August Bank Holiday week still available!! Or why not book for the October half term?

National Apple Festival – a family day out in Kent

Lots of apples in a pretty shape

The 36 apple trees at our Kent holiday rental have yielded a bumper crop this year. It is fascinating to think that each harvested crispy Cox, cooker and crab apple links the eater in an unbroken chain back to the time of Henry VIII.

The orchard bears fruit at Barnfield House

A brief history of apples in Kent

Apples have made their appearance at various stages in the history of England, initially during the Roman occupation and then after the Normal Conquest of 1066. The first record of apple growing in Kent appears in a map of Canterbury dating from 1165, which shows an orchard within the grounds of the Benedictine Christchurch Abbey. But the county’s pre-eminence as England’s leading apple grower really started some 400 years later, when Henry VIII’s fruiterer Richard Harris planted the first pippins in Teynham in 1533. Fast forward 350 years and, by the close of the 19th Century, over 25,000 acres of Kent were devoted to apple orchards. By then Charles Dickens, Kent’s most famous literary resident, had proclaimed in Pickwick Papers “Kent, sir – everyone knows Kent – apples, cherries, hops and women”.

Today, though the acreage is nowhere near the Victorian heydays, Kent remains England’s premier apple growing region. Given its apple heritage, it is perhaps not surprising that the county is also home to the UK’s National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm – in an appropriate nod to history, close to the very site where Richard Harris planted the first ‘King’s orchards’ in 1533.

The National Fruit Collection

The National Fruit Collection houses an astonishing 2,200 varieties, some represented by just one or two trees. This is the largest collection in the world and includes varieties from almost every county in Britain as well as from across the globe. Far from being closed to the public, the orchards are open seven days a week throughout the open season, which runs from April until the end of October. So you have the chance to visit from the time of heavenly spring blossoms to the heady fruit harvest. Choose a guided tour where you walk in the company of a resident expert who will share knowledge, answer questions, and pick some fruit for you to taste (in addition to apples, you may also see pears, quinces, plums and cherries. If you can do without the chance to taste some apples, opt for a self-guided walk or, if you prefer a more leisurely look, join the trailer tractor tour.

Brogdale National Apple Festival – fun for all the family

Visits throughout the season bring their own unique rewards, but in October the orchards are particularly spectacular, laden with colourful heritage fruit. And if you time your visit to coincide with the annual National Apple Festival, you’ll reap dividends. This year the festival takes place on the 19th and 20th October, and it promises to be a fabulous fun-packed weekend for all the family. Get set for a breath-taking display of apples in the Apple Barn where you can try-before-you-buy rare and heritage varieties and select your favourites to take home. Take a guided tour on foot, by tractor trailer, or aboard the Faversham Miniature Railway that wends its way through the heart of the orchards. Learn about the history of apples. Listen to horticultural talks on such topics as Kent wildflowers and bee-keeping. Meet the scientists from Reading University who are conducting climate change trials in the orchards. Watch cookery and apple-pressing demonstrations. Participate in festival games and competitions like the longest apple peel competition or apple eating challenge. Browse stalls brimming with local crafts and produce. Relax – or dance – to the rhythms of local bands while enjoying local cider and a large serving of Brogdale apple pie.

family fun at the National Apple Festival

There’s lots for younger members of the family too: face painting, a bouncy pirate ship, Punch & Judy, and kids’ apple crafts such as ‘make a bobbing apple boat’ and ‘carve a spooky Halloween apple head’. Plus there’s Bramble the pig and friends to meet in the animal corner, snakes and lizards to learn about in the reptile area, and dazzling falconry displays.

Bramley or Beauty of Kent?

One activity of particular interest to us at Barnfield House is fruit identification.  While this service is offered online throughout the year, the festival gives visitors the opportunity to meet resident Pomologist Joan Morgan, who will help identify apple trees from a fruit sample or a photo of the tree. At last this is the chance for us to identify some of the varieties growing in our garden!

Brogdale Collections

Home of the National Fruit Collection and set in over 150 acres of farmland, Brogdale Collections is a charity working to provided access to and education about the National Fruit Collection. The charity offers a range of opportunities for the public to use the collections as an educational resource including daily guided tours (April – November), Key Stage 1 & 2 education days, fruit days and festivals.

The Brogdale National Apple Festival takes place from 10am till 5pm on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th October 2019.

Daily tickets are available online.  Prices are £5 for children (15 and under), £9 for adults, £8 for students and 60+, and £23 for families (2 adults and 2 children). Book now for tickets discounted by 10% (available until 18th October 2019. Tickets will be available on the gate during the festival weekend. For more information, visit




Brogdale Collections
Brogdale Farm
Brogdale Road
ME13 8XZ

All photos (except the captioned Barnfield House orchard photo) credited to the Brogdale Collections

What’s on in Kent

Head down to Tenterden in the Weald of Kent the first weekend of October for the Tenterden Folk Festival. Now in its 27th year, this friendly festival promises four days of fun for all the family: concerts, informal music, song and sing-around sessions, workshops, a barn dance, craft fair, street stalls, entertainers and and dance displays. It’s the perfect weekend to explore this charming Wealden town, which features one of the widest High Streets in the country – lined with historic and listed buildings, numerous friendly pubs, cafes and restaurants and green verges.

The festival kicks off at 7.30pm on Thursday 3rd October with a fundraising concert in the Assembly Rooms in the Town Hall, featuring Will Pound and Eddy Jay – “one of the most breathtaking live acts I have ever witnessed” according to BBC’s Tom Robinson; “The wild man of the accordion EJ and harmonica whizz-kid WP creating sounds you just wouldn’t credit coming out of those instruments.” They are supported by acclaimed folk duo Bob and Gill Berry, who have been performing together for 35 years. The concert is sponsored by Around Kent Folk magazine, and tickets are £12.


