Day trip to some out of the way destinations for a sunny summer day.
Since COVID has taken over our world and hardly anyone is traveling for fun, I decided to change tracks with my blog. In my previous few blogs, I wrote about what we did to survive these dark times. Now I feel that there is an end in sight since sometime over the next few months we will all get vaccinated. Will we all go back to the life we led? I am not sure of that yet. I will leave that to the Pundits. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some travel. Even some armchair travel will do! I was holding onto some writings about the pre-COVID era travels we had done but I had decided not to publish. It’s like dangling a carrot in front of my readers when there was no hope of traveling. But here it goes! Sit back, read, look at the pictures, and dream about the future when we all will be taking a day trip, a weekend trip, or a long vacation.
I had been admiring beautiful pictures of the farms covered in lavender flowers on my social media feed. I was determined that before we said goodbye to England, I was going to squeeze in a day trip to see the lavender fields. I started my research on where to go.
As I researched more, I realized The Hop Farm in Kent, where I wanted to go was near to a couple of other places on my to do list. We decided to build the itinerary to include the places we could do comfortably in a day. The itinerary included Chartwell House, Penshurst Manor and a few more places.
I will start my blog at Chartwell House as that was our first stop. We took the tour of the house and the studio and then leisurely wandered around the gardens. I wish we had more time to walk around the beautiful parks surrounding the house. If we had any clue how beautiful it was, we could have packed a picnic and spent the whole day wandering the gardens and the park surrounding the house. Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine owned the house in Westerham in Kent. The house and the grounds are owned and managed by National Trust now. If you close your eyes and imagine the beautiful English countryside and a country home nestled in it, this house and its grounds look exactly like the countryside of your imaginings. Located on a slight hill, the views from the house are absolutely amazing. In one corner of the grounds, in a smaller building, is Churchill’s art studio. Churchill was an avid painter. Even the gardens are beautiful. The Chuchills themselves designed the gardens and water bodies (remember the scenes in The Crown on Netflix where they show Churchill at his country home? Although, the show was not filmed at Chartwell, this is what they recreated at Chenies Manor).
Our next stop was the village of Chiddingstone. The whole village is a property of the National Trust. The Tudor style village is a total throwback in time. When you reach the High Street of the village, you feel as if you have traveled back in time. This was also our lunch stop. We had expected the village to be crowded and we were warned about the limited parking in summertime. Luckily enough we didn’t encounter many people. We enjoyed a quiet lunch in the courtyard of a tearoom. The food was fresh and simple. The perfect English summer day was becoming more perfect every minute we spent wandering around the quaint village. We went into the charming St Mary’s church. It is one of the oldest buildings in the village. It’s a popular destination for couples to get married in. Several films have been filmed in the village as well. We walked to the Chiddingstone Castle. We admired the castle from outside as we were running short on time and I was eager to reach the lavender farms.
We made a brief stop at the charming village of Penshurst. As we were admiring the 16th century Guildhall and surrounding buildings, the church bells started ringing. We stopped to watch the smiling bride and the groom, newly married, walking out of the historic St John’s Church. The entrance to the Church Yard is surrounded by timber clad buildings that took us back to Medieval time. Nearby is the beautiful Penshurst Place, a historic manor house and the gardens.
Now to the stop I had been waiting weeks for – the fields of lavender at The Hop Shop and Castle Farm. It was as I imagined it to be. Rows and rows of lavender growing as far as the eyes could see. It was a sea of lavender flowers. The one disappointment was that it was crowded. People are allowed in a patch of the farm to take pictures between the rows of lavender plants. Everyone was crowded in that small patch. The teenage girls and young women dressed in pretty dresses were trying to get the perfect picture for their Instagram feed. There were young families posing to get family portraits. Everywhere you look there was someone trying to get that perfect selfie. My desire to capture just the lavender fields with my camera was difficult to fulfill. We waited patiently for a little lull in all the action so that I could get pictures without some stranger lurking in the background. I finally got a few pictures without anyone photobombing. We wandered near the fences of other farms to admire the lavender flowers and to get a whiff of the perfumed smell of the flowers with every breeze. The lavender fields are at its peak mid July. In case you want to see them, keep that in mind.
It was time to move on. It was getting late and we wanted to drive back home to London before nightfall. I had a few more stops on my mind but decided to give them a miss and just stop in the village of Eynsford to grab a cup of coffee to revive our tired bodies. We also wanted to make a quick stop to see the view of the ford on the River Darent flowing on the road and under the stone bridge. When I had read about a river flowing on a road that you can cross in a car, if you want, I was very curious. We stopped to dip our feet in the cool waters of the river along with many other families enjoying the cool waters on the hot day. We sat down on the grass on the side of the river to enjoy the peaceful and serene scene with our cups of coffee.
A little over a year later here we are at home, stuck inside and just living life through the happy memories and photographs of those pre-pandemic days. I spent a few happy hours going back through our trip all around County Kent while writing. I hope you also forgot these travel-unfriendly times and rode with me to these lovely destinations through my pictures and description. Maybe you jotted down the names of these places in your diary for the future trips.
If you ever want to do this trip, your best option is to rent a car from London and drive. It is not that far from London. County Kent is in southeastern England and is southeast to London. Westerham is the closest village to Chartwell. It’s a nice stop for a meal if you do drive out from London. Chartwell via Westerham is 26 miles from Central London. It felt as if London wasn’t ending and I became a little impatient to leave the city behind. And then suddenly London ended and in minutes we were in Westerham and the beautiful English countryside. Our last stop Eynsford is 28 miles from London. It should take you about an hour to reach London depending on the traffic.