For my day off, my host,Sheila, was kind enough to take me to see some of the English countryside. Although I’m staying in what is technically Kent, it’s really a bedroom community of London, and lots of residents travel into London for work each day.
We took a drive into nearby Seven Oaks to see Knole, a sprawling estate that is still occupied by the Lord Sackville family and was the inspiration for Virgina Woolf’s novel ‘Orlando’. It was really cool to be in a car, sitting in what is for me, the driver’s seat and see the lush greenery. I think the roadways are pretty confusing with lots of roundabouts, which made me enormously happy I wasn’t driving!
Before we got to the castle, we took a detour to All Saints Church in Tudley to see the stunning stained glass display. The building dates back to the 1300-1400′s and is now run by just 70 people in a joint Anglican &Reformed Church parish. The original stained glass was
replaced by ones created by Marc Chagall, who was commissioned by a wealthy local family who wanted to honor their 21-year-old daughter who drowned in a sailing accident in the 60′s.
After a short drive, we were on the windy road into Knole, which is a deer sanctuary, and these docile animals have free roam of the place. They walk along the cars that are parked in the lot, and munch the tall grass. People aren’t supposed to feed them, but I’m sure they get some scraps!
Before you reach the actual estate, there is a lawn nearly as far as the eye can see. It’s a popular place for families to come on a weekend with a picnic lunch. Since its summer vacation, there were many families doing just that, despite the cooler temperature and breeze. London weather is nothing if not temperamental!
Knole is part of the National Trust, which is responsible for its upkeep. The castle is undergoing a large-scale renovation, so there were a lot of rugs and furniture wrapped up, but it was still incredible to see the elaborate tapestries and wood carvings. Not bad for the home
that was first bought by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1400′s! Church leaders kept the estate and added onto it making it grander with each addition. Eventually, the castle was given to King Henry VIII who used it to show off his wealth and power. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the Sackville family took over occupation of the home and it’s been in the family ever since.
After a nice lunch at Knole, we drove to Bodiam, a medieval castle, and watched kids fly their kites on the grassy hill and enjoy afternoon tea and scones.
On the way home, we stopped in one of the local pubs for a glass of wine & Sheila told me a little bit about her town’s history, which included its most famous resident, Napoleon, whose funeral procession went though the town. It was a great way to spend the day off from my Gamesmaker duties and experience Britain off the beaten path.