January 2009

 

You Kent Do Better Than This!

Apologies for the awful pun. Well, actually, not really! I LIKE awful puns!

I picked this month’s Favorite Things topic because it ties in with Tempt The Devil, which is a January release from Avon. Seemed a good opportunity. And I’ve long wanted to share some of my pictures from my travels with you as well. Hopefully you’ll see more in coming months!

MFTJan09-4All of these shots come from a magical visit I made to Kent in spring of 2004. I still remember how enchanted I was by this beautiful county not far from London. It was like the whole world was bursting into flower.

Most of Tempt The Devil is set in London, at last giving me a chance to describe some Regency high society. That was huge fun! But several key scenes needed to take place in a rural backwater within a day’s carriage ride of town. Because London in the Regency was still fairly compact and didn’t spread out to swallow neighboring counties the way it does now, I was spoilt for choice. I chose Kent as the venue for those scenes because I remembered it with such fondness.

MFTJan09-1The blossom pictures are from a visit to Penshurst Place on a perfect afternoon where I got to see their orchards in full glory. Penshurst is definitely one of my favorite things and I hope one day to devote a whole column to how wonderful it is.

MFTJan09-5The bluebell picture doesn’t do justice to how electric that color is when you see it en masse as I was lucky enough to do at the National Trust’s Emmett’s Garden near Sevenoaks.

MFTJan09-3I thought you’d enjoy the picture of Bodiam Castle. Isn’t that just the most romantic place? Inside, sadly, it’s a bit of a wreck although tremendously atmospheric and if you climb the towers, you can see for miles across the lush countryside. Bodiam is officially in East Sussex but it’s easily reachable from where I was staying in Tunbridge Wells, which by the way is full of gorgeous Regency buildings, heritage of its days as a fashionable spa.

Another favorite place in Kent is the incredibly romantic (sorry for overusing the adjective but it’s the only one that will do!) Ightham Mote (pronounced Itam Moat). It deserves a column to itself too but in the meantime, please check out one of the loveliest pieces of writing I know, describing Barbara Samuel’s visit to Ightham a couple of years ago.

MFTJan09-2Kent is called ‘the garden of England’ and after my visit, I could see why. It’s lush and green, almost shockingly so for someone from brown old Australia. One of the most famous and most beautiful gardens is Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. It’s got so many wonderful associations for a writer, not to mention the coolest writing room I think I’ve ever seen, Vita’s study in the tower looking out across the rolling countryside. Again, a place deserving of its own column!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tour of a county that inspired part of my latest story!