There is an England I have become uncomfortably familiar over the last few years, one which my profession has opened my eyes to that is struggling to battle the challenges of underaged drinking, increased cost of living, rising house prices and a stretched health service.This is not the England of fairytales. When I speak to my friends abroad, they fantasise about an altogether different England and theirs is the capture I wish to remember, to uncover even. Theirs is the welcome escape that reminds me of the British beauty concealed in narrow lanes and undulating hills throughout the nation.
They lust after rolling, green dales, thatched cottages and village tea rooms where the English breakfast blend pours elegantly from its floral-adorned, bone-china abode and crystalline sugar cubes nestle together harmoniously in oval homes.They ask me to suggest cosy, intimate pubs, where the smells of a Sunday roast warm the mauve digits of local villagers, where the flame catches the coal langurously on the fireplace and home-brewed ales flow plentifully. This is the England of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare but I learn that this is an England that lives on.
But not in London.
Having previously discovered English jewels such as the North Norfolk Coast and the pretty seaside town of Southwold, Pumpkin and I could think of no better way to commemorate a phenomenal year in travel, than by taking one final trip on the afternoon of New Years Eve.
Exploring Chiddingstone in Kent
One of the benefits of England being such a small country is that you don’t necessarily need to travel far to find idyllic countryside and for us, on a Wednesday morning, it took us little over half an hour from London to Chiddingstone in Kent, otherwise known as the Garden of England.Often referred to as one of the most picturesque villages in both Kent and England itself, the drive to Chiddingstone led us through sloping and meandering country lanes enveloped in breathtaking valley views (I’d have paused to take photos but rather conditioned by my urban environment, I felt apprehensive to stop on these little lanes and road safety trumps blogging after all).
There can’t have been more than a dozen people out on the street on this crisp winter morning, many with their dogs trudging through the soggy ground. Chiddingstone is a bitesized place, easy for a quick wander and with plenty of walking paths and postcard-esque landscapes surrounding it if you enjoy longer hikes. Just come with sensible walking boots or wellies – I felt rather silly looking like the city slicker who had turned up in her Ugg boots! (For plenty more tips for a countryside break in the UK, click here.)The church and castle at Chiddingstone provide the focal monuments in this little village. The Castle grounds can be reached by walking across a small footbridge and the frozen lake reminded us how the temperatures had turned in the preceding week. The beautiful castle is often used as a wedding venue and for a quintessential British wedding, this would make for a dream location.
The Oldest Shop in England
But perhaps its most famous attribute is the village post-office and shop. Nothing to write home about you may think, except that this charming building is reported to be the oldest shop in England dating back to the 1400-1500s. Our eyes couldn’t help but flit around the trinkets, books, retro sweets and curds and jams on sale.If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I love a British cream tea and the scones with clotted cream and jam with homemade cream cakes served at The Tulip Tree Tea rooms are supposedly worth every calorie. Unfortunately, the Gods were obviously trying to send me a message about cutting down on post-Christmas indulgence when we saw a sign saying the tea rooms were shut on a Wednesday.So instead we made ourselves feel at home at the Castle Inn pub where I tucked myself into a warm corner, kept my hat and scarf on for layered warmth and gazed through the panelled windows, peering through the barren branches of winter whilst my cheese and red onion toastie was being prepared.
Oh England. How you do always win me back.
Have you visited any quaint English villages? I’d love to hear your recommendations on where to go next.
22 thoughts on “The Pretty Village of Chiddingstone, Kent & The Oldest Shop in England”
Oh, so pretty – and you can’t beat an afternoon curled up in a proper English pub!
You are absolutely right Emma – there’s something just SO cosy about it isn’t there it was such a pretty little place ☺
I visited Chiddingstone and its ‘chiding stone’ many years ago on a country walk! I adore the English countryside and appreciate it even more now that I live very close to it. In some ways it is a different world from city life but it is really the heart of England.