Throughout the weekend there are lots of chances to try different forms of traditional folk dancing. The English barn dance – a regular feature of the festival – takes place Friday evening at the Tenterden Club’s Moulton Hall, with popular Kent band Foot Down and caller John Sweeney.

This is followed by a stellar line-up of acts appearing over the long weekend, among them Andy Turner, Dick Miles, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham, Mike Wilson and Damien Barber, Nick Dow, Notts Alliance, Paul and Liz Davenport, Pete Castle, Peter and Barbara Snape, Portsmouth Shantymen, and Tom Lewis. Festival venues include clubs, halls, churches, pubs, cafes and marquees.


And not to be missed is the Saturday afternoon procession where hundreds of folk dance teams from all over England parade through the town centre; The majority are Morris dance sides of varying styles, from the Cotswold tradition and Black-faced Border style, to clog to garland dancers. It’s a sight to behold!
Saturday and Sunday features the free craft fair at the large marquee in the recreation ground and along the High Street. Festival stalwarts Hobgoblin Music will be there with their musical instruments, as will Talking Elephant with their folk CDs. New Romney Brewery and Nightingale Cider are providing the popular bar, and visitors can enjoy everything from Thai fare and a hog roast to Kentish Gin and ice cream. There’s also a music stage in the marquee with free music and dance events throughout the weekend.

The Tenterden Folk Festival is organised by the Tenterden Folk Day Trust, which aims to preserve the area’s living heritage, and advance the appreciation of traditional and contemporary folk music, song, dance, crafts, folk arts and other traditions. The video below, with photos by Lewis J Brockway taken at the 2014 and 2015 events, gives a flavour of this popular family-friendly festival. For more information, visit


Family days out in Kent & East Sussex

Ducks in front of Bodiam Castle

There are so many places to see and things to do when on holiday in Barnfield House Kent. Here are some of our favourites — ideas that will appeal to adults and kids of all ages.

Great Dixter Gardens

We’re lucky to have England’s most famous gardens within a short drive — the kind that attracts visitors from around the world. My favourite is Great Dixter Gardens an eight-mile drive away in Northian, East Sussex, known as “a place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists.  from across the world”.  Great Dixter is a riot of colour in the summer months, and is fascinating any time of the year. You can also visit the Tudor house, extensively restored by Edwin Lutyens. Allow time for a tea break in their enchanting garden cafe. And do check out their events calendar of talks, tours and workshops.

Camber Sands

Just half an hour from Barnfield House, this miles-long beach of golden sand is gorgeous in all seasons —this photo was taken on Boxing Day! We take bracing walks along the promenade, or on the beach at low tide. Kids love building sandcastles, paddling in the shallow water, and exploring the sand dunes. And there’s excellent kite surfing for the water sports enthusiast.

Bodiam Castle

The 14th Century Bodiam Castle is just what you’d imagine a medieval castle should be: four castellated towers complete with arrow slits reflected in the encircling moat, further protected by a portcullis, and in a fairytale countryside setting. One of the most photographed castles in Britain today, this National Trust site it’s only five miles from Barnfield House. Do visit!

Picturesque villages

Barnfield House is an excellent base for exploring the many beautiful villages of the Weald of Kent and East Sussex. Within walking distance of the house is Hawkhurst, with its Victorian weather-board shopping colonnade and pubs (among them the historic Oak & Ivy Inn, from where the notorious 18th Century Hawkhurst Gang ran their smuggling ring).

Cranbrook four miles away is blessed with the medieval St Dunstan’s church, 15th century cottages, a fascinating museum, and the tallest working mill in England. Glorious countryside drives from Barnfield House reveal more picturesque villages with quaint tearooms, cosy pubs, insta-perfect pastoral settings and poetic names that roll off the tongue – Biddenden, Beneden, Rovenden, Smarden, and Tenterden. Plus lots more ‘hursts’ (meaning wooded area) including Goudhurst, Lamberhurst and Ticehurst.

National Trust Attractions

We are so lucky to have an amazing selection of National Trust-run historic houses, castles and gardens within a 30-mile radius — the closest being a 10-minute drive away.  It’s worthwhile paying for a National Trust annual membership even if only staying a week in the area.

Bodiam Castle – (see above) 5 miles

Sissinghurst Castle Garden – renowned gardens created by Bloomsbury poet Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. 6 miles

Scotney Castle – country house, moated castle and wooded estate. 7 miles

Batemans — Jacobean house, home of Rudyard Kipling. 8 miles.

Smallhythe Place – Victorian actress Ellen Terry’s 16th century house and cottage garden. 13 miles

Lamb House Rye – Georgian house with literary associations. 15 miles

Stoneacre — medieval yeoman’s house and garden. 17 miles

Chiidingstone Village – one of the oldest and most beautiful villages in Kent. 23 miles

Ightham Mote — 14th century moated manor house. 24 miles

Old Soar Manor — remans of a 13th Century knight’s dwelling. 24 miles

Knole — historic house and 1,000-acre wild deer park. 25 miles

Coldrum Long Barrow — created 1,000 years before Stonehenge. 25 miles

Alfriston Clergy House — medieval thatched Wealden hall-house. 27 miles

Sheffield Park & Gardens — historic parkland, woodland and landscaped gardens. 28 miles

Chartwell — family home of Sir Winston Churchill, 30 miles