Ightham Mote

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It has taken me 50+ years to visit this. I grew up in the area and remember tantalising glimpses of the timber framed building seen over a tall wall on Sunday afternoon drives round the countryside. Then it was strictly private and visitors discouraged. Anya Seton’s novel “Green Darkness’ further whetted the appetite.

Now it is one of the gems in the National Trust crown.

It is a delightful drive along narrow sunken lanes in the Wealden woodland and I could feel the sense of excitement and anticipation growing. There is a large car park and a short walk to the ticket office followed by a steepish path down to the house. It was worth the wait. It is a delightful medieval manor surrounded by a moat. Inside the main doorway we were greeted by a volunteer member of staff who made us feel welcome and explained a bit about the house and what there was to see. Beyond was the courtyard complete with its Grade 1 listed dog kennel which would have housed a HUGE dog. The tour starts in the great hall, pure medieval with wood panelling and smelling of expensive beeswax polish. Beyond is the housekeeper’s room and the rooms of the previous owners which come as a bit of a culture shock as it is early 20thC. The Tudor chapel with its painted ceiling is a delight.

In Mid March there was little growing in the gardens. You need to visit in summer to see them at their best. However there are walks through the estate (complete with bluebell woodlands) for those wanting to stretch their legs.

The shop sold the usual range of National Trust merchandise and the book section was poor. We didn’t visit the tea room.

Did it live up to the 5O year wait? The views of the outside of the house certainly did. The inside less so – the great hall and chapel did but perhaps not so much private apartments of the previous owner. Given time (and good weather) we would have enjoyed exploring the estate.

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