A weekend in Kent

Last weekend we hired a car (a GBP22/day, 3-cylinder Peugeot 107) and rocketed off to the Kent countryside.  Kent is a county that borders London to the north, and the English Channel to the south.  We stayed at the 1406-built Elvey Farm, which has about 10 rooms and an on-site gourmet restaurant.  Because January isn’t prime time prices were discounted to GBP100 per night over 2 nights.

Kent all about the countryside, and Elvey Farm is right in the middle of Kent (some might add in the middle of nowhere).  But there is a decent enough pub 15 minutes walk away, as well as a 2-hour loop walk that has a rendezvous with another country pub.  The county was at a time known for producing hops (a key ingredient in beermaking) and is known as the Garden of England (though, to be honest, I think every region tries to lay a claim to this).  Still, if you’re looking for real deal English countryside within easy reach of London, this is it.

ImageSo, here’s our room – as you can see, huge!  One queen sized bed; two twin beds in the back room; a single bed to the right; and a big bathroom dead ahead.  Coming from our 400sqft London flat this was quite a surprise.


As you can see, entry into the room was another matter.Image

English countryside!


This was the view from Pluckley (the town with the pub) back down into Elvey Farm.  The first building in the centre of the show is the farmhouse and adjacent barn.


So no one wants to go on vacation in January – in spite of flowers blooming, somehow its too cold to enjoy the great outdoors.  These look like snowdrops, which Canadians are used to seeing in April.ImageImage

These pictures are from our longer 2 hour walk on the second day, along the Greensand way.ImageImage

I was good and didn’t chase any sheep.Image

Apple buds!Image

It was just a 2 hour walk, but along these muddy paths it turned out to be a real workout.  Hunter boots seem a lot less silly when you’re slogging through mud like this.


If moss can grow on it, it will.


This is a ruined church, built 1506, destroyed 1943 by a Nazi bomb.  Rather than tear it down, the ruins have been left intact.


Back on track!  Solid ground was a relief after the inch-deep mud.Image

This tree made me think of the Sam Roberts tree from We Were Born In A Flame.Image

English countryside!  Hunter boots!  Waterproof jacket, and a smile!  This is how we do it.


Peak District – Exploring the North on a Bank Holiday weekend

This Bank Holiday weekend we hired a car and fled 3 hours to the North of England, to experience the countryside, real ale, and funny accents.  Success on all 3 counts.

We stayed near the industrial city of Sheffield, home of Pulp and a pretty good university.  We also drove by the largest estate in the UK, Park Hill Estate, which is 1) fantastically designed and 2) in the process of being refurbished into market rate flats.  Multicolored panels have replaced the grey bits, and I think it looks great.

The trip consisted of trips to twee towns and countryside (pictured below) and periodic breaks in country pubs to warm up and sample the local ales (pics, sadly, not included).  Ale in the North tends to be poured through a sparkler, which changes the feel and taste quite a bit.  I didn’t like it as much as I anticipated, but at least now I know the difference, and it’s all so tasty.

My 30th Birthday!

Field Trip – To Kent for the Day

This Sunday I had the absolute pleasure of going hiking with two fellow Canadians.  Unfortunately Mr 416expat got stuck in the office on Sunday was unable to join on this particular adventure.  On the hottest day of the year in London so far my fellow hikers and I met at Victoria station (no small feat as the Victoria line was down for the weekend) and took a 52 minute train journey to Borough Green.  I’d never heard of Borough Green and was unable to locate it on a map.  Wikipedia tells me that Borough Green is a large village with some Roman ruins.  We stopped at the Harrow Inn and Restaurant, a pub roughly 4km into the hike, had a well deserved cider, some delicious lunch and then continued on our way.  We stopped at Ightham Mote and took a peek through the fence at the house, mote (really they spelt it that way) and grounds.   It’s still unclear how Ightham Mote should be pronounced.  Regardless we were corrected everytime we said it.  Our next stop was Knole House, originally built as a hunting ground for the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The house is described as being a calendar house, with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances, and 7 courtyards.  We wrapped up our 15.5km (plus inevitable detours) hike in Sevenoaks and caught the train back to London.  It was a really lovely day!

Way more forest in Borough Green than in London

Umbrella stand or culvert? You decide!

This was perhaps optimistic...good effort though!

Deep into English countryside...not a cafe nero in sight!

Well-deserved break - either 1.5km or 4km into the trip...map reading difficulties

Ightham Mote

Nifty tree trunk

There are goats in them there hills!

Bench break

Spot the deer at Knole House

Knole House


What to expect if you visit us in London

We’ve had our 4th group of visitors through these parts in the past 5 weeks, and our Londonology is down to a science.  If you think you’re in for fannypacks, C$8 bottles of water or 4 hour lineups to see the changing of the guard, guess again!  Here’s how the typical schedule works out:


Trip to Oxford

Or, that is, Harry Potterville.  Home of the oldest university on the planet, more than a few of the town’s buildings were used for the film.  It’s the home of dinosaurs, dodos, and Darwin, and for GBP8 you can get a return ticket from Paddington station in central London.  Not shown in pictures are two smashing pubs we hit up, the White Horse and the King’s Arms.

Cotswolds, January 2011

Last weekend we went to the Cotswolds – 1 hour’s drive outside of London, and essentially a caricature of English countryside.  It’s like Walt Disney’s idea of what rural England is like.  Or, if you prefer, The Shire from Lord of the Rings.  In fact, Tolkien was from this part of England and based much of the geography of Middle Earth on the Cotswold villages.  The tree in the photos below is, reputedly, inspiration for the doorway into Moria.

We stayed in a rural cottage (Squirrel Cottage, built 1715); hiked along a country trail past Roman water fountains; went to a farmers’ market; and explored several of these little villages.  So cute it hurts!