Our final blog from Kent

Trip Start Feb 25, 2013
Trip End Sep 21, 2013

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Friday, August 23, 2013

We've had a great stay in Graveney! After almost 6 weeks there, we began to feel very comfortable and familiar with the area.   We met the neighbours, became friendly with the proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant, got to know the shops and supermarkets etc.  We were even getting used to driving along the narrow country lanes, trying to squeeze past cars coming in the opposite direction and cyclists, of whom there are many!    It was great to live in a community for 6 weeks and feel so "at home" – many thanks to Ernie for giving us his house!

Graveney itself is a small, but widespread, village between Faversham and Whitstable (famous for its oysters) and is mostly farmland. It has a pub, a primary school and a church – and that’s it!  It’s very quiet and, from Ernie’s house, we could see wheat fields and the Thames estuary.  We even watched the farmer harvest his wheat – a novel sight for us “townies”!!

Graveney’s church is worth a mention. It was originally built in the 12th century but the current building is mainly 14th century. It’s a lovely old church but, equally impressive is the dedicated congregation!  There are only 20 of them. They all chip in and run weekly “open days” with lunches and snacks; and various fund-raising events eg concerts with dinner (they catered for 200 people recently!)  

In fact, there are historic, ie up to 900 years old, churches everywhere and we went to quite a few.   We won’t bore you with all the details but some deserve a mention.  For example, Faversham church (still operational) has a medieval painted column which dates to 1306.  (See pic)

When visiting some of these old churches, we saw some strange (to us) shaped graves – they were everywhere in Kent.   We never did find out what, if any, significance the shape had/has – all we could find was that Charles Dickens coined the term “lozenge grave” in Great Expectations.  See pic.  

One church we visited was not that old, or decrepit – it was built in 1849 by Pugin who also built the British Houses of Parliament.   It’s a lovely Church but is no longer used, mainly because the M20 motorway cut off most of its parishioners from the church!  It’s a shame that so many of these lovely old buildings are no longer in use, but great that there are groups which try to preserve them.  These groups rely on donations, volunteers and the occasional grant to maintain these places eg the Graveney church.

Faversham is 3 miles away and is the nearest town to Graveney.  It’s an old market town and used to be a port, although the river silted up and is now a creek!    It has a number of historic buildings including the remains of an Abbey Church, the Guildhall and its Church.  We became very familiar with Faversham since that’s where we went shopping and to restaurants/pubs.

Kent is called the Garden of England because it’s so fertile.  One of its crops is hops, although that’s not such a big business as it used to be – due mainly to overseas competition, taxes, and the popularity of lager.  When the hops were harvested, they were taken to oast houses to be dried and cooled before being sold to the breweries.  There are lots of oast houses all over Kent, although most have been converted into homes.  (See pic)

The geography of Kent used to be very different.  We came across a number of places that used to be ports or islands but are now miles away from water or are navigable only by small boats.  For example,    there is an area called the Isle of Thanet which on the map, looks like an area of land surrounded by land – confusing!    However, it used to be an island ie surrounded by water!   Apparently, the geography of Kent has changed radically over the centuries and what used to be underwater is now land.    

We visited Leeds Castle, promoted as one of the most beautiful.   It was built about 900 years ago and bought by Queen Eleanor, wife of King Edward I.  That started a tradition and 6 successive kings gifted the castle to their Queens.  Since Tudor times, it’s been owned by various families who have added and replaced various parts, including a new castle in 1822.  In the early 20th century, it was bought by an Anglo-American heiress, Lady Baillie, who spent a fortune in redecorating and refurbishing it in the style of the 1920s - 30s.   She used it as her country house, entertaining the rich and the famous for nearly 50 years.  She must have been very wealthy as she also travelled (including Australia) and collected “souvenirs” from all over world.    It was all beautifully done – the house and the grounds.  Although Lady Baillie left Leeds Castle to a charitable trust on her death, her younger sister lived in one of the buildings until her death in 2001.  What a place to live in!    

We also visited Royal Tunbridge Wells, a 17th spa town, which is very pretty.  We wandered along its most famous street, called The Pantiles.  We came across the Church of King Charles the Martyr!    We were intrigued by the name so went in – it had beautiful plaster ceilings.   

Not far away is Scotney Castle which comprises a 14th century moated castle (no longer used) and a new, Victorian, house.  We went around the new house which had many items salvaged from the old Castle eg it had books from the 1600s, through the ages to authors we’ve read and even had a bookcase full of Penguin paperbacks!   

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Kent – now onto Cornwall.....................
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