Review: Remote Kent getwaway is million miles from London chaos
14:33 20 June 2015
A retreat in England‘s garden can be just the ticket, says Jon Dean
Kent, known as the garden of England, truly is a cheeky getaway from London.
In just 50 minutes from St Pancras, you too can be in the heart of this sylvan paradise; slow country lanes, sun-dappled villages and picturesque church spires poking through lovely hillside copses.
Gateway to this deciduous utopia is the ancient cathedral city of Canterbury, which is a short taxi ride away from myriad hamlets nestled in the green hillocks - Wickhambreaux, Littelbourne, Bramley - all a million miles from the chaos of the capital, despite their relative proximity.
We stayed at Witherdens Hall, the most mellow of retreats on the outskirts of a little place called Wingham.
After we eventually found the place (satnavs struggle to find it) and crunched up the gravel path, we were greeted by nothing so much as a pack of friendly pooches, who wandered up and gave us bit of a sniff by way of a hello.
Despite wandering around for some time, our four-legged companions were our only welcome, until a lady popped out from one of the cute little cottages to check us in.
That’s the kind of place Witherdens is - supremely relaxing, informal, accepting and basically chilled as you like.
It’s the brainchild of a former city banker and erstwhile globe-trotting musician who fancied a change of pace - now they give others the opportunity to do the same.
Once we’d got our bearings, we found Witherdens was a made up of few little villas dotted round a converted barn, with chickens clucking away in a coop, and a plunge pool being prepared for the summer.
Our quarters were in a part time yoga studio - so while the bedroom was small, the front room was massive (class size) and the place featured a steam shower, massage chair, thermal heat sauna; basically everything you need to sooth those aching travel bones.
It’s wonderfully isolated, encouraging you to do little more than saunter around, get massaged, catch up on a bit of reading, explore the nearby village and stroll through the rolling countryside - a great way to recharge the batteries.
Of course, a remote location can be a double-edged sword. Wingham is lovely, but limited, and if you want to get around without a car (as we did) it’s taxis all the way.
Cash point? £20. Train station? £20. Trip to a restaurant? £20. Basically resign yourself to forking out a bit on cars.
But that’s OK - you don’t really want to leave the compound anyway.
Our one real trip our was to the lovely town of Sandwich for a bite at a gorgeous riverside boozer called The Bell.
The town was medieval and very pleasing to the eye - despite the odd incongruous bus load of overseas tourists - while the pub was full of countryside charm and had a cracking little menu.
But apart from that evening excursion, there was very little we wanted to do but chill out at Witherdens, amid the company of friendly dogs and a relaxing, parochial atmosphere until it was time to go home - inevitably far too soon.