Originally we had planned to return home straight from London however we were enjoying ourselves so much that we decided to extend the holiday and drive a few miles further into the garden of England Kent. A county full of architecturally interesting oast houses, hop farms and blossom in the spring. The weather today though was somewhat colder and there were no flowers out anywhere. Just bronze leaves falling into piles on the ground.
We drove Suzy down narrow lanes until we found ourselves at the picturesque village of Ightham. Our route was going to take us to the National Trust property of Ightham Mote. We had checked opening times and it seemed the Mote had closed for a few days after summer opening but had now re-opened for the winter season. What we hadnt realised was that only two rooms were open and we would not be able to view the other rooms. What a pity. We were a touch disappointed but then there is nothing you can do about it and just have to make the best of a bad job.
The entrance to the Mote was via a long narrow lane bounded by mature trees. A
typical National Trust entrance. We had no idea if the car parking would be motorhome friendly and hoped for the best . As it was there was plenty of room and we could take our pick of where to park. It was though surprising just how many visitors there were on a Friday in the middle of Autumn.
The cash desk opened at 11 and by the time it opened there were a lot of visitors sitting around. We got in free as we are members of the National Trust. The cashiers apologised to all of us that there were only two rooms opened but told us that the house had been dressed for Christmas so there was something to look forward to.
The Mote isa medieval manor house and the name Mote does not mean that it is set around a moat but rather that it is a meeting place. The house was built around 1320 and there have been relatively few changes to it over the years. It remains still a medieval building around a courtyard. The house was bequeathed to the National Trust as late as 1985 but the American businessman Charles Henry Robinson who
bought the house in 1953. It was sad to realise that there are over seventy rooms in the house which are arranged around the central courtyard and we would not be able to see the Chapel, the Crypt and two Solars. There is also a Grade I listed dog kennel in the courtyard. We were greeted by a volunteer who welcomed us to the house and told us a little of the history and again apologised for the closure of the rooms. He pointed us in the direction of the Conservatory where we would be told more about Affter the conservatory we were shown into the house and the Great Hall. It was an intimate room and probably should be called a Little Hall rather than a Great Hall. There was a blazing fire in the hearth and a dressed Christmas tree in the Victorian style in the corner. The room volunteer explained the use of the room and gave us information on the fittings and furniture. The second room the Library was painted eggshell blue and was decorated in a New England style. To complete the decoration a fire burned and a Christmas tree was decorated in the style
of the 1950's. A lovely experience and we loved every minute of the house.
After looking round we had a quick look at the gardens and then went into the cafe where we ate oat and pear cakes. The cooks at the National Trust always bake a good cake.
After we drove the short distance to Leeds Castle. This was a bit of a disappointment after Ightham Mote. Parking was difficult . There was a large car park but buses prevented us parking where we wanted to and we needed to move to another spot further out and walk back. The entry charges were £17.50 each which was a bit expensive for seniors. You can though use the ticket and go back over a year but this would be no use to us. In the event when I got home I found a free ticket which would have given us 2 for 1 tickets. Lesson learnt - check what tickets you have at home first.
The walk to the castle was long and meandering. It took us a while as we wandered down paths which led over water features and rivers. There is a small train which
takes you to the castle but we did not use it. The castle was a disappointment. It was large and set prettily on a moat but did not have the charm of Ightham. it felt rather impersonal. The castle dates back to 1119 but has been extensively rebuilt and modernised in the 19th century. The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive , Lady Baillie an American heiress. She redecorated the castle in a typically french style. We were slightly disappointed to be ushered unceremoniously out of the house. The volunteers seemed hell bent to show us the doors and get us out quick style. The castle is said to be the loveliest in England and have to say we do not entirely agree. It is pretty on its moat but nothing special.
Afterwards we headed for Canterbury for our CAravan and Camping Club site. Not as good as Abbey Wood but quiet and clean. The wardens friendly and the toilet/shower block clean. However we were overcharged and didnt realise. It rained all morning and in the end we decided to cut our losses and came home. Not a nice journey.
When we got home
we cleaned out Suzy, hoovered her carpets, emptied her fridge and got her ready for winter. As sad day as this could be our last trip of the year.
Roll on Spring.
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