I completely agree Natasha – I think England’s charm is best reflected in its beautiful countryside and in villages like this! I wore completely the wrong footwear otherwise I too would have loved to have done more walking and seen the stone itself! I was so pleased to hear you’ve visited this charming village too ☺ Thanks so much for reading!
There’s still plenty of the traditional, romantic England out there! Have you been to Cambridge? I absolutely loved it there! Of course I have to recommend my hometown too – York is wonderful!
I’ve not been to either of those places Catherine – it’s terrible how little of England I’ve ventured to over the years considering it’s home so trying to make up for that slowly but surely! I remember reading your Cambridge posts a while back & it really does look wonderful ☺
How funny to follow a travel blog and then see a nearby village pop up! You have painted it in such a quaint light, and I regret always driving through it without paying much attention now. Have you ever been to the New Forest before? Brokenhurst, Sway, Burley and the whole area is just stunning – I think you’d love it!
Thanks so much for suggesting these places to me! I haven’t actually visited any of them so I will definitely keep them in mind for the next day or weekend trip! Sounds beautiful! I’m the same with often completely taking for granted my surrounding areas. There was a beautiful hilly area just half an hour from where I grew up & I only came to know of it when a friend Fri wrong abroad read about it on a website & suggested we go!!
I love this post, Shikha! You described the idyllic England so beautifully that I can almost see it all. I too, dream about the quaint little English cottage in the countryside. When I’m able to spend more time in England, I need to take a trip out here! I also fell in love with warm scones and clotted cream and jam. Maybe it’s a good thing that the shop was closed, or else just your pictures of that will set my stomach rumbling!
Haha yes you know me well Anna – scone photos would most definitely have appeared! Thank you so much for the kind words – I’m delighted you liked the post ☺ London is great but these little country villages are an entirely different & quaint experience so when you’re next back here, I’d definitely recommend visiting some of them!
Chiddingstone looks so charming and one I’d love to visit. I’m attracted to European villages with a church and a castle. What a great trip away from the city. I really need to make an effort to see more of England beyond London next time. That shop looks so inviting.
Thank you Mary – it was just a small, cosy shop and yet I could have easily spent an hour in there just looking at all the details & trinkets! If you like visiting churches & castles, I’m sure you’d love this village. I think what’s really nice is that you often only have to travel an hour or so away from London (even less sometimes) and you’re transported from the busy city to this stunning countryside! Thanks for reading!
Chiddingstone looks SO lovely! I love being able to take little road trips like this – there seems to be so much to see and explore, even in the tiniest villages! I’m going to try and persuade C to make a stop here 🙂
Thanks Kasha! I know exactly what you mean – I never would have thought we could spend that much time in a tiny village but like you say, there are little treasures to be discovered everywhere you look! I think the two of you would really enjoy this as a day out ☺ x
Such a lovely post! I love that you can just drive a little ways and find places like this. I would love to visit that shop!
Thanks so much for your kind comment Carolann – really appreciate it! It is a real treat that you can cross over from city to rural village within such a short amount of time! I definitely need to take more advantage of that fact I think!
there’s something about your photos that make it seem eerie and mysterious! ooooooh! 😉
Haha, I’m now re-looking at them and I kind of see what you mean! Mysterious, a little but definitely not eerie – just a friendly and pretty village 🙂
What a lovely post and pictures. Tourists very often “fantasise about an altogether different England” in the same way they do it with most places they visit. I love to be honest about things, I enjoy the beauty of a country when visiting, but I also love to inform myself about reality (isn’t this this what travelling is all about?).
You are absolutely right Dorothee! That is exactly what travelling is all about and I think, unless you know the reality of a country with all it’s highs and lows, it is difficult to fully appreciate all its beauty in context. Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words 🙂
Kent honestly has cute little towns and villages in spades! I’m going to tell my bf’s parents that we should visit here when we next visit them.
That sounds like a lovely idea if you have family/bf’s family around there anyway – small enough to explore in just a day or half day too but so scenic – just make sure you go when the tea room is open as I regretted missing the scones 🙂