GO & STAY
We were badly in need of a bit of an escape from the pre-Christmas whirlwind when we arrived at Providence Cottage near Cranbrook in Kent. Luckily for us, what we found was a retreat from the modern world in every sense; a 500-year-old, grade II listed Tudor cottage that wraps you up in its magic and takes you back to a simpler way of life; the perfect place for two people to switch off and unwind.
Owners Darren and Ellen have done a fantastic job of respecting the cottage’s heritage, decorating it with honest and simple fittings and allowing the original features to do the talking. And if only the walls could talk for it’s a place that has seen quite some history (it was once owned by John Calcott Horsley, who designed the first ever Christmas card).
Downstairs, a large living and dining room centres around a huge inglenook fireplace. While upstairs a writing nook, bathroom and double bedroom feature ancient beams, sloping floors, low eaves and exposed brickwork.
While some might balk at the lack of central heating, television or standing shower, we loved the pared back aesthetic and back to basics way of living. We took long soaks in the bath, spent evenings by fire and candlelight, played old vinyl on the record player and games of dominoes. It’s a place to truly ‘hunker down’. Rounds of warming tea were made in the handmade kitchen, and then, at the end of the day, we sunk into a beautiful cloud of linen with the heat from the inglenook slowly fading below.
SEE & DO
After a slow start on our first morning we headed straight to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of my absolute favourite National Trust Properties. The gardens are world-renowned, the work of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West, who began transforming the derelict ruins in the 1930s with her husband Harold Nicolson. It might have been winter but it was still a magical place to be, and fascinating to see the intricate bare bones and underpinnings of the ornamental borders. Before leaving, we climbed the castle tower for a wonderful view over the estate and miles of beautiful Wealden countryside.
Later that day we drove a little further on to Tenterden, a former Cinque Port and with a beautiful, tree-lined high street and a working steam railway. Here we pottered around taking photos, exploring the many independent shops and stopped for a particularly good coffee at The Nutmeg Deli and Coffee Shop before heading home to Providence Cottage for supper in our favourite nook in front of the fire.
On our final morning we didn’t venture far and had a wander around Cranbrook itself, taking in the impressive smock mill that stands tall above the town. The narrow medieval streets are lined with pretty old houses, and like Tenterden, there are a wide range of independent shops. We discovered a sweet little deli, antique and gift shops and a great cake store called Cocolicious.
EAT & DRINK
After our visit to Sissinghurst, and in need of warmth and sustenance, we were pleased to discover The Milk House – a former 16th century hall house that’s been transformed into a really great village pub. Here, we sat in front of a crackling fire and ate off their all day grazing menu. The wood fired pizza was very good and so too was the local cask ale. On our way out we spied some very fine dishes being served up in their more formal dining room so we will definitely have to return one day.
Our weekend ended on a real high as we made our way to The Walled Nursery at Hawkhurst. With thirteen Victorian Glasshouses, it’s like no other nursery I’ve ever visited and we had a great homemade lunch in their newly opened Vinery Cafe (complete with a log burning stove for the colder months). The apple cake was divine!
We rounded our visit off with a walk around the garden and glasshouses, loving the slightly wild, overgrown corners and toadflax and ferns growing out of old pipes and tiny cracks in the walls. Of course we spent way too long eyeing up all the weird and wonderful species in the succulent house before deciding it was time to head home, relaxed and rejuvenated, and with heads full of gardening ideas.
Images by Jeska & Dean Hearne