Barnfield House Kent

Barnfield House Kent

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

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.

Tigers at Bateman’s – A Children’s Classic Tours the National Trust

The Tiger Who Came For Tea National Trust Exhibition

The Tiger Who Came For Tea National Trust Exhibition

When they were little, among my children’s cherished books was Judith Kerr’s Mog picture book series. Mog the Forgetful Cat remains a favourite in our library of children’s books at Barnfield House – inscribed by my late mother for my daughter in the late 80s. Little did she know that her Christmas gift would be bringing pleasure to a new generation decades later, visiting grannies chose the same book to read to their own young grand-children during family holidays at our Kent holiday rental.

A children’s favourite comes to Bateman’s

Judith Kerr is probably best known for another children’s classic, ‘A Tiger Came To Tea’. which is currently touring National Trust properties nationwide in a 50th Anniversary Exhibition created by Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. When I heard that the National Trust’s roving exhibition had rolled into Bateman’s a 15-minute drive away, curiosity got the better of me and I just had to visit.

We’re lucky enough to have a very fine selection of National Trust historic houses, castles and gardens in the High Weald, offering wonderful days out to entertain all the family. Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s family home in Burwash, East Sussex is a favourite. The character of the place has been so skilfully preserved, as though the author of the Just So stories had just stepped out for a bracing country walk.

The tiger who came for tea exhibition at Batemans
Entering the Hall at Bateman’s

It seems fitting that this much loved tiger’s tale is being honoured in the home of the author of Jungle Book, the 125 year old children’s classic that features the fictional Bengal tiger Sher Khan. And happily, my visit coincided with the school half term so the 17th Century house and gardens echoed with the sound of young children – there no doubt because their parents felt the same pull as myself.

“I first told this story to my small daughter long ago”, Judith says of the much loved story that has sold well over five million copies since its publication in 1968, and has been translated into 11 languages. “She was rather critical of my other stories but used to say, ‘Talk the tiger!’”

Judith Kerr's original illustration from her Tiger who came for Tea children's book
Judith Kerr’s original illustrations and facsimiles on display at Bateman’s

Tigers roam the home of the Jungle Book author

A trail of small stuffed tigers lurking in practically every room leads to Sophie’s 1960s-style room from the story, recreated in Kipling’s son John’s bedroom. Here is an opportunity to get up close and personal to Judith’s beautiful illustrations for The Tiger Who Came to Tea displayed on the walls, while toddlers curl up on their mothers’ laps on the ironwork bed and listen to a recording of the book.


From there, the back stairs leads to the kitchen where I encountered an enchanting scene: a few little ones serving afternoon tea to a huge tiger sat at a table. Resting on easels by the Aga are more facsimiles and sketches – including, to my delight, one of Mog. Kids are sure to be well entertained here; in addition to the interactive play kitchen itself, there’s also dressing up box overflowing with striped tiger onesie, and a craft table with crayons and activities.

A tiger illustration in Bateman's kitchen

Tiger activities in the Bateman's kitchen
Serving the tiger tea in the Bateman’s kitchen

Next, I slipped into the dining room where, surrounded by gleaming 18th Century silver leaf English leather wall hangings depicting birds and foliage, I watched a documentary outlining Judith’s extraordinary life and her experiences of escaping Nazi Germany, being a refugee in France and Switzerland, and then settling into English life and becoming an artist and storyteller. (Judith passed away in May 2019 at the age of 95, only a week after she won the prestigious Illustrator of the Year title at the British Book Awards 2019.)

The tiger theme continues throughout Batemans – in the trail of clues through the grounds, in the Mulberry Tearoom where stripy vegetables grown on the estate are served in honour of the tiger, and in the gift shop where tigers decorate everything from tote bags to jigsaws.

Tiger merchandise in the Batemans shop
Exhibition souvenirs at the NT shop

So all you parents captivated by this famous tale – or with children to entertain over the half term and weekends – do catch this exhibition while you have the chance. It’s on at Bateman’s until Sunday 3rd November. And if you do miss it, there’s another chance to see it at Knole in Sevenoaks where the exhibition opens on the 9th November.

Bateman's - Rudyard Kipling's home in East Sussex

Bateman’s Lane
East Sussex TN19 7DS

Open every day, 10am-5pm
Admission: £5.75 for children, £11.50 for adults, £28.75 for a family of 4.
Under 5s and National Trust members are free
‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ trail £2.50 per trail with a prize at the end

Photo credits @jennybigio @barnfieldhousekent


National Apple Festival – a family day out in Kent

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

Southeast England’s favourite family-friendly festival – Battle Festival of Arts & Music

Battle in East Sussex is named after England’s infamous Battle of Hastings which led to the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066. This market town is a magnet for history buffs and holiday makers from all over the world; you can visit the battleground where King Harold fell, as well as the abbey built as penance by William the Conqueror.

