Happy & Glorious, our choice for day 10, earns its place in our #KentAdventCalendar on the strength of its commitment to promoting British design and its smile-inducing shop name. Kate Tompsett launched her gloriously design-focused Cranbrook shop – a phrase straight from Britain’s national anthem – in 2012, on a wave of optimism and patriotism in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics. Six years later she picked up the Muddy Stilettos award for Giftshop of the Year. Her secret is focusing on great design lovingly created in Britain –jewellery, toiletries, homewares, scarves, decorative items, ceramics and craft kits. “There’s a real joy in getting to know the people who create wonderful things,” she explains. “It all feels very warm and fuzzy to sell products that you believe in, made by people you know and love.”
In addition to seeking out designers and sourcing products from all over the UK, Kate also designs and makes her own collections. I was very taken with her delightful botanical-inspired range of fine china mugs and wooden coasters featuring navy blue and white dandelion, skimmia, fern and sedum flowers, fennel leaves and cow parsley. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find one or two pieces under the Christmas tree!
Happy & Glorious is also known for hosting a monthly craft club, and for running some fascinating creative workshops covering everything from crochet and felting to paper cutting and poetry. I have my eye on Kate’s bullet journaling workshop taking place on the 8th January – what better way to get organised for the New Year.
People from all over the world come to England to bask in our heritage and culture. Some of England’s traditions are so normalised that we forget the deep history behind them. Not so November 5th.
Remember remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason be ever forgot
The popular rhyme reminds us of the origin of this long-standing tradition: the foiled plot to blow up King James 1 and Parliament on 5th November 1605. Every year on the anniversary of the failed attempt, people gather in public parks and private gardens to watch fireworks light up the sky, above towering bonfires topped by effigies of Guy Fawkes – the penny-for-a-Guy whose lot was to be the only conspirator whose name is still widely remembered 400 years later.
Sussex Bonfire Societies
The Sussex Bonfire Societies take a different approach to dates. The 5th of November is just one of a series of events spread over a three-month period from early September to the end of November. Each event is so much more than a fireworks display, but a spectacular evening with bonfire societies all coming together from Wealden villages and towns across the counties of Sussex and Kent.
Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society
Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society traditionally closes the season, which this year takes place Saturday 23rd November. This fun-filled evening kicks off in the early evening at the Royal Oak pub in Hawkhurst where all the visiting bonfire societies meet with the home team – many dressed in traditional attire. At 7pm they make their way in a joyful torchlight procession up Highgate Hill accompanied by marching bands. It’s an extraordinary sight; even rain doesn’t dampen enthusiasm.
Hog roast and hotdogs
At the King George V playing field on the Moor, treats await – burgers, hot dogs and a hog roast slowly turning on the open fire. Kids tuck in to traditional toffee apples and hot chocolate while adults enjoy a pint or a steaming mug of mulled wine, silhouetted against the bonfire blaze. When the fireworks display starts, bursts of colour illuminate the crisp autumnal sky and the air rings with whistles, crackles and bangs, mixed with the oohs and aaahhhhs of the appreciative crowd.
Guests staying at the self-catering holiday rental Barnfield House get a glimpse of the fireworks without even leaving home. But there’s nothing like joining in this fabulously family-friendly event , the culmination of months of hard graft by the small band of volunteers in the Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society (named after the infamous 18th Century Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers that will be the focus of another blog post).
Tickets are £4 for adults, £2 for children when purchased in advance, either online or from the Green Shop or Peter Buswell Estate Agents in Hawkhurst village.
For further information, visit Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society’s website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!’”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 ORCHESTRA WITH FUMIYA KOIDO
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
13th Oct – 1pm at Battle Memorial Hall CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS
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.
15th Oct – 7.30pm at Whatlington Village Hall MRS YARRINGTONS MUSIC CLUB – THE CARRIVICK SISTERS
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 MATTHEW PASSION – BATTLE CHORAL SOCIETY
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 A CAPPELLA AT THE 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.
20th Oct – 2pm at Battle Abbey, the Abbott’s Hall ROMEO & JULIET
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.
