Friday, November 13, 2020

Day Trip from London

A few weekends ago we had a rental car and went looking for autumnal colors in the Kent countryside.

Our destination was literally picked after perusing a map and hubby selected a large green area called the High Weald, an Area of Natural Beauty. This expansive, wooded area covers land within the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex in southeast England. We narrowed our choice down further and decided to explore the trails within the Bedgebury National Pinetum.

If any place was going to have autumnal colors, it had better be an English forest.

Upon arrival, the car park was chock-a-block, but once we got away from the main visitor’s center, we were able to practice better social-distancing away from people.

The Bedgebury National Pinetum contains more than 12,000 trees and has several walking and mountain-biking trails and even a bike rental shop. The pinetum is the name used to describe an arboretum (tree collection) that consists mainly of conifers. Bedgebury is a partnership between the Forestry Commission and the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens, which we’ve visited many times, and is one of a handful of international botanical gardens that focuses specifically on pine trees.

The forest provides a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and a chance to escape the city. But don’t forget to wear your hiking boots because the trails get awfully muddy. We saw several dogs wearing mud up to their bellies that were happily running ahead of their owners on the trails.

The pinetum’s history actually dates back about 400 years when the previous owners, the Beresford family, planted English Oaks in the local forests. The Beresford family also was responsible for a large part of the landscaping, including Marshal’s Lake, and introduced exotic trees such as the Lawson Cypress. Unfortunately, I’m not sure where these oaks or cypress trees were located as the map wasn’t that detailed.

Still, we had a pleasant enough day and spent about two hours walking amongst the trees. Of course, I was busy taking photographs as we went along.

Like most of our UK walks or long bike rides, we ended up at a pub afterwards. We nearly missed the sign advertising a local brewery, Cellar Head Brewing Company, just down the road from the forest. What luck!

This family-owned microbrewery even uses local hops to make their beers. Kent has been growing hops for hundreds of years and you still see remnants of the hop houses as you drive around the countryside. It’s thought that the cultivation of hops was probably first introduced from Flanders (Belguim) to England in the Maidstone area of Kent at the end of the 15th century but production reached its peak during the 19th century.

View of the High Weald from the Cellar Head Brewing Company in Kent.
If you’re out in Kent, definitely check out the local pinetum and the brewery.

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