Day 136, 17 November 2012, Hever Castle, Kent. Road Trip!!! Today's big adventure was a drive to visit the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII's second wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth I (which didn't prevent her being beheaded at only 35)
Absolutely gorgeous little castle set in manicured grounds with some adorable topiary shrubs - including snails, a pig and of course, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - it being only 6 odd weeks to Christmas. We very much enjoyed visiting a castle with furniture and open fires and sheer cosiness. It was bought by the Astor family (that's right THE Astors) and huge amounts of work were done, not least of which was building an authentic Tudor village on the castle grounds so as not to detract from the appearance of the castle itself. They also quite fancied a lake, so marshland was drained and 2000 warm bodies were employed to dig the 35 acre lake. Whoever says money can't buy happiness obviously never wanted a lake and had the means to buy one. We even saw a gallery of torture implements with details on exactly how they were used. There were some people back then who seriously needed other hobbies. With a backward glance at Rudolph, we proceeded on from Hever Castle, via terrifyingly tight narrow roads, to the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Famous for dodgy bits of souvenir wood items and of course the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in 1606 - which put Tunbridge Wells on the map as a spa town. (www.visittunbridgewells.com). The springs were discovered accidentally by Lord North whilst he was riding through Waterdown Forest. The iron in the water was thought to have health restoring properties and soon drew many visitors to the area. We stood in front of the old Bath House and discovered that during the sommer months a "dipper" dispenses water from the Spring which still flows there. This particular Bath House dates to 1804 and underneath it the original Cold Bath still exists. We continued past the Bath House into the Pantiles - a traffic free hub of shops, cafes and an open air market. Called the Pantiles after the clay tiles baked in a pan used to pave the walks, this was the original site of the Old Fish Market. We walked through to the top of the Pantiles and took the long way back to town through parklands and looming dark gray clouds - that somehow managed to hold off raining just for us. The drive back to Essex took an hour or so and whilst James was awake (and so was the driver thankfully), I was definitely napping in the back and was super surprised when we pulled into the lot of a gorgeous old pub called The Viper, for a quick drink before dinner. We proceeded on to the village of Writtle to visit our friends' favourite fish & chip shop and were definitely not disappointed with our Haddock and chips. Life is good. We fancy we might walk from Chelmsford to Writtle tomorrow and take a look at the village during the day.