25th Oct – 7.30pm at St Mary the Virgin PIANO RECITAL WITH 2019 HASTINGS INTERNATIONAL PIANO CONCERTO COMPETITION PRIZEWINNER MAXIM KINASOV
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
A word to the wise… make a date in your diary for the last weekend of June when the Wealden Literary Festival springs into life in the enchanting setting of Boldshaves Garden just 15 miles from Barnfield House Kent. Now in its fourth year, this family-friendly festival fizzes with words, ideas, local food, arts and crafts, outdoor activities and creative workshops. Over the course of the weekend, renowned authors, poets, artists and makers will converge on this gorgeous corner of the Weald of Kent to share ideas and inspiration on nature, wilderness and the spirit of place. Both days are jam-packed with activities to keep all the family delightfully entertained as well as informed.
Book into workshops on creative writing with Tanya Shadrick (Wealden’s writer in residence for 2019), botanical illustration with Emma Mitchen, natural dyeing with Francesca Baur, willow-weaving with expert basketmaker Julie Gurr, spoon carving with Jill Swan, bookbinding and design with Hope Fitzgerald ,Wealden’s artist in residence for 2019, and – intriguingly – the mindful observation of sounds in nature with musical composer Laurence Rose.
Wander the gardens and woodland at Boldshaves in a wildlife safari Mark Cocker, celebrated naturalist and author of best-loved books about nature including Crow Country and Our Place. Learn firecraft with Phil from Badger Bushcraft or go foraging with Rural Courses founder Michael White.
Sip award-winning English sparkling wine hand-crafted by Woodchurch Vineyard made from grapes grown less than a mile away from the Festival site. Tuck into a rustic vegetarian feast served up by the Plant Pantry. And feed your spirit with daily meditation and yoga.
Perhaps the heart of the festival is the opportunity to meet with authors and hear them in conversion or reading from their published works. Here are a few sessions that grabbed our attention.
29th June 11.45 – 12.45
PETER MARREN – EMPERORS, ADMIRALS AND CHIMNEY SWEEPERS: THE NAMING OF BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS
Let Peter Marren take you on a journey back to a time before the arts and science were divided – when entomologists were also poets and painters, and when a gift for vivid language went hand-in-hand with a deep pre-Darwinian fascination for the emerging natural world. One of the country’s most celebrated naturalists and author of books including Chasing the Ghost, Bugs Britannica and Rainbow Dust, Marren’s latest book Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers is the first comprehensive guide to the names of butterflies and moths.
29th June 15.00 – 16.00
LAURENCE ROSE & JULIAN HOFFMAN IN CONVERSATION: THE NIGHTINGALE’S SONG
Learn about the unique songs and cultural significance of nightingales, the bird’s fragile future in Britain, and the nature of loss and possibilities for replenishment. The author of The Long Spring which examines the joints between nature, conservation and culture, Laurence Rose has been getting to know the nightingale population at Boldshaves in connection with his next book. Julian Hoffman’s latest book Irreplaceable: The Fight to save our Wild Places is an urgent and lyrical account of endangered places around the globe and the people fighting to save them.
29th June – 16.00 to 17.00
EMMA MITCHELL – THE WILD REMEDY: HOW NATURE MENDS US The Wild Remedy is a truly unique book for anyone who has ever felt drawn to nature and wondered about its influence over us. Emma Mitchell has suffered with depression – or as she calls it, ‘the grey slug’ – for twenty-five years. After moving to the Cambridgeshire Fens some 15 years ago, she began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and drawing as she went. Each walk lifted her mood, proving to be as medicinal as any talking therapy or pharmaceutical. In this beautifully hand-illustrated diary, she explores the paths and trails around her cottage and further afield, sharing her nature finds and tracking the lives of local flora and fauna over the course of a year. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, Emma’s moving and candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today’s mental health epidemic. While charting her own seasonal highs and lows, she also explains the science behind such changes, calling on new research into the benefits of spending time outdoors.
