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Wild Spirits of Kent hedgerow tipples

Bottle of Sloe Gin from Kent

For day 20 of our #KentAdventCalendar we’re getting into the festive spirit with Wild Spirits of Kent. This supremely creative Kent company makes what they delightfully refer to as ‘hedgerow tipples’ – botanical liqueurs and flavoured spirits made from premium Kent gin and vodka infused with hand-picked fruits and flowers foraged from the Kent countryside. ‘Kent’s Countryside Preserved in a Bottle’ is their tagline.

I first came across Wild Spirits of Kent purely by chance. A late September visit to Smallhythe Place happened to coincide with ‘Orchard Day’ – and a bottle of Rose Sambuca  waylaid me as we weaved past a row of stallholders en route to the museum entrance. Its companions were equally compelling: Rhubarb & Vodka, Raspberry & Gin, Blackberry & Whisky, Sloe Gin. Bliss in (beautifully labelled) bottles!

Different Wild Spirits of Kent drinks

Wild spirits foraging

The Wild Spirits story is fascinating. Founders Louise Newland and Gill Ford developed a passion for foraging after noticing the abundance of wild fruits and berries adorning the hedgerows they passed on long dog walks in the Kent countryside. They started off making Sloe Gin and Damson Gin, and their drinks business took off from there.  Now they gather fruits, berries, nuts, flowers and leaves every season, and use their own inventive recipes to transform them into delicious botanical liqueurs and flavoured spirits. Each is available in three sizes – 500ml, 200ml and a 50ml miniature (popular for wedding favours). Here’s a taster of their tipples, :

  • Wild Damson & Vodka – using wild Damsons hand-picked along the Pilgrims Way on the North Downs
  • Quince Vodka – said to aid digestion and ease sore throats. Drink on its own or drizzle over ice cream
  • Sloe Gin –  “Drink on its own or with Prosecco for a welcoming Christmas cocktail”
  • Cocktail Kit – a set of six cork-topped miniatures in a gift box, complete with cocktail suggestions.

We prefer drinking them after dinner, with cheese, as a night cap, in front of the fire, with friends, at a dinner party, drizzled on ice cream, soaked into sponge cake, as a Christmas welcome drink, as a base for a cocktail, on the rocks, with a mixer, with coffee,” Louise and Gill enthuse. For added inspiration, the they  created some fabulous hedgerow cocktails such as Bramble Blush, Damn Wild and Sloe Highland Fling…. recipes here.

Wouldn’t these spirited infusions make wonderful gifts! I would be delighted to find ANY Wild Spirits hedgerow tipple lurking under the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t you?

Do head over their website to browse flavours and buy online.

Photos courtesy Wild Spirits of Kent

The Eight Bells – a traditional English pub

A traditional English pub in Kent

With less than a week to go to Christmas Day, we’re in the mood for mulled wine and a festive meal. So for day 19 of our #KentAdventCalendar we’re heading to The Eight Bells, a traditional English pub in Hawkhurst, Kent.

No weekend escape or summer week in Kent would be complete without a visit to a few celebrated centuries-old inns in the historic villages of the High Weald. The Eight Bells is a favourite, both for us and for our holiday rental guests. This quintessentially English pub looks onto the Moor just south of Hawkhurst, with a pretty village duck pond and the 14th Century St Laurence’s church as near neighbours – that’s the church spire you can see from Barnfield House a five-minute drive or 25-minute walk away.

The Eight Bells pub interior

The Eight Bells has the ambience and architectural details you’d expect of an 18th Century hostelry – think head-grazingly low ceilings, a wealth of exposed oak beams, and blazing log fires. This creates a delightfully warm and welcoming setting for a pint or two in convivial company – there’s an excellent selection of local and national real ales as well as a good choice of wine. It is also an excellent choice for a meal out… and you can expect so much more than the usual pub grub. James and Annie Rogers, who recently took over the Eight Bells, have done wonders in the kitchen, creating a loyal following for their fresh locally sourced seasonal fare, changing menus and surprisingly competitive pricing. The set lunch menu in particular (served Tuesdays to Saturdays) is a steal at £10 for two courses, £13 for three; check out the sample menu here. In addition to a tempting Sunday lunch and a la carte menu, there are also some popular weekly specials: Tuesday’s Build-your-own-Burger Night, Wednesday’s popular Steak Night, and Fizzy Friday where beer battered cod is served with homemade chips and a glass of bubbly.

If you are staying at Barnfield House in the winter, cosy up by the open fire with a steaming mug of mulled wine. In summer head outdoors to the beautiful beer garden for an alfresco tipple. And to get into festive spirit, just take a look at their Christmas set lunch and dinner menus. Venison, pheasant or Kentish roast turkey and all the trimmings, anyone?

plates of food from the Eight Bells pub in Hawkhurst

All photos courtesy the Eight Bells

Taste the best of Kent

Fresh Kent produce

The Garden of England is a foodie’s paradise, with a wealth of home-grown artisanal fare, so we’ve chosen Taste Kent for day 18 of our #KentAdventCalendar. This  new online magazine focuses on Kent’s food and drinks scene, exploring new restaurants, menus, food and drink products and fine food stores.  “If it’s happening in Kent, made in Kent, grown in Kent or produced in Kent we want to know about it,” they say.

Their Kentish Christmas Gift Guide is an excellent reason to check out Taste Kent right now. Every day until the end of the year they are sharing fantastic gift ideas from Kent. It’s an inspiring list full of surprises – e.g. Nim’s brussel sprouts crisps, O’er the Moon crystallised ginger fudge, Message in a Million personalised tarts, and environmentally-friendly Nespresso-compatible coffee capsules from Lost Sheep Coffee.  Non-food products make an appearance in the guide too, such as Pure Wix natural soy candles, Kentish Soap gift boxes,  Bray’s Bees reusable beeswax food wraps, and the cutest Romney Marsh Wools sheepskin baby booties,

Taste Kent is a must-read for foodies interested in exploring the diverse tastes of Kent. You’ll find their website here. Do follow them on Instagram and Facebook to receive their daily suggestions!

