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14th August 2014 - News Articles

Kent: So close to London, so much to discover



Simon Calder explores the delights of England's Garden in the south-easternmost corner of Britain, now only a swift rail ride away

Before 2007, reaching Kent from the centre of London was swift and simple-and since Southeasterns High Speed train service opened seven years ago, access has been even quicker and easier. The fast-track journey makes the fascinating south-easternmost corner of Britain a joy to reach, and explore. Lose yourself in a green and pleasant land; explore some of the most intriguing stories of England's historical mosaic; and eat and drink in style.

I started my most recent journey at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the doomed second wife of Henry VIII. Around the end of the Victorian era, Hever was abandoned until an American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor, decided to make it his personal corner of Kent. Astor created a verdant venue for his collection of classical sculptures, adding a fresh dimension to Hever.

Across the River Eden, a tributary of the Medway, stands a stately home with another Henry and Anne connection. Their daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is known to have visited Penshurst Place-which has some heavenly horticulture in the original Italian Walled Garden.

Two miles south of the county town, Maidstone, you can find the archetypal country pub: The Chequers in the village of Loose (pronounced to rhyme with "mews"). The landlord, Shaw Cavill, sources everything he can from within the county of Kent-the beer and the beef has travelled only a handful of miles.

The southern extreme of Kent, Romney Marsh, is a land that should not really exist: the bare fields were reclaimed over centuries from the sea, creating a cul-de-sac for the nation. The main attractions are the churches, floating serenely above the marsh. My favourite is St Thomas à Becket in Fairfield.

For more superlatives, keep going to Dover-the closest point that Britain gets to the Continent. The White Cliffs offer some of the finest views in England, while Dover Castle is a magnificent compendium of fortifications-and these days, only 66 minutes from London.

To find out more and plan your trip visitkent.co.uk



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