SO’s travel section sponsors Bloom Stays – the specialist Kent holiday home agency – reveal how some of their properties and the locations they’re set in boast fascinating literary connections…
We’re not short on tall tales in Kent. Myths and legends haunt the ancient alleyways of Canterbury; the iconic white cliffs at Dover tell of attempted invasions and the bravery of those who saw them off, and our castles and churches hid smugglers and royalty in equal measure. If you love a good yarn, it’s what makes this corner of the world such a special place.
Bloom Stays’ houses are handpicked by co-founders Nicky and Rowena not only for their location, style and space, but also for their stories. Our houses, all in Kent, are our cast of characters; Hop pickers’ Oast houses, former fisherman’s huts, a ‘Custom house’ on Faversham’s quayside, Dungeness’ former coast guards’ houses adjacent to the original lighthouse. These are houses where the walls ring with industry that shaped centuries past and now make perfect places to explore.
Here’s our suggestions for some houses that could deliver your next chapter on special holidays and brilliant memories…
ABBOTS CLIFF – BREAKING ENEMY CODES
While some places shout history from their rooftops, Abbots Cliff, an impressively-sized Victorian villa perched high above Folkestone with stunning views, wears its story quietly. Which is just as well as during WWII it was a secret listening post dedicated to intercepting enemy codes being transmitted across the channel from occupied France. Abbots Cliff, or HMS Lynx, to give it its military code name, became a leading communications hub for the vulnerable south coast of England and was even visited by Churchill in the run-up to D-Day and again afterwards. WRENs were stationed here doing the mainstay of the message de-coding work and Abbots Cliff has appeared in a recent book written by a WREN about her time there. Now 100 years old, Pat Owtram’s ‘Codebreaking Sisters’ details her work in the ‘White House on the Cliff’ in 1943 and her time off exploring Folkestone and Dover including her favourite cafes for ‘buns with honey’.
Now Abbots Cliff is available to stay in. Sleeping 10 with stylish bedrooms all giving exceptional sea views, a hot tub and its own lookout tower, it’s a fantastic escape for a holiday. Abbots Cliff also has its own ‘little sister’ property in La Vue, a vintage 1950s airstream nestled in its garden with the same terrific cliff views, an outdoor kitchen, stylish bathroom and woodburner. The perfect pad for any teenagers in tow or as a romantic getaway for two.
POND COTTAGE, ADISHAM – PAGES OF HALLOWEEN CHARM
One of the charms of English rural village life is the likely presence of a books’ worth of stories written through the churches, streets, pubs, meeting halls and houses that dot their way through countryside. Those stories, tales, words and wisdom add humour and character, intrigue and insight; they are irrelevant to modern lives but still told with a glint of irresistible mischief that ensures the words are passed on.
Pond Cottage, standing at the centre of the village of Adisham is witness, author of and keeper of many of the village’s best-kept stories.
One of the villains of the village is Esther the witch who, in 1675 was charged with scamming the people of Nonnington. In a collective effort to rid themselves of her, Esther was marched from Nonnington to Adisham and drowned in the famously large pond, which (unsurprisingly) Pond Cottage overlooks. Like her, many 18th-century coach drivers also met a soggy end in the pond as coach driving became fashionable, their judgement on the steep hill into the village was tested, often with an unfortunate outcome.
Its literary connections run deep. Most famously Pond Cottage is associated with Jane Austen via a relative, Bennet Austen who bequeathed the original cottage to a certain William Bennett in the mid-17th century.
The Austens, long associated with the parishes’ of East Kent surrounding Canterbury, were no doubt resident at Pond Cottage and appreciated it as a beautiful spot ‘surrounded by orchards’. Later residents were writers, artists, craftsmen and clergymen. It seems to be the sort of house dominated by those pursuing the creative and the curious.
Let Pond Cottage be your inspiration for some tall tales around Halloween this year. Sleeping nine people, there’s plenty of room to tell stories of Esther the witch long into the night.