the ancient walls had no damage at all, but a retaining wall built by the Ministry of Works in 1960, did not fare well! There is a small museum there with interesting artefacts, including these game boards and playing pieces. There was also a map showing how Thanet really was an island when the Romans arrived in AD43, and the coastline was quite different.

In North Kent, we stopped at Lullingstone Roman Villa (English Heritage), excavated in the 1940s, and now enclosed and roofed as an excellent museum.

The villa ruins are well displayed and the museum is excellent. It is famous for having a worship room which contained examples of pagan worship - this painting of water nymphs, and very early christian worship in the form of this Chi-rho, one of the very earliest christian symbols to be found in Britain.

There is a large mosaic floor, and these lovely silver spoons. Found at the site were several graves, including one of a young man in a lead coffin with elaborate carvings of shells and ropes on the outside. Skip the next pictures if you are squeamish!

The car park is free to English Heritage members, and was very peaceful, so we cooked lunch in the van there before heading under the Eynsford viaduct, built in 1859 and still in use. The nearest station is rather quaintly named Bat and Ball! From here, onto the M25 and M3 back to Dorset having had a super minibreak, with virtually no rain at all.

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