diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 11, 2014

Beyond London (2): Sevenoaks (part 1)

I'm continuing my outer orbit of London in Sevenoaks. This administrative district is one of the largest of the seventeen touching the capital - the size of Bromley, Bexley, Croydon, Lewisham and Greenwich put together. It's in the northwestern corner of Kent, and it's also lovely, packed with rolling fields and rippling valleys. So I was utterly spoilt for choice in places to go, and also horribly hamstrung by the need to travel long distances on public transport. The rules of the project say I have to go to four interesting places in one day, which I just about managed, but I could have made a day out out of each of them. Starting in the northern half.

Somewhere to begin: Sevenoaks Museum
Don't rush. Sevenoaks is one of the many local authorities nationwide who've chosen to locate their museum within the heart of another public building, in this case the local library. This 1980s building is located in the least lovely corner of Sevenoaks town centre, up a major service road half way to Waitrose, just behind what passes for a bus station. Head up the ramp, and inside up again to a mezzanine where bored mums watch their children scrawling in crayon. The museum's through a door that has a notice on it to remind visitors to come inside, else they'd probably think the room beyond was closed. Here various artefacts are labelled and tucked away behind glass, the better to protect them after vandals ran amok last year and beheaded a rocking horse. Hop-picking gets a mention, and there's the obligatory cabinet on WW2, while up on the wall is the old station sign from Bat and Ball. The museum's trying its best to be interactive, but lacks a sense of place and has no sense of wow. And if you push through the door to the next room, oh, that's the art gallery, we're done. Don't rush.

The town is much more interesting, especially the High Street which has considerable character. It's not been taken over by nasty chain stores, and still has hardware stores and haberdashery in amongst the coffee shops. A triangle in the centre is called The Shambles, not quite up to York standards but with quirky narrow twisty streets. Yes, there are boutiques for ladies, and for ladies of a certain age, because we're in provincial Kent. And yes, there's a Sevenoaks Sound and Vision, because of course there'd have to be. But make sure you keep walking beyond HSBC onto Tonbridge Road. There are some proper old buildings along here, of the kind that Jane Austen and Charles Dickens once stayed in, and the 18th century cottages in Six Bells Lane are mighty fine. And best of all, if you find the right path east (and you have to hunt), within minutes you end up in the thousand acre deer park at Knole. At its heart is a massive Tudor mansion, and all around the antlered herds run free. Now that's how to do a day out in Sevenoaks, but not this time.
by train: Sevenoaks

Somewhere sporting: The Vine Cricket Ground
Kent is one of the top cricket counties, and at Sevenoaks it has one of the oldest grounds in the country. The Vine was given to the town 250 years ago by the nobility at Knole, and the home club are still obliged to pay a rent of one cricket ball to Lord Sackville each summer. The ground has a prominent position at the end of the High Street, opposite the war memorial, and its big claim to fame involves stumps. Initially cricket was a game with two stumps, but at a game between Kent and Sussex in 1773 they hammered in a third, for the first recorded occasion in the history of the game. There have been no county matches here since 1829, but The Vine is still home to one of the top teams in the Kent League, and the Second XI were out playing yesterday against Beckenham.

In the gaps between the showers, the white-clad folk thwacked leather against willow in the centre of the green. The crowd, it must be said, was limited. A couple of gentlemen lingered by the boundary, then wandered off, while a group of teenage girls strutted along the rail gossiping loudly and paying no attention whatsoever to the action. Rather more spectators will have been tucked away inside the pavilion, a weatherboarded building dating back to 1850, and more like something you'd expect to see at the seaside. It was therefore particularly exhilarating, as I wandered round the boundary, to suddenly see the match ball flying straight at me. It could have been a direct hit, so coincidental was the batsman's aim, but instead the ball slammed into the wooden perimeter rail and fell to the ground. Suddenly a dozen men were looking in my direction, none of them realising I'm a total klutz at throwing, but thankfully I managed to chuck the stitched globe semi-appropriately towards the approaching midwicket fielder.

The Vine boasts one more feature of some significance, in that it's the home of Sevenoaks' seven oaks. They're not the originals, not least because the town's name dates back far more centuries than the game of cricket. But the cricket ground's the place that Sevenoaks has chosen to maintain its eponymous feature since at least Victorian times. The current seven are Coronation Oaks, planted rather appropriately for Edward VII, or they would be had it not been for the Great Storm of 1987. This destroyed thousands of mature trees across Kent, and only one of the Coronation Oaks remained standing. Replacements were sourced, but they planted seven (for reasons of future consistency), making eight oaks altogether. And now there are nine (there definitely are, I counted), apparently for reasons of vandalism. They curve round the far end of the ground, near the tiny thatched scoring hut, by this time of year resplendent in full leaf. The difference between old and new is becoming less conspicuous with each passing year, but I don't think the name Nineoaks will ever catch on.
by train: Sevenoaks

Somewhere historic: Shoreham Aircraft Museum
There are dozens of WW2-related museums across the country, many of them related to planes. But this museum's rather different, and that's all down to its location. Kent suffered greatly throughout the war for being the county closest to mainland Europe, and also on the direct route for bombers heading to London. Countless aircraft made it through to their target, but many were shot down by British forces and crashed to the ground. Usually the crumpled fuselage was appropriated by the authorities, but not before local people had salvaged the odd souvenir, and it's these remains that form the basis of the Shoreham Aircraft Museum's collection.

Access is downhill from the station through a rather pretty village (but then they all are in the Darenth Valley). On first sight the museum looks like a normal house with signs out front, but head up the sidepath to access a larger compound behind. So long as it's a weekend between Easter and October you'll get inside, and then three quid gets you inside the museum proper. You might well meet Geoff, son of the original founder (the place has been going since 1978), or another of the enthusiastic volunteers that keep the place ticking over. In pride of place is the cockpit of a Ju88A-1 'Schnellbomber', recently acquired and part-restored, but the main body of the museum is in two rooms beyond.

Here are the crumpled engines of Messerschmitts and Hurricanes, along with associated bits of fuselage and wing sections, along with eye-witness accounts of how they crashed. It's these stories that bring the place to life, and add a human dimension to what could otherwise be a collection of metal. A wide variety of other WW2 memorabilia is interspersed between the aircraft parts, and there's also a small shop (currently selling commemorative mugs from the day over Easter when Jim Davidson popped in). Throw in a tearoom that doubles up as an art gallery at the bottom of the garden, and you have a very different, but very passionate, small attraction. Truly a museum for the fallen.
by train: Shoreham (Kent)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards