Barnfield House Kent

Barnfield House Kent

Family-owned 5-bedroom holiday rental • Sleeps 10 • 2-acre gardens • Glorious views

Kent Advent Calendar – day 7 – Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle reflected in its moat

Day 7 of our #KentAdventCalendar is Scotney Castle – one of those places that you can visit time and time again and always find something new, and on the ‘must visit’ list of many families – both from the UK and overseas – who holiday at Barnfield House.

Scotney castle reflected in the moat

I took this photo in late October when it was unusually still with clear blue skies, and the 14th Century medieval castle cast a perfect reflection in the surrounding moat. Such a scene is perhaps the epitome of this 780-acre estate with its wooded gardens and banks of rhododendrons and azaleas. The castle itself had been helped into its ruined state in the 1830a by architect Anthony Salvin who saw it as the romantic focus of landscaped gardens for a grand house he had been commissioned to build for industrialist Edward Hussey III. His descendant Christopher Hussey left the estate to the National Trust in 1970, since when the gardens, woodland and parkland have been open to the public. But it was only in 2007 on the death of his widow Betty that the house itself opened to visitors, showing the mark of different generations in its furniture, ornaments, artefacts and décor – from the formal wood-panelled Victorian ground floor rooms to Betty’s time-capsule second floor quarters complete with her 60s wardrobe.

view of the mansion house at Scotney across the moat

Visit in December for a taste of a traditional Victorian Hussey family Christmas: roaring log fires; towering trees with twinkling fairy lights, hand-crafted decorations, and piles of gift-wrapped presents at their base;  Noah’s Arc animals set out ready for play on the Persian carpet; dining table beautifully laid for the Christmas meal….and Christmas carols.

Click here for more information on Scotney Castle and events in the run-up to Christmas.

Victorian mansion at Scotney

 

Kent Advent Calendar – Day 1

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

There is so much to experience in Kent that we decided to celebrate our corner of the world with a Kent Advent Calendar. Every day in the run-up to Christmas Day, we’ll be sharing with you photos of some of our favourite places, people and products in Kent and across the border in East Sussex — village pubs, woodland walks, ancient castles, famous gardens, indie boutiques and artisanal fare.

For the first day of our #KentAdventCalendar we’ve chosen world-famous Sissinghurst Castle Garden — the quintessential English garden  less than seven miles from Barnfield House. Wonder if poet and writer Vita Sackville-West could have imagined that her life’s exuberant creation would become arguably England’s most beautiful garden as well as the top attraction in the Weald of Kent?

A birdseye view of Sissinghurst Castle Garden

This year Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which lies less than seven miles from our family holiday rental, will open during winter for the first time. This gives visitors the chance to view the much-loved garden through a different lens, and appreciate the classic structure and layout created by Vita’s husband Harold Nicolson. What better way to experience the Garden of Kent’s colourful changing seasons than at this National Trust treasure!

The British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition at Bodiam Castle

award-winnning photo of a swan exhibited at Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex never fails to surprise. Monty Python fans might remember glimpsing this  perfectly moated medieval marvel in the film Monty Python & the Holy Grail, where it was the exterior of Swamp Castle. Moving from films to stills, this pint-size castle is currently hosting the 2019 British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition.

Bodiam Castle is of the first venues on the national tour of 2019 winners. The crenelated walls, soaring towers and surrounding moat provide a stunning backdrop to a spectacular series of photos that capture British wildlife and landscapes in all their power and  glory.

wildlife photos exhibited within the ancient walls of Bodiam Castle
Top photo, Paul Sawer’s category winner, ‘Seasonal Blue Tit shot in Suffolk

It was an overcast day when we visited, and the National Trust volunteers were getting up to speed with the diverse locations of the exhibition. This included the first floor of the West Tower which we understand was opened to the public for the first time especially for this exhibition. It was rather extraordinary climbing up the narrow, steeply spiralling stone stairs and stepping into a small circular tower room to see the most astonishing photographs of British wildlife.

Photos of a plover and a snake exhibited at Bodium castle
Top photo, Nicholas Court’s highly commended ‘Golden Plover Moor shot in Derbyshire. Jack Perk’s highly commended Grass Snake in Garden Pond, photographed in Nottinghamshire.

The work of both amateur and professional photographers is displayed in the north east, north west and west towers. Somehow these rather magnificent photos of Britain’s bucolic landscape and abundant wildlife sit well against a backdrop of the castle’s ancient blocks of stone – story-tellers themselves across the centuries.

Photo of a bluebell wood displayed within Bodiam castle
Pauline Godwin’s highly commended Carpet of Bluebells at Badbury Clump in Oxfordshire
A bee, barn owl and blenny - photos exhibited at Bodiam castle
(Left) Andy Rouse’s highly commended Barn Owlets Fledging from Nest, photographed in Lincolnshire. (Centre) Daniel Trim’s highly commended Sinister Cargo. (Right) Dan Bolt’s highly commended Dahlia Splash shot in the seas of South Devon, and Kirsty Andrews’ highly commended Golden Boy, a characterful Yarrell’s blenny shot in the Scottish Borders.

The details captured by the photographers were extraordinary. Daniel Trim’s Sinister Cargo shows a European Beewolf  – “tenacious little wasps” – carrying a paralysed honeybee to its burrow, where it will become the unwitting host for the wasp’s egg… and ultimately dinner for the newly hatched larva. And I just love the expression on Golden Boy, Kirsty Andrews’ fine portrait of a blenny.

Photo of a dipper eating a bug
Highly commended, Breakfast Bug by Peter Bartholomew – a dipper tucks into a juicy bug in the Cairngorms.

There’s food for thought too. For example Breakfast Bug,  Peter Bartholomew’s photo of a dipper perched on a plastic bottle draped in what looks like fishing net, shows how nature adapts to its changing surroundings. “Over several weeks I observed that the dipper had adopted various pieces of plastic waste as perching spots in preference to the usual stones and branches.”

We visited Bodiam Castle this time mainly for the exhibition. But of course Britain’s most photogenic castle provides multiple opportunities to shoot stunning photos, whether you use a camera or your phone. (The photos accompanying this article were all taken on a Huawei P20 Pro smartphone). So after visiting the exhibition rooms in the three towers, do climb further up the spiral stairs to the top of the towers to the reward of fantastic countryside views.

Bodiam Castle portcullis, tower stairs, and external view
Enjoy a leisurely tour of Bodiam Castle

This inspiring BWPA exhibition is a reminder of the riches that nature gives us right on our doorsteps. Indeed the castle grounds are home to a variety of wildlife within its wetlands, wooded areas, trees, and grasslands. It is also one of the most important bat roosts in the south east of England.

Bodiam Castle is just 5 miles from the five-bedroom holiday rental Barnfield House, which is the perfect base for families interested in exploring the attractions of Kent and East Sussex.

The exhibition is on until Sunday 5 January 2020 (closed 24 & 25 December).

More information here.

Family days out in Kent & East Sussex

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