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Published: August 14th 2009
On Monday of our last week we took a train out to the small town of Hever, in Kent, to visit Hever Castle, and take a walk across the public footpaths to the town of Chiddingstone for lunch. This was a portion of a longer ramble/walk I had taken in 2003 with Landmark colleagues Lucy and Liza.
The train ride from Victoria was smooth and comfortable. Our first stretch of footpath walking went well. I had copied this walk from a book at Brooks Library, and it provided a map and detailed instructions. We walked along the edges of fields, through wooded paths, climbing over stiles, etc. It is often quicker to get where you want to go walking along main roads, but the shoulders are narrow and the footpath routes are much more scenic.
Hever Castle is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII. We had heard about her marriage and execution during our visit to the Tower of London. Hever Castle was purchased in the late 19th century by a member of the American Astor family (this is a pattern with many old English castles and grand houses), and he had extensively
renovated it, in authentic Tudor style. It is beautiful inside, and they do a good job providing historical background about Henry VIII and his wives, including life-sized wax replicas of all six and Henry as well.
The extensive grounds are beautifully maintained, and provide a wonderful setting for a day out. Many families with young children were enjoying the lovely weather on this day. There are three different mazes to explore, a yew hedge maze, a water maze, and a jungle-gym-like tower maze. At nine, Rhys was the perfect age to enjoy all of these. We all raced around the Yew maze, bumping into people and going down dead ends before all meeting in the center.
The water maze was made up of large stepping stones that led around and towards a central tower. Every once in a while, stepping on one would let loose a fountain of water just in front of you. The idea was to try to get to the center while avoiding these water hazards, but most of the kids had more fun just walking right over them and getting very wet in the process. Rhys has fun and was very proud when he
got to the center tower without getting very wet at all.
We could have spent the whole day at Hever, but we continued on our walking journey. It took us about an hour through woods and fields to arrive at the town of Chiddingstone, where we had a pub lunch in the back garden. We then visited the large sandstone chiddingstone, which gives the town its name.
The story goes that this stone was used as a seat of judgement, mainly to bring to justice overbearing local wives for too much "chiding." But, as with many such tales, the truth is probably far more mundane. Chiddingstone more likely means "the stone of Chidda's tribe" — Chidda presumably being a local Saxon leader.
After lunch the walk back was pleasant and mostly uneventful. We did take one wrong turn and walked in a little loop...but a brief enquiry at a local pub soon set us right, and we got back to Hever Station in time for the 5:00 train back to London. Once again Rhys concluded that it had been a "grand day out."
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