30th June 10.30 to 11.30
NAOKO ABE – ‘CHERRY INGRAM’: THE ENGLISHMAN WHO SAVED JAPAN’S BLOSSOMS
As told on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week,‘Cherry’ Ingram is the irresistible story of Japanese cherry blossoms, threatened by political ideology and saved by an unknown Englishman based in the Weald of Kent. Collingwood Ingram, known as ‘Cherry’ for his defining obsession, was born in 1880 and lived in Benenden until he was a hundred, witnessing a fraught century of conflict and change. Over decades, Ingram became one of the world’s leading cherry experts and shared the joy of cherry blossoms both nationally and internationally. Every spring we enjoy his legacy. ‘Cherry’ Ingram is a portrait of this little-known Englishman, a story of Britain and Japan in the twentieth century and an exploration of the delicate blossoms whose beauty is admired around the world.
30th June – 17.15 to 18.15
NEIL ANSELL & DAN RICHARDS IN CONVERSATION
Neil Ansell and Dan Richards explore their experiences of the remote and wild places on the edge of human civilisation.
Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2018, Neil Ansell’s The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence explores the experience of being in nature alone within the context of a series of walks he took into the most remote parts of Britain, the rough bounds in the Scottish Highlands. He illustrates the impact of being alone as part of nature, rather than outside it.
In Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth, Dan Richards explores the appeal of far-flung outposts in mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts. Following a route from the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watch lookouts of Washington State, from Iceland’s ‘Houses of Joy’ to the Utah desert; frozen ghost towns in Svalbard to shrines in Japan; Roald Dahl’s Metro-land writing hut to a lighthouse in the North Atlantic, Richards explores landscapes which have inspired writers, artists and musicians, and asks: why are we drawn to wilderness? What can we do to protect them? And what does the future hold for outposts on the edge?
It’s going to be a wonderful weekend! Check ticket prices (there’s no charge for children up to age 14) and book author events, creative workshops and outdoor adventures via the official website website www.wealdenliteraryfestival.co.uk
Saturday June 29, 2019 10:00 AM – 07:00 PM
Sunday June 30, 2019 10:00 AM – 07:00 PM
Woodchurch, Kent TN26 3RA
Thinking of experiences that may entertain your nearest and dearest this Fathers Day? How about making a beeline to Bewl Water for the Austin Seven Rally on Sunday 16th June (from 10.30am). Give him the chance to see up close some classic pre-1972 cars, commercials and motorbikes, chat about classic cars to his hearts content, and even acquire spare parts at the auto jumble.
There is no charge apart from the Bewl Water standard £4 parking fee. So once you’ve had you fill of Austin Sevens, you can spend the day exploring the 800-acre Bewl Water Country Park — a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take to the water in a rowing boat or enjoy a walk or cycle following the path round the reservoir. Pack your own picnic, join in the BBQ slated to fire up near to the Austins, or book a special Father’s Day meal at the Boat House Bistro overlooking the water…. the menu looks delicious.
Boat House Bistro 01892 890000
There’s so much on in the Weald of Kent this month! Something not to miss is South East Open Studios (SEOS), a creative event running til the 23rd June where artists, craftspeople, printmakers and designers open their studio spaces to the public. Its your chance to meet artists up close and personal, learn about their process, passion and philosophy, and see them at work. Many will be giving demonstrations and sharing stories behind their creations, and most will be offering their works for sale (at direct-to-artist prices without gallery mark-ups).
Some 200 artists are participating this year (the 22nd year of this annual event), many of them on our doorstep. Within a few miles of Barnfield House Kent, you have the chance to see talented artists such as. Sue Scullard (wood engravings), Felicity Flutter (watercolours inspired by the sea), Nicola Colbran (wildlife oil paintings), Jackie Summerfield (ceramic wildlife sculptures), Katie Brinsley (ceramic tableware), Ali Stump (etchings), and Peter M Clarke (metal garden sculptures).
Download a guide and suggested itineraries from SEOS’s informative website (http://www.seos-art.org), or create your own art trail through the enchanting countryside of Kent and East Sussex – truly the Garden of England. You could return home with a piece of art you’ll treasure for a lifetime!