A four day tour of English literature
Visit England has decided that 2017 is going to be a year in which to celebrate English literature due to a number of anniversaries that are happening this year. In view of this, how about a motorhome trip around Kent to see the locations associated with some of the works that you have known since childhood.
Start you literary tour with Charles Dickens. The author featured Rochester in his writings more
than any other town apart from London. You can still clearly recognise the old-world Rochester
the author knew so well: from the castle where Mr Pickwick leant ‘contemplating nature and
waiting for breakfast’ to The Guildhall where Pip was indentured as an apprentice – an
exhibition in the museum here is dedicated to Dickens. At nearby Higham on certain days you
can tour Gad’s Hill Place, Dickens’ home from 1857 until his death in 1870.
In the afternoon enter Dickens World at Chatham Maritime, themed around the life, work and
times of the author. Featuring Europe’s largest ‘dark’ boat ride through the streets of
Dickensian London, ghostly encounters with Ebenezer Scrooge, animatronic and live theatre,
it’s a must-do attraction for all the family.
Today take a tip from Geoffrey Chaucer and follow the trail of his Canterbury Tales pilgrims.
His world-renowned story was the first book to be printed in England, in 1476, and you can
sample the full exuberance of its side-splitting humour, romance and horror at The Canterbury
Glorious Canterbury Cathedral, site of pilgrimage since the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in
1170, is also the setting for T S Eliot’s verse drama Murder in the Cathedral, first performed
here in 1935.
Maybe take in a performance at The Marlow Theatre, named after Canterbury-born
Elizabethan playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe. The mysteries surrounding his life and
death are explored in the Museum of Canterbury. Here, too, you can indulge in a little
childhood nostalgia in the Rupert Bear Museum. Mary Tourtel, the artist who created Rupert,
was also born in Canterbury and is buried in St Martin’s Churchyard.
This morning share the elegant surrounds of Goodnestone Park Gardens, near Canterbury,
with Jane Austen. Her brother had married the daughter of the house and after one jaunt here,
in 1796, Jane began writing the novel that became Pride and Prejudice. Become her
contemporary for an hour or two amid Goodnestone’s 14 acres of 18th-century parkland and
lose yourself in reverie in old-fashioned rose gardens.
For lunch take a trip to nearby Bekesbourne, where Ian Fleming lived for a while. He wrote the
James Bond adventure You Only Live Twice at The Duck at Pett Bottom. Stop here for a pub
lunch and a drink (shaken, not stirred) and see if the creative juices flow for you, too. Fleming is
thought to have taken Bond’s famous 007 tag from the number of the London to Dover coach.
Ian Fleming’s weekend cottage is located in nearby St Margarets Bay.
This afternoon pick up the Dickens trail again and share his love for the delightful, unspoiled
seaside resort of Broadstairs, his favourite holiday retreat where he completed many of his
books – Bleak House where he wrote David Copperfield overlooks the tiny harbour. Find out
more in the Dickens House Museum.
If you’re feeling romantic head for Penshurst Place, Penshurst, one-time home of Sir Philip
Sidney the charismatic Elizabethan courtier and poet. Mortally wounded in battle, he selflessly
gave his water canister to another dying soldier with the words ‘Thy necessity is yet greater
than mine’, a maxim that has transcended the centuries. So, too, have the magnificence of
Penshurst’s medieval Baron’s Hall and the beguiling magic of gardens whose records date
back to 1346.
And here’s a thought-provoking connection: a distant relative of Sir Philip lived at Chartwell,
Westerham – wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, no less. He retreated here from the
pressures of public and political life, and it was also here that he wrote his history of England,
The Sceptred Isle. You’ll be fascinated by memorabilia from 40 years of his life at Chartwell,
offering some surprising insights into his enigmatic character.
Other literary connections in Kent include:
· H E Bates - The Darling Buds of May– Pluckley and Smarden
· Frances Hodgson Burnett - Maytham Hall (inspiration for the Secret Garden)
· Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Groombridge Place Gardens (The Valley of Fear, Sherlock Holmes)
· Edith Nesbit - Romney Marsh (The Railway Children)