It’s half term week so it seemed a good time to head to Kent to visit my brother, niece and nephew. I arrived late morning and there was some debate about where we should go for a walk; where we should have lunch. In the end it was decided to go only to the neighbouring village of Chiddingstone for a walk round the castle and lunch in the tea rooms in the village.
It’s funny how one can get so used to a name that you don’t give much thought to its meaning. But after parking the car, it was suggested that I see the ‘Chiding Stone’ that is said by some to give the village its name.
We followed a footpath to a well-weathered sandstone boulder. Folklore tells of it being a place where wrong-doers were brought to be ‘chided’ – told off. Most particularly ‘nagging wives’ and ‘wilful daughters’, which, as you may imagine, rather offended my feminist principles. Presumably they were made to stand on top of the boulder and local villagers would tell them off from below! Clara and Leo rushed the top but there was no telling off needed. Other stories tell of it being either a boundary in Saxon times or a Druids’ altar. While another theory is that the village was named after a 12th century family, the Cidda’s, as it was recorded as Cidingstane at that time.
From here we walked through the small high street and into the castle grounds, crossing a bridge over the lake with the castle before us.
Chiddingstone Castle dates from the early 1500s, although the current building has only traces of the original. There have been many transformations but the castle we see today was rebuilt as a medieval castle in the mid 19th century.
At the back of the castle was a building that Adam thought had once been an orangery and more recently has been used as a stage for outdoor theatre productions.
It was lunchtime by now and we backtracked to head into the village again.
Chiddingstone Village has been almost entirely owned (except the castle, school and church) by the National Trust since 1939. It’s known as one of the oldest and most beautiful villages in Kent and is the best example of a Tudor village in the country, so has appeared in films and TV series.
We were heading to the Tulip Tree Tea Rooms. The attached gift shop, which dates back to 1453, is reputedly the oldest working shop in the UK. We went through a passageway at the side of the shop to the back. The tea rooms are housed in what was once a coach house.
It was cosy inside. We found a table by the window and decided what to eat.
We noticed that everything had a price tag – just in case you fancied taking it home with you!
We only wanted a snack lunch. Leo and I chose BLT – bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches that came with salad, coleslaw and ‘Kent” crisps. Adam had a sausage roll.
While Clara went all out and ordered a Ploughman’s – which was huge!
There were amazing cakes, and scones and homemade biscuits on offer …
But there was no way any of us had room for more. It was a good lunch, a nice place to stop. Afterwards we made a short trip into the gift shop, then back to the car and home. It was a lovely family time and so good to see how beautiful this part of Kent is.