by Janis / 0 comments

From Sound Mirrors to Maneblussers

As travel restrictions eased in early 2022, we could spread our wings a little more. Although this didn’t mean that our love of discovering delights on our doorstep would reduce.

There are so many incredible places to explore in the southeast of the UK, and just by scratching the surface of a location you thought you knew well; you’ll always uncover some fascinating facts. And I need no excuse to head to Kent’s stunning coastline, fish and chips by the sea, yes, please.

Our National Trust membership cards have been very well used again in 2022. We visited castles, manor houses and abbeys, and I can imagine 2023 will be the same.

In 2022 we continued to revamp the website, updated, and reviewed older posts and regularly shared content on our YouTube channel.

So, here’s a little peek at our 2022.

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Discovering our corner of the UK

Sights and sounds of Kent and Sussex

And what better place to start than visiting the extraordinary ‘Sound Mirrors’ located in the bizarre region of Romney Marsh in Kent.

These vast ‘listening ears’ are positioned on a remote island along the Kent coast and were built as early warning signals to detect incoming enemy aircraft from across the English Channel. The three curved acoustic sound mirrors were made of concrete in the 1920s and 30s.

A view across the waters at Denge, through the reeds, to all three sound mirrors.
The Sound Mirrors

Although the mirrors proved relatively effective, technology progressed so fast that in 1932 the invention of radar made the sound mirrors obsolete.

Luckily these relics were never destroyed and are now part of the Greatstone’s skyline.

While in Romney Marsh, take time to explore the ‘14 Medieval churches of Romney Marsh’; they all have fascinating tales to tell. For ease of reading, I split the ancient churches into two separate posts; here is ‘Part 2’.

The village sign for Winchelsea, featuring the coat of arms for the Cinque Ports, with the medieval Court Hall in the background.
Winchelsea, East Sussex

Just a short hop from Romney Marsh, we pop across the county line to visit the enchanting hilltop village of Winchelsea in East Sussex. Well, actually, Winchelsea is a town and is the smallest town in England, with only around 600 inhabitants.

Winchelsea is a delight to visit and discovering the intriguing tales amongst the ancient streets is fascinating. While wandering the historic lanes, keep an eye out for the medieval wine cellars; Winchelsea had a very profitable trade in wines with Bordeaux in France during the 1300s.

Do you know which famous comedy actor is buried in Winchelsea’s church?

In 2022 we also visited more of the historic Cinque Ports which can be found in Kent and Sussex. One of which is Winchelsea, along with Hastings, Rye, Sandwich, Deal, Hythe, and Faversham, to name a few.

Ripe Pinot Noir grapes hanging from the vine at Gusbourne wine estate in Kent
Gusbourne Estate winery

If you fancy a spot of wine tasting while in the Romney region of Kent, pop into Gusbourne Estate winery for their ‘Sparkling Tasting Flight’. You get to enjoy four of their delicious bubbly wines.

Gusbourne Estate is located just outside the delightful village of Appledore. Their Kent vineyards cover 60 hectares, and their West Sussex vineyards on the Goodwood Estate are 30 hectares.

A statue to General James Wolfe in the quaint, shops lined, Westerham Green in Kent
Westerham, Kent

Journeying further north into Kent, we’re now heading towards the Surrey borders to visit the charming town of Westerham.

Westerham is a picturesque town and lies within the Kent Downs; a short distance is the High Weald, both of which are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Westerham is full of intriguing connections with the past. Two of its prior notable residents, Sir Winston Churchill, who lived nearby at Chartwell House and General James Wolfe, who resided at Quebec House as a child. Both historic residences are managed by the National Trust.
The idyllic ruins of the ancient Scotney Castle reflected across the moat on a beautiful Spring day.
Scotney Castle

One of our passions whilst travelling is digging deeper into local history. This year, we added to our list of Kent castles. So, if you’re heading to Kent, ‘The Garden of England,’ browse through our two posts.

Part One includes our first seven castles, of which you’ll be exploring Dover Castle, Scotney Castle, Deal Castle and Hever Castle. In Part 2 of our Kent castles, you can visit Rochester Castle, nearby Upnor Castle, Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Walmer Castle.

There are 14 in total, so don your comfy shoes, and let’s go unearthing these citadels.

The Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone from the opposite bank of the river medway on a clear day under blue skies.
The Archbishop’s Palace, Maidstone

Now, even though Maidstone, the County Town of Kent, is on our doorstep, we’ve never really taken time out to discover its past or its quirky features. Needless to say, we rectified this in 2022.

Maidstone is a bustling town, with its main artery, the River Medway snaking its way through the centre, passing by the attractive Archbishop’s Palace, which dates from 14th & 16th centuries.

Like many towns and cities, modernisation has crept in, some good and some not so good; however, don’t forget to look up. You may glance at a shop which you’ve seen many times before, but when you look up, the architecture above is stunning. So, don’t always judge a book by its cover.

Map, guides and more

Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.

The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

Our Adventures overseas

From Aphrodite to Van Eyck
In February, we headed off to the coastal city of Paphos on the beautiful island of Cyprus for some winter sun with Jet2holidays; oh, and Paphos didn’t disappoint.
Aphrodite's Rock set in beautiful blue waters on the coastline to the south of Pathos, Cyprus
Aphrodite's Rock, Cyprus

Our 7-night stay was at the all-inclusive Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos, which was an excellent hotel with far-reaching idyllic views across the Mediterranean Sea. Just around a 20-minute stroll along the coastal path and we reached Paphos harbour.

In the harbour, we explored Paphos Castle, which sits at the port entrance and the ancient Archaeological Site of Nea Pafos. These historical treasures are fascinating to explore and incredibly cheap to visit.

The main pool in front of the terrace at the Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos as the sun goes down.
The Olympic Lagoon Resort, Paphos, Cyprus
Additionally, we recommend heading to Old Town Paphos, which is around a 45-minute walk from the harbour, and the magnificent site of the Tombs of the Kings, which is about a 30-minute walk. These are a must-see while visiting Paphos, and if you get the chance, we advise you to hire a car and head inland on a mini road trip to see the sights and sounds beyond Paphos.

Where to stay in Paphos

Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos
This 5-star fully-inclusive resort is directly on the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea and offers incredible service throughout the hotel. The magnificent poolside awaits your arrival.

If Belgium has never really been on your radar before, I urge you to reconsider, especially if you love art, waterways, architecture, chocolates, history, and beer.
A view of the Graslei in Ghent, Belgium, at dusk from Sint-Michielsbrug bridge across the River Leie
Ghent at dusk, Flanders

We visited three cities during our latest road trip, Ghent, Mechelen and Leuven: all three offering that little something different.

Ghent has charming meandering canals weaving amongst striking architecture along Graslei and Korenlei and the eye-catching Castle of the Counts. Ghent has some fascinating museums to visit. Its magnificent St Bavo's Cathedral is home to ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck.

Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral, with the statue of Margaret of Austria in the foreground.
The historic city of Mechelen

Mechelen is another stunning city just north of Brussels. It is considerably smaller than Ghent but has some striking architecture, particularly St Rumbold’s Church with its great belfry.

One of the highlights whilst visiting Mechelen was climbing St Rumbold’s Tower and admiring the views across the Mechelen skyline. Also, while you’re in Mechelen, visit the Het Anker Brewery and join one of their tours, it’s fascinating, and you get a couple of beers at the end.

Find out in our post why the residents of Mechelen are called Maneblussers.
Leuven's historic City hall is illuminated under the blue sky at dusk.
The Stadhuis, Leuven

The third stop on our Belgium road trip was to the city of Leuven. Many may know Leuven as the home of Stella Artois. However, the most memorable aspect of Leuven for me was its magnificent Town Hall; it is stunning.

Leuven’s Gothic Town Hall took thirty years to complete, from 1439 to 1469. The intricate façade of the Town Hall is constructed over three storeys; it wasn’t until 1850 that 236 ornate statues were added between each window.

In Leuven, you’ll also discover some delightful museums, and a particular highlight was visiting Leuven’s University Library. Inside it’s like an Art Nouveau Harry Potter library.

Where to stay in Belgium

Ghent – Hotel Monasterium PoortAckere
Hotel Monasterium PoortAckere was a former 19th-century monastery located along ‘Oude Houtlei’ and was an incredibly peaceful day and night. The delightful hotel is only a five-minute stroll to the heart of historic Ghent.

Mechelen – Hotel Martin’s Patershof
Hotel Martin’s Patershof is a beautifully restored church hotel located along the quiet street, Karmelietenstraat. The former 19th-century neo-Gothic convent was converted into a Martin’s Hotel in 2009 and is only a five-minute stroll to the Fish Market.

Leuven – Pentahotel
Pentahotel is incredibly central, and no sooner you step outside the hotel, you’re strolling the historical cobbled-stone streets. The hotel is modern, and glitter balls await as you step into the reception/bar.

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National Trust Days Out

Castles, Manors, and an Abbey

2022 was the second year that Gary and I invested in the National Trust annual membership. We visited so many incredible places in 2021, and we knew there were many more we wanted to see.

In 2021 we visited the enchanting Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Scotney Castle in autumn. These beautiful estates looked incredible in the early fall, although I wanted to return in spring to see the differences in the colourful gardens.

A mass of planting against the walls of the Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens

Sissinghurst in spring was amazing, the array of colours and delicate planting was gorgeous and gave me so much inspiration for our garden. Although it meant I had a lot of work to do on our sister website, Our Garden for You.

Scotney Castle in spring was also a delight, as their planting incorporates a bountiful array of Rhododendrons and Azaleas. So, visiting Scotney Castle in spring was perfect.

Two beautifully decorated traditional Christmas trees on either side of one of the dining tables in Chartwell House during the festive period.
Chartwell dining room at Christmas

One of my favourite National Trust sites in the southeast of the UK is Chartwell, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine. Chartwell House is beautiful and so secluded, with far-reaching views across the Wealden countryside.

While exploring Chartwell, not only do you get to tour Churchill’s residential home, but you can also visit Winston’s art studio. This, for me, was fascinating. I adore art, and seeing so many of Churchill’s paintings in place was incredible.

I enjoyed visiting Chartwell so much that I convinced Gary to head back there last week to see Chartwell’s Christmas festivities.

The entrance side to the 15th-century half-timbered Smallhythe Place, covered with a rambling rose and a cottage garden border on a bright day in Kent
Smallhythe Place, Kent

Another National Trust site to visit in Kent is Smallhythe Place near Tenterden. Smallhythe Place was the home of the Victorian actress Dame Ellen Terry renowned for her Shakespearian performances.

Smallhythe Place was rescued in 1899 by Ellen Terry, and the beautiful timber-framed home was restored to the picturesque home you see today.

When Ellen Terry died in 1928, her daughter Edith Craig took over the house. She opened the delightful home to the public as a memorial to her mother. The barn that sits in the garden of Smallhythe Place was converted by Edith in 1929 into the Barn Theatre. This enchanting, intimate theatre still hosts Shakespearian performances today.

The southeast corner of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire with its striking tower
Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

While we were visiting Bath in 2022, we headed to Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. This beautiful manor house was founded as an Augustine Abbey in 1232 and survived for 300 years before being closed and partially destroyed due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Fast forward to the 1800s, and Lacock Abbey was inherited by William Henry Fox Talbot, who became a ground-breaking scientist and photographer. From within Lacock Abbey in 1835, the Victorian photographer created the earliest surviving photographic negative.

While strolling around the manor house, you’ll see the exact spot and latticed Oriel window where the image was captured.

Some of you may also know Lacock Abbey from the silver screen as it was used on many occasions while filming the Harry Potter movies and Wolf Hall.

Escape for a few days

Are you in search of a tranquil hideaway to relax and unwind in, while you discover the beautiful British countryside?

Browse through the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Our Kent road trip adventures

Exploring the countryside of Westerham & Wrotham
In April, we embarked on a mini road trip to discover the historic delights in and around Westerham, Kent.The entire circular route is only around 23 miles (37km), and as it is just a stone’s throw from the M25, it’s incredibly easy to explore at the weekend.
A wooden bridge leading to the 19th Century Chiddingstone Castle on a bright spring day
Chiddingstone Castle, Kent

Our Westerham loop starts and ends in Sundridge, and we visit some incredible places. Our first stop is the National Trust site Emmetts Garden and then onto the beautiful Tudor village of Chiddingstone.

It’s then a short hop to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, the majestic Hever Castle; jumping back in the car, we meander onto the market town of Edenbridge.