Food products of Kent

Kent Advent Calendar – day 13 – Kent Wine School

Glasses on a table ready for wine tasting

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world ….. it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

With Ernest Hemingway’s words in mind, we’ve kept to the subject of wine for day 13 of our #KentAdventCalendar, and introduce Kent Wine School where you can learn all about wine.

Navigating your way round wine menus or choosing a wine from supermarket shelves can be a shot in the dark, while chatting to a sommelier can be a tad intimidating. Kent Wine School is an independent wine education company that offers wine tastings and wine courses for everyone from novices to serious enthusiasts. The courses, which take place at Hotel du Vin in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, are designed to take the mystique out of wine and give you confidence in buying wine. Choose from a wine appreciation evening to an in-depth eight-week wine course. If you have a deepening interest in wine or wish to gain accreditation to support your career, consider enrolling in Wine Scholar Guide courses and pursuing Wine & Spirit Education Trust qualifications.

People at a wine tasting

Kent Wine School has a full calendar of tastings and courses running throughout 2020. The next eight-week Introduction to the World  of Wine course starts on the 7th January.

If you have a wine lover in your midst, then a gift voucher would make the perfect gift. Choose from an open voucher starting from £25 which the recipient can redeem against a course of their choice, or book a specific tasting or course for them. Click here for details.

All photos Kent Wine School

Kent Advent Calendar – day 12 – Vine & Country Tours

Lunch in a vineyard

Did you know that the UK is one of the world’s fastest growing wine regions? And that some 75% of UK acreage under vines are in South East England? Kent is carving quite a reputation as one of its leading wine producing regions, and the larger vineyards offer organised self-guided and guided tours of their estates. But how fabulous would it be to have an invitation to small tour-free off-the-map vineyards quietly producing stellar wines away from the public eye? Step to the front Jamie Thompson, founder of Vine + Country Tours.

Sussex-born Jamie and  his partner Stephanie set up Vine + County Tours with the aim to create and host immersive, intimate and individually tailored wine and food experiences in Kent and Sussex. Their recipe is intoxicatingly simple: Good wine + good food + good company = a fabulous experience. And they have achieved this in spades, for this year-old venture has just seen off some long-established Kent tourism stalwarts to scoop up Best New Tourism Business and the coveted Experience of the Year in the Kent Tourism Awards.

Lunch among the vines

Book a Vine + Country tour for 2 to 12 people, and Jamie and Steph will customise the itinerary to suit your taste. They will pick you up from your home-from-home (and Barnfield House is proud to be their accommodation partner), take you to some hidden gems, and introduce you to the winemakers. During the day, they will also share their insider knowledge and love of local food as your chefs du jour, serving lunch in the winery itself, or even alfresco among the vines. It could be casual mezze/tapas style, or a multi-course tasting menu, always matched to the wines of the day.

It couldn’t be easier! Ahhh but it CAN. Because they now offer ‘At home’ wine tastings where you get to enjoy one of their tour experiences without ever having to leave home. What a fun way to celebrate a special occasion, or simply to learn about English wines in the company of family and friends. And what a fantastic Christmas gift for a wine-enthusiast loved one!

Click here for more information.

All photos courtesy Vine & Country Tours

Raise a glass to fine Kent wines

vineyard view

English Wine  Week might now be over, but who needs an excuse to  celebrate the excellent wines of Kent and East Sussex?

70 years after the first commercial vineyard was planted in Hampshire in 1952, there are well over 500 vineyards across the UK, of which over 150  — some 75% of the total acreage under vines  – are in South East England. According to WinesGB, the official website for the wines of Great Britain, a  record 3 million vines were planted in England and Wales this past year, equating to an additional 690 hectares of vineyards and a 24% increase in the overall land now under vine… much of it in Kent and Sussex.  Amazingly, this makes the UK one of the world’s fastest growing wine regions.; last year’s hot summer and bumper harvest yielded some 15.6m bottles, making 2018 the UK’s most successful vintage to date.

wine tour of Kent vineyards
JillWellington / Pixabay

With Barnfield House Kent so well placed within a short drive of some of England’s finest vineyards, we can think of no better way to spend a summer day than touring the Kent wineries, sampling award-wining sparking wines, and wending your way through glorious countryside dotted with the country’s distinctive white-cowled oast houses, medieval villages and market towns. Biddenden, Lamberhurst, Hush Heath, Chapel Down… the very names evoke a sense of the timelessness of the Kent landscape and its rich heritage.

For example, England’s leading wine producer Chapel Down near Tenterden offers guided tours (from March to November) that include a visit to the vineyards and winery followed by a tutored tasting of their award-winning range of sparkling and still wines. Hush Heath in Staplehurst offers tutored tastings in a brand new visitors centre. The family-run Biddenden Vineyard offers both private and charity tours. And just across the country line into Sussex, England’s oldest organic wine estate Seddlescomb Organic Vineyard offers guided and self-guided tours as well as a woodland walk.

Visit Kent photo of Chapel Down

To make the most of a wine-oriented day out, and enjoy the freedom to imbibe a glass or three, we suggest you leave the car behind and book a bespoke tour  organised by experts. With Vine and Country Tours, you can look forward to a mouth-wateringly memorable day out in the company of delightfully well-informed guides…and they will pick you up from the front door!.

For more information: