It’s Saturday today and we had a sleep-in, at least by the hotel timetable as breakfast continues until 11.00 am on weekends.
Last Wednesday,, we drove the ninety-mile distance from Colchester south to Ashford. It rained all day. We had a few places on the list to visit but gave them away early on because of the rain. This part of Britain has had two month’s rainfall in one day. Driving on the motorway was really difficult. There was an enormous amount of spray being thrown up by the traffic. Mostly, I just retreated to the slow lane for safety but this was also the lane in which the trucks were travelling in and they made the most spray of all. Sometimes we braved an outer lane to overtake a slow truck (or lorry as they are called here) and once we were out of the spray, visibility increased from almost nothing to a few hundred metres. All this at 60 mph.
We drove over the large Dartmouth Toll Bridge across the Thames Estuary and then had to pay the toll online within the next 24 hours. I don’t know how their cameras would have picked up our number plate with all the spray, but when I got onto the website, sure enough, there was a brown Peugot 3008 with our number plate waiting for a toll to be paid.
We did have two stops however. The first was to the rather pretty Bourne Mill in Colchester. It was built as a fishing lodge in 1591, converted to a fulling mill around 1640. Fulling or Tucking was the first part of the cloth making trade to become mechanised. It consists of the closing together of the threads of newly woven woollen fabric with the assistance of soap or acid liquor, with the end purpose of producing a grease free cloth of the correct thickness for future use. In about 1840 this building was converted to a corn mill and continued working until the 1930s. It is powered by a large water wheel under the floor.
Further down the road, we stopped for petrol in the town of Tiptree. I noticed a sign pointing to a jam museum. This was at the factory of the famous Tiptree Jam Company. Our English friends always talk about this jam and insist that we buy some to take home. However, we can already buy it in some of the boutique grocery stores back home.
The ‘Tiptree’ story began in the early 1700s when the forbears of the current owners began farming in the village of Tiptree. About 1865, the family made a decision to change their farm from arable land to fruit farming. A few years later, the originally named Britannia Fruit Preserving Company was formed and the very first ‘Tiptree’ preserves were made, and sold to a merchant who shipped them, to of all places, Australia. The company has now operated for 135 years.
The cafe at the factory sells very nice fruit scones with a choice of their jams and clotted cheese. We braved the rain to walk across the car park and enjoy them, followed by a look around their little museum and shop.
Unfortunately, Jill has had a reoccurrence of some nerve pain in her lower back and this has kept her in bed for the last two days. It is the same pain that caused her to spend a couple of days in hospital over a year ago when we thought that she might have had a kidney stone. It allowed me to have a day to catch up with some admin but it’s frustrating that we can’t be out looking at some of the things that we planned to see.
Yesterday, I managed to escape from the hotel room with Jill preferring to lie flat in bed. I visited two interesting nearby National Trust properties.
Bodiam Castle is a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III. It is built on a quadrangular plan without a central keep. Its rooms were built around the outer defensive walls and inner courts. The corner towers and moat provide its protection. The area around here is not quite consistent with the design of this castle, suggesting that it was built to impress as well as to provide for defence. It looks just like a castle should!
In the grounds of the castle (and outside the moat) is a WW2 pillbox which wold have been used to defend a bridge cross the river in case the Germans invaded England. I have seen the remains of a few of these in our travels.
Not far away, is ‘Bateman’s’ the former home of Rudyard Kipling. Every Australian my age has read his book ‘KIm’ (about a boy in India), as it was one of our prescribed English books at school.
Bateman’s is a 17th-century house located in Burwash, East Sussex, England. Although, he was born in India, educated in Britain and later returned to India, this was the home of Rudyard Kipling from 1902 until his death in 1936. The house was built in 1634. Kipling’s widow bequeathed the house to the National Trust on her death in 1939.
In 1900, Kipling was the most famous author in England, and was earning £5,000 per year; the cost of Bateman’s, £9,300, was therefore entirely affordable for him. The house’s setting and the wider local area features in many of his stories. Kipling’s wealth came originally from writing lyrics for popular songs. Later his books made a lot of money and his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature crowned his success. He was very effective in managing the copyright of all his works so that they provided a continuous income stream.
Kipling’s only son, John, was killed at the Battle of Loos on 29 September 1915. Kipling died on 18 January 1936, of peritonitis. His wife, Carrie died three years later, in 1939. Under the terms of her will, the house passed to the National Trust. It has all of its original furnishings in the same rooms as when Kipling lived here.
Over the last two days, the rain has cleared, but it is still overcast and cloudy.