After exploring Edenbridge, we venture onto Churchill’s family home, Chartwell House, which is also lovingly managed by the National Trust. Our last stop on this road trip is to the picturesque town of Westerham; here, you’ll find charming architecture, welcoming inns and the childhood home of General James Wolfe, Quebec House.
The junction of Bull Lane and the High Street in Wrotham with its village sign and the 14th-century St Georges Church taking centre stage.
Wrotham Village, Kent

In August, we ventured off to Wrotham in Kent, just ½ mile from the M20, for a 24-mile (38.6km) circular road trip. Around this region of Kent, we’ll discover quaint, idyllic villages amongst lush rolling hills and even a moated manor house.

After exploring the historic village of Wrotham, we hopped in the car and headed to Ightham. Ightham is a delightful village with many timber-framed cottages. Nearby is the fairy-tale manor house, Ightham Mote, which is managed by the National Trust.

Church road splitting West Peckam's village green, and the village pub 'The Swan on the Green', with the church in the background.
The Swan on the Green, West Peckham, Kent

Back on the road and wend our way through the villages of Shipbourne and Plaxtol, and then it’s onto the picture-perfect village of West Peckham. You may recognise West Peckham as it is used as the filming location of the ITV comedy-drama series The Larkins.

The mini road trip then takes us through Mereworth, onto the historic town of West Malling, which is full of exciting tales and then through to Offham before returning to Wrotham.

Where to stay in Westerham and Wrotham

The Kings Arms Hotel
This charming pub is in the centre of the historic town of Westerham. It has plenty of amenities on your doorstep and offers a full English breakfast. It offers free parking.

The Bull Hotel Maidstone/Sevenoaks
This 13th-century Inn is located in the heart of Wrotham village; it serves delicious food, which we highly recommend. It’s an excellent base for your Wrotham road trip.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Our YouTube Videos

A year of adventures

In 2022 we continued to create regular YouTube content from our travels through the year, including our overseas adventures in Cyprus and Belgium.

In the UK, we produced videos from our visits to historical National Trust sites, our mini road trips, the beautiful city of Bath and our many adventures in between.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee and follow along on with us.

A mini-break in Bath

And a visit to Lacock Village
In June, we headed to the stunning city of Bath, Wiltshire, in southwest England. Bath is a gorgeous city overflowing with ancient history, striking Georgian architecture and, of course, the spectacular Aquae Sulis, the Roman Baths.
Pulteney Bridge and the weir in the River Avon in Bath as seen from the Grande Parade
The view of Pulteney Bridge, Bath

The historic of city of Bath was founded by the Romans in AD 60-70, who created a lavish complex for its inhabitants during the Roman era. Although the Romans departed Bath in the early 5th-century, the city continued to grow through the centuries.

Today when you visit Bath, it is like strolling around an open-air museum; it is so pretty. Ensure you visit Bath Cathedral, the Royal Crescent, especially No.1 Royal Crescent, and Pulteney Bridge and take a stroll along the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Historic buildings along Church Street in the National Trust Village of Lacock in Wiltshire
Church Street, Lacock village

Nearby to Bath on the edge of the Cotswolds is the picture-postcard village of Lacock. If you have ever wondered what an iconic English village would look like, I urge you to visit Lacock.

The un-spoiled village, along with nearby Lacock Abbey, is owned and managed by the National Trust.

Lacock Village is extremely pretty and an architectural historian’s paradise.When you first arrive at Lacock, it really is a wow, moment. I know it sounds clichéd, but it truly feels like you’ve stepped onto a movie set; the quaint, idyllic cottages look so perfect. It’s hard to believe that these exquisite villages still exist.

Where to stay in Bath

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
For an indulgent treat, this beautiful 5-star hotel is located along Bath’s iconic Royal Crescent. Full of exquisite 18th- century décor and the luxuries of a modern-day spa.

Harington's Hotel
Along a charming, cobbled street and just a few minutes walk to Bath’s historic attractions. Offering a delicious breakfast in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

If you're intrigued to visit the historic cities of Bath and Bristol, then why not check out Lonely Planet's pocket travel guide. Full of helpful advice, interesting facts and time-saving tips.

You can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

So that's it for 2022

And we welcome in 2023
2022 has been a wonderful year; our travel has mainly been within the UK, with a couple of adventures overseas. We’ve discovered some beautiful locations, and who knows what 2023 will bring, but let’s all stay safe and have fun?

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