October has particular significance for this historic town. The anniversary of the Battle of Hastings falls on the 14th – and the entire month is devoted to the annual Battle Festival of Arts and Music. This critically acclaimed festival attracts visitors from across the UK, Europe and the USA, drawn by an exciting line-up of internationally acclaimed artists, and an eclectic programme of performances, exhibitions, events and activities.

Artist-in-residence Kerry Bennett soaring with her festival wings

You’ll find fabulous art pieces spread throughout Battle, from artist-in-residence Kerry Bennet’s  ceramic beehive installation in the Almonry Gardens to her and other artists’ fantastic Battle Beasts spread across the town. Aspiring artists have the chance to attend workshops on watercolour, acrylic, portrait and fantasy art. Film buffs can immerse themselves in movie classics both old and new. And the curious have the choice of some truly thought-provoking talks by experts in their respective fields, among them.  Hacking the Codes of Life with biologist Nessa Carey, Sir Ernest Shackleton – the Man & the Myths with eminent Polar historian Michael Smith, and A Conspiracy History of the World with Andy Thomas, one of the world’s leading researchers into unexplained mysteries and cover-ups.

There is also a stunning line-up for music and theatre lovers. Here are some programme highlights.

11th Oct – 7.30pm at St Mary in the Castle
Hastings Philharmonic, in partnership with Battle Festival and the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC), will open their 2019/2020 season with a concert at St Mary in the Castle featuring the winner of this year’s competition, Fumiya Koido. Conducted by Marcio da Silva, the concert will feature a wonderful programme of Mozart “Haffner” Symphony, Mozart Piano Concerto No.23 and Beethoven Symphony No.4.
£22.50 Stalls, £17.50 Balcony, under 18’s free. Tickets from Hastings Philharmonic and from St Mary in the Castle, Hastings Old Town

carnival of animals childrens music event

13th Oct – 1pm at Battle Memorial Hall
A fun-filled afternoon for the whole family. There will be various crafts including animal balloon workshops and colouring books on offer. Storytelling duo Spud and Yam will be presenting their unique blend of stories, dance and music in interactive sessions before world-class musicians take the stage for the main concert at 3.30pm
Primrose Piano Quartet plus top London soloists perform three all-time favourite pieces of music – The Carnival of the Animals, Peter and the Wolf and The Flight of the Bumblebee
Adults £5, Children £2.50. Book online.

The carrivick sisters bluegrass and  folk singers

15th Oct – 7.30pm at Whatlington Village Hall
One of the UK’s top young bluegrass and folk acts. Twins Laura and Charlotte perform their original songs and instrumentals along with a few carefully chosen covers on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, and clawhammer banjo. They have built a reputation for engaging and entertaining live performances with tight sibling vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental virtuosity.
£12. Information here.

19th Oct – 7pm at St Marys Church
This is a rare opportunity to hear Bach’s most famous choral work – requiring two orchestras and a double choir – sung by Battle Choral Society together with other local singers.
Adults £17, Under 18s £15. Tickets online ) or from Rother Books and The Crafty Norman, or at Holden & Co Solicitors for purchasers by card (01424 722422).

19th Oct – 7.30pm at Battle Brewery
Now & Then are a Hastings-based a cappella group with a strong local following and a range that includes traditional and contemporary British folk, American gospel, west coast rock, and even Georgian harmony singing. Renowned for their unique blend of voices – no instruments, just pure vocal harmony heaven – the foursome promises an evening of songs that are moving, amusing, joyous … and occasionally rowdy. This is a free event.

Romeo and Juliet at Batle Festival

20th Oct – 2pm at Battle Abbey, the Abbott’s Hall
The greatest love story ever told will be performed in Battle Abbey Abbot’s Hall by Bowler Crab, a Sussex-based theatre company that blends minimalism and traditionalism in shortened ‘pocket’ productions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
£15, £10 under 18s. Tickets online  or from Rother Books or The Crafty Norman.

hastings international piano concerto competition winner

25th Oct – 7.30pm at St Mary the Virgin
Rising star of the piano world 25-year-old Maxim Kinasov from Russia presents a stunning programme featuring works by Beethoven, Franck, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov.
£15, Under 18s free. Tickets available online, or from Rother Books or The Crafty Norman

Photo credits: Battle Festival of Arts and Music 

For more information, visit:

Battle Art and Music Festival logo

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