English villages: surprises in the garden

Travelling through the orchards and lush countryside of Kent, it’s easy to see why the county has long been known as the ‘Garden of England’.

And few towns epitomise this as well as Maidstone.

Although London is only one-and-a-half hours away, Maidstone is a springboard for superb countryside and the picture-postcard villages of the Kent North Downs, an official area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Maidstone sits on the bank of the River Medway that historically served as a route for the area’s agricultural trade with the Thames Estuary.

There is evidence that some settlement existed in the Maidstone area before the Stone Age.

We came to see a gem

We visited the town partially to see the remarkable medieval church of All Saints, an historical marvel by the riverside.

When it was built in 1395, All Saints was one of the biggest and widest parish churches in England.

It was part of a complex that also included an Archbishop’s Palace and Tithe Barn.

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In 1648, Maidstone was the site of a battle in the Second English Civil War and defeated Royalist troops were held in the church.

We were able to see sword slashes in the stones, along with musket shot in the doors.

Despite this turbulent past, All Saints is now a peaceful building constructed of a hard, blue-grey limestone locally called ‘rag stone’

The distinctive church tower is 78 feet high and boasted a spire until it was hit by lightning in 1730.

How to get there

All Saints church is located at Maidstone, Kent – about 39 miles from London, via the M25 and M26/M20 motorways.

There are also direct train and bus links to and from the capital.

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While at Maidstone, we stayed at the Grange Moor hotel, a charming facility that provides centrally-located, modern and cosy accommodation.

Villages in the area that we recommend visiting include Lenham, Marden, Headcorn and Yalding.

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