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

Rye Bay Scallop Week


If you love scallops, there’s only one place to be in February, and that’s Rye, a half-hour drive from the family holiday rental Barnfield House Kent. This pretty East Sussex harbour town is host to the annual Rye Bay Scallop Week, which will be back in 2022 after having to cancel in 2021.

Rye – steeped in history

Perched atop a sandstone promontory by the confluence of three rivers, the picturesque town of Rye in is a delight to visit at any time of the year. You can spend a pleasant day wandering around its warren of steep cobbled streets and secret passages lined with half-timbered medieval cottages and fine Georgian houses. As you take in the view across Romney Marsh, it’s a stretch to think that the town was once almost entirely encircled by the sea. Rye was part of the confederation of Cinque Ports originally formed by Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century to furnish ships and men for the defence of the realm. In medieval times it was a strategic trading port of note, but by the 16th Century the sea had receded, and silting had extended the marshes. Today Rye lies a full two miles inland, its port connected to the sea by the rivers Rother, Brede and Tillingham.

The pretty harbour town of Rye

Fit for a king

Despite its distance from the sea, Rye’s fishing fleet continued to thrive. Such was its fame that its catch of herring, mackerel, cod, plaice and sole used to be reserved for the King’s table. In 1628  King Charles I himself proclaimed Rye to be “the cheapest sea-towne for provision of fish for our house”. Its reputation as a fishing hub has continued into the 21st Century, though today its fishing fleet moors almost two miles from the sea.

Rye bay Scallop boat
Photo credit: John Botterell

Rye Bay Scallop Week

Scallops in particular love the shallow, sheltered waters of Rye Bay, and right now they are at their finest…among the best in England! Hence the timing of the Rye Bay Scallop Festival, which involves the entire town in enthusiastic week-long celebrations of this tasty mollusc. There is a full programme of scallop-themed events and activities, from shucking demonstrations and tasting sessions to quiz nights and cooking classes. The town’s restaurants, cafes and pubs join in with gusto, dishing up inventive tasting menus and seafood feasts starring locally caught scallops.

Scallop dish
Photo credit: Webbe’s Restaurants

Some 15,000 scallops are shucked during the week  celebrations — you will find platefuls of them everywhere, from Michelin star-worthy establishments to humble chippies, market stalls and food trucks. One experience we enjoyed in 2020 was Webbe’s at the Fish Café’s epic six-course scallop tasting menu, which includes scallop sashimi, scallop pan-fried in curry and lime oil, and a risotto of seared scallop with Sussex truffle and Jerusalem artichoke. Mmmmmmm, delicious!

Scallop School

There’s also the chance to attend ‘scallop school’ at Webbe’s Cookery School in Rye, supervised by acclaimed restauranteur and chef Paul Webbe himself. With the guidance of this impassioned advocate for sustainable seafood, you will learn how to prepare and cook Rye’s famous mollusc, then savour a seven-course lunch served with wine.

Scallop school Rye
Photo credit: Webbe’s Restaurants

Marinated, seared, ceviche, deep-fried….chances are you’ll find plump scallops prepared in a way you have never come across before during Rye Bay Scallop Week. Why not try your hand at cooking scallops at home, following some of these recipes here.

For more information about this fabulous gourmet week, including participating restaurants, menus and a programme of events, there will be announcements at  

Cover photo credit: Clive Sawyer

Top things to do in Kent if you love flying

Balloon ride over Bodiam castle

UK holidaymakers could well associate Kent with orchards, castles, cliffs and beaches. But did you know that England’s southeasternmost corner is also the birthplace of British aviation?  It may come as a surprise that this beautiful county has a wealth of exciting aviation-themed attractions to appeal to enthusiasts of all ages. Here are some top things to do in Kent if you love flying or want to explore the county’s rich aviation history both on the ground and above.

