I had last week off but had nothing planned except for a trip to the Olympic Park, sadly no tickets to any events but fascinating to see the Stadium up close and experience some of the buzz seeping out of the various venues. We saw the hockey score board and heard the roar of the crowd as the English team increased their lead from 3-3 to 5-3, we watched the giant screen displaying gymnastics and we enjoyed strolling through the stunning landscape. The wild flowers are simply gorgeous. Then I became a tourist in my own county visiting Hever Castle and Penshurst Place one day and taking a walking tour of Tunbridge Wells on Saturday.
Hever is a perfectly restored classic moated castle with portcullis and a medieval styled "village" built in the grounds. The restoration was all undertaken by William Waldorf Astor about one hundred years ago and he also restyled the grounds to incorporate a glorious Italian garden with huge boating lake. It is an exceptionally beautiful setting and the perfect place for a family day out. Anne Boleyn was brought up at Hever and her life and marriage to Henry VIII and subsequent tragic execution are all vividly recalled in the Castle. Continuing the Tudor theme, there are weekends devoted to jousting competitions and opportunities for children to learn archery skills.
Penshurst Place is a very fascinating contrast just a short distance away but as it is still a family home and lived in by the same family for several centuries it has a very different feel to it. The magnificent Baronial Hall sets the scene for reliving the history of this splendid house. Penshurst was one of the authentic locations used when filming 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and some of the meticulously researched costumes are on display. There is also a very interesting Toy Museum with some wonderful dolls, teddy bears and puppets to admire. I recommend the Guided Walk in Royal Tunbridge Wells for anyone wishing to understand the history of this town built around the discovery of a spring with life enhancing properties in its mineral content.
Queen Henrietta Maria credited the waters with enabling her to give birth to a healthy son, later Charles II, and this ensured that the Spa became a fashionable meeting place enjoying Royal patronage. We started the walk outside the Tourist Information Centre in The Pantiles and returned there to buy a fridge magnet inscribed with "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" which will make me smile when I open my plundered fridge to look for something to eat - or maybe drink! and it will not be the foul tasting water from the Chalybeate Spring, whatever its health benefits! This weekend I am planning to visit some of the Kent locations associated with Charles Dickens so I shall be reporting again on the delights of being a tourist in my own neighbourhood.