There are a whole host of reasons why living in Kent is simply wonderful. Whether it’s the easy access to London or the quiet countryside, there really is something for everyone.
But surely one of the best things about living in this beautiful county is the fact that you can go and explore so many beautiful villages. West Kent, where you’ll find towns like Leigh, Hever and Penshurst, is one of the best places to go.
In the middle of this cluster within Tonbridge and Malling is the small Tudor village of Chiddingstone. It is one of the best preserved Tudor villages and is literally one small street.
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The National Trust has owned most of the village – apart from the school, castle and church, since 1939. This means the buildings have been kept in pristine condition, with the village also featuring in The Wind in the Willows : Walt Disney’s Mr Toad’s Wild. Ride as well as several other TV shows and movies.
As part of the Walt Disney production, the quaint village post office has been transformed into an inn, with the likes of Steve Coogan, John Cleese, Stephen Fry and Michael Palin all descending on Chiddingstone. He also featured in the 1985 film Merchant Ivory A Room with a View and the 1983 film The Wicked Lady directed by Michael Winner.
But one of the other things that put Chiddingstone on the map is undoubtedly its magnificent castle which dates back to the early 16th century. The Tudor castle was owned by a number of individuals and families, before being converted into a medieval-style palace in the early 19th century.
The castle houses a number of collections, including that of the late Denys Eyre Bower, ancient Egyptian treasures, Buddhist artefacts and paintings by Stuart. When open, visitors can also visit the exhibition hall to see how the castle has always been at the heart of the community.
The gardens also offer stunning views of the Greensand ridge below the North Downs, with 35 acres of unspoilt grounds for scenic afternoon walks. The lake also provides the perfect backdrop for photos, with the castle standing in the background and the trees peeling on either side of the water.
But one of the most misunderstood parts of Chiddingstone is the shop that keeps the community going – The Tulip Tree. The quaint souvenir shop is along the main road and is said to be the oldest continuously operating shop in the whole country, dating back to 1453.
Behind the main souvenir shop is a courtyard that leads to the amazing tea rooms, where you can pick up a delicious slice of homemade cake. It is very popular with cyclists passing through the village, with the main gift shop itself being a real staple throughout the community.
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