Plane spotting

Headcorn Aerodrome from the air
Photo credit: Headcorn Aerodrome

One place that is sure to fascinate every member of the family, whatever their age, is Headcorn Aerodrome in the High Weald, just 12 miles from Barnfield House Kent. This historic airfield has a fascinating aviation history reaching back over a hundred years. It is the last grass wartime air field left in Kent, and the perfect setting for an enjoyable few hours of plane spotting. The place is usually buzzing, with classic planes soaring overhead, and pilots and parachutists milling about. The grass parking area overlooks the runway, offering a good view of vintage aircraft, microlights and helicopters. You may even catch a glimpse of Spitfires taking off and landing – something of a rarity in other regions of the UK, and sure to bring a lump to the throat. Make a day of it and take a picnic! More information here.

Scenic flights

Leeds Castle from the air
Photo credit: Headcorn Aerodrome

If you want to take your experience up a notch, why not take to the skies and book a pleasure flight. It’s a fantastic way to see the Kent countryside from a different perspective, and a chance to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the county’s historic castles, rural villages, coastal towns and rolling farmlands. Headcorn Aerodrome offers pleasure flights for up to three people in a Cessna light aircraft; prices start at £150 for 30 minutes. If this sounds like the perfect excuse for a day out for your group, click here for more info and to make a booking. And if you’re bitten by the flying bug afterwards, consider booking in for a trial flying lesson before you leave.

Fly in a Spitfire

Spitfire flying over Kent
Photo credit: Aero Legends

“The experience of being flown in a two seater Spitfire across Kent to the white cliffs, over the Battle of Britain memorial, to experience victory rolls and a 360 loop and most of all to be in control for part of the flight, is without question one my life’s great experiences.” This enthusiastic Trip Advisor reviewer sums up the extraordinary experience offered by Aero Legends: the opportunity to relive the flying experience of WWII pilots in an authentically restored wartime Spitfire. In this Spitfire Flight Experience you will be paired with an astonishingly experienced pilot – perhaps from the Red Arrows – who will fly you into the same airspace that was the stage for the decisive Battle of Britain 75 years ago. The company offers an excellent choice of experiences ranging in price from £295 for a Standby Spitfire Tour to £5,395 for the Ultimate Spitfire Package. Aero Legends also offers other experiences such as trial lessons in a Tiger Moth (from £139)  or in a T6 Harvard (from £449) where you get to take the controls yourself. For more information, and to book an experience, click here.

Wing walking

Wing walking in Kent
Photo credit: The Wing Walk Company

If you’re a thrill-seeker, why not take to the skies in a different way —this time not from the cockpit, but alfresco, strapped to the wings of a biplane. Operating out of Headcorn Aerodrome, the Wing Walk Company can perhaps be described as a 21st Century equivalent of the barnstorming pioneers of the 1920s and 1930s who would buzz into rural towns and dazzle the residents with aerial stunts. Thankfully these days you won’t be literally walking on the wings, but securely harnessed to the top wing.  It’s a sure way of getting an adrenaline-fuelled ‘I’m flying’ feeling! And as you’re hurtling through the air, you might just spot Leeds or Bodiam Castles…or the White Cliffs in Dover in the distance. Prices start at £350 and include a certificate and the option of a video of your experience. Read about them here or visit their website here.

Hot air ballooning

Ballooning over Bodiam Castle
Photo credit: Skybus Ballooning

Sitting on the deck at with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a steaming mug of tea, our holiday renters sometimes see hot air balloons gently gliding across the countryside towards Barnfield House; one time we even witnessed one making a landing in the field adjoining the garden. With such spectacular countryside, it’s hardly surprising that ballooning is popular in Kent, and you’ll find many companies offering flights. One of the most experienced is Skybus Ballooning which operates out of Headcorn Aerodrome and was set up some 30 years ago by one of the UK’s few female commercial balloon pilots. With them, you can choose to take off from the grass airfield at Headcorn, or from the picturesque setting of Bewl Water, or Bodiam Castle in East Sussex – both just ten minutes from Barnfield House. Their early morning and evening flights in the summer months are popular, but Skybus offers balloon flight all year round; just imagine seeing the russet-turned forests of  the High Weald from high up in the Autumn! There’s something so special about taking to the air in a balloon; no deafening engine sound, nothing but the occasional puff of the burner firing up or the bleating of sheep as you float over farmland or drift above ancient castles. Prices start at £115 per person and you can get more information or book online here.


