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Published on August 13th, 2014 | by The Town Crier


Walking in the footsteps of medieval knights

Last month I described how I’ve been following the route of the medieval knights’ perambulation in 1279 round the boundaries of the domain of Tonbridge Castle.  Local author, Deborah Cole, rediscovered this ancient route when researching a largely forgotten manuscript at Canterbury Cathedral.  This month we take a look at some of the remarkably varied and historic buildings you will see along, or very close to, the route.

A number of the medieval names on the perambulation live on, for example “Romdshedde” is now Romshed, an organic, wildlife friendly farm near Underriver.

Some of the buildings passed on the perambulation are of course striking, well-known local landmarks.  There is the majestic Penshurst Place, wonderfully offset against its lake and many acres of gardens and parklands.  And hardly less remarkable is the folly, Hadlow Tower, visible for many miles as the route passes through the low-lying Medway Valley.

I had seen the timber framed Elizabethan House in Poundsbridge before.  This was built by Durtnall, (as in the twelve generations family building firm).  But among the many very attractive timbered properties new to me were the Old Swaylands manor house and the old Bullingstone farm house.

We also enjoyed buildings on an altogether less grand scale.  There are several clusters of old hop pickers’ huts – near Capel and Five Oak Green, including an old cookhouse still intact.  Serving the community of seasonal workers from the East End of London was Hoppers in Five Oak Green. This 400 year old building, once farm cottages, subsequently became a pub, but was then established in the early 20th century as a clinic and a hospital for hop pickers’ children by Father Richard Wilson who was appalled at the squalid living conditions and lack of healthcare.  On the theme of hops, the oast house, a symbol of Kent as the Garden of England, is well represented on the route.  Near the unusual stone built oasts at Kettleshill Farm, just north of Underriver, we saw our first house martins of the spring, swooping and chattering round the farm buildings.

The village of Underriver has a particularly attractive setting, nestling against the wooded ridge of the greensand hills.  Travelling anticlockwise, our reward for enduring a bit of noise as the route passed close to the A21 was the tranquil setting of the village green at Weald.

Of the numerous churches on the route my favourite is 12th century St Thomas a Becket at Capel, set amid the orchards. Sheep graze in the churchyard and there is an ancient yew.  It is fascinating to think that the medieval wall paintings might well have been seen by the knights on their perambulation.

Deborah Cole’s book “The Tonbridge Circular Walk in the footsteps of mediaeval knights” is available from the website http://www.tonbridgecircularwalk.co.uk/

Richard Woodfield



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