Tandem skydiving in Kent
Photo credit: UK Skydiving Adventures

If you are the type that feels like risk-taking, revel in a surge of adrenaline wherever possible, or want to conquer a fear of heights, then skydiving is for you; it’s the closest you’ll feel to flying. The nervous build-up to lift off, seeing the airfield recede into the distance as you climb to 12,000ft, and preparing for the heart-thumping moment that you leave the plane and launch yourself into thin air — it’s all thrills from the word go. Then once the parachute unfurls, enjoy being on cloud nine as you gently glide earthwards, taking in the literally breath-taking scenery below your feet; on a clear day you might even see France. If skydiving is on your bucket list, you don’t have to stray far from Barnfield House for the experience. UK Skydiving Adventures offers tandem jumps from Headcorn Aerodrome (and static line jumps, accelerated free-fall and indoor diving at other locations). Click here for more information and easy online booking. Prices start at £310.

Vintage plane and aviation museums

Kent Battle of Britain Museum
Photo credit: Kent Battle of Britain Museum Trust

Coming back down to earth, you’ll find that Kent has more than its fair share of aviation-themed museums that will particularly appeal to history buffs. Not to be missed is the Kent Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge an hour’s drive from Barnfield House, which showcases the world’s largest collection of aircraft, weaponry, flying equipment and memorabilia from the Battle of Britain. Among the aircraft on display are Hurricanes, Spitfires, Messerschmitt Bf 109Es, Defiant, Harvard, Tiger Moth, Magister and, a rebuilt Bristol Blenheim. The museum – info here – is open daily (except Mondays) from 4th April to 1st November 2020. Adults £10, children £4. Closer to home is one of the oldest, the Lashenden Air Warfare Museum at Headcorn where you can see a German Fi-103-R4 – a crewed version of the V-1 flying bomb, and one of just six remaining across the world. For more information on the museum, which opens weekends and bank holidays, click here.

Other than the Battle of Britain Museum, the above are all just a 20-minute drive from Barnfield House, which is conveniently located for all Kent-based aviation-related activities. If you are a group of up to 10 flight enthusiasts and would like to book our holiday rental for your aviation-themed stay, click here for information and online booking.

Kent Advent Calendar – day 10 – Happy & Glorious

Goft shop window

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.”

gift items in a gift shop

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.

Check out her website for more information.


Cover photo: Happy & Glorious

Remember, remember the 27th November

Fireworks in Hawkhurst

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.

fireworks light the sky above Hawkhurst Kent
Fireworks light up the autumn sky above Hawkhurst

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 27th 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.

Torchlight procession in Hawkhurst
The torchlight procession blazes its way up Highgate Hill

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.

fireworks in Hawkhurst

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).

a bench and fireworks in the distance
Fireworks from the deck at Barnfield House

For further information, visit Hawkhurst Gang Bonfire Society’s website.

The British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition at Bodiam Castle

award-winning photography exhibition

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

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


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

Woman with wings standing in front of castle gates

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

Wealden Literary Festival – a fun-filled weekend for all the family

signage in a garden for the Wealden Literary Festival

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
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
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
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
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 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
Saturday June 29, 2019 10:00 AM – 07:00 PM
Sunday June 30, 2019 10:00 AM – 07:00 PM
Boldshaves Gardens
Woodchurch, Kent TN26 3RA
United Kingdom


Fathers Day in Kent – Austin Seven Rally at Bewl Water

Vintage car rally gathering

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  

South East Open Studios

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 (, 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!