. Kent is crowded with orchards, plantations of soft fruits, fields of vegetables and market gardens, taking advantage of the good earth, it was once famous for hop-growing there are some still to be seen. Vines have been reintroduced and there are vineyards dotted amidst the rich pastureland from which comes Kentish wine.
. Along Thameside to the north, this part of Kent is a place of river fogs and unvisited atmospheric promontories beloved of Dickens when described in Great Expectations, in the south the Downs rear chalky outlines, their heights covered in short grass, the valleys between often steep indentations. These softly rounded chalk hills break off, literally, at the Channel to form the famous White Cliffs, especially around Dover .
. Occupying the southwestern corner is a surprising spread of flat marshland beneath the downs where the country drops off in a dramatic escarpment. Once flooded, this is the lonely and romantic Romney Marsh. Although western Kent is heavily populated all the county retains patches of ancient heathland along with pockets of old woods.
Origin of name: Greek and Roman writers referred to Kention, and Kent has the distinction of being the oldest recorded county name in Britain still in use. its Celtic root conto means an edge or rim which is apt for the county's geographical position. The \ Romans called the ' inhabitants Cantii and their kingdom the land of the Contii. Kent became the first of the dominant Anglo-Saxon England kingdoms. Celtic "caint" could mean "open country".
Name first recorded: 55BC. County Motto : Inviaa ("Unconquered").
MAIDSTONE Kent 's bustling major agricultural, commercial and administrative centre has the almost fairy-tale Leeds Castle close by.
CANTERBURY (Derived from Saxon for the city of the people of Kent ) was the first town on Roman Walling Street and in the 6th century St Augustine founded the noble gothic pile.
CHATHAM Founded by Henry Vl1l and a base for the Royal Navy until 1984: the Dockyard is now an 80- acre tourist attraction.
DOVER Complete with castle this ancient cinque port and its legendary White Cliffs are the epitome of English patriotism. Premier cross-channel port with international cruise liners and a £10m passenger terminal.
FOLKESTONE Started as a fishing village later a Georgian resort but now gateway to the Chunnel and the 'Channel Tunnel Experience'.
GREENWICH Home of the famous 0° of longitude, the Observatory, the Cutty Sark , The National Maritime Museum and Millennium Celebrations.
RAMSGATE Handsome resort and working port with Victorian emphasis and a touch of class.
ROCHESTER Birthplace of Charles Dickens. Most of his last book, the unfinished Edwin Drood, was set here.
SEVENOAKS Became one-oak thanks to the Great Storm of 1987. Luckily, the Royal Oak Hotel in the High Street refers to only a single oak in its name.
TUNBRIDGE WELLS Prosperous Regency spa town known for its 'Royal' and 'disgusted of. Famous Pantiles have colonnaded promenade.
WHITSTABLE Silt and salty waters made it famed for its oysters from Roman times, but pollution ended this culinary connection. Today it is still a very pleasant north Kent coast resort.
. Blackheath . Catford . Charlton . Dartford . Deptford . Eitham . Erith . Gillingham . Gravesend . Hythe . Lewisham . Margate . Northfleet . Orpington . Plumstead . Sidcup . Sittingboume . Sydenham . Woolwich.
Darent, Medway, Great Stour, Little Stour.
North Downs at 800 feet.
. Many sporting events include horse racing at Folkestone and an annual county fair at Detling.
. Annual Cider and Apple Fair in Kent .
. Regular events, theatre, storytelling and re-created military and battle scenes are put on by English Heritage at Dover , Deal and Walmer Castles . At Richborough Castle there are re-creations of the Roman life at Rutupaie.
. Heritage Centres at Tunbridge Wells (A Day at the Wells), Dover (White Cliffs Experience) and Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales) are open all year. Rochester has a lively Dickensian Festival every spring.
. Early March: The Dover Film Festival
. Early April: A celebration of Easter at superb Leeds Castle. Occasional outdoor classical concert with a famous orchestra and conductor with, yes, fireworks and even cannon!
. Barly May: .Rochester Sweeps Festival is a traditional festival with processions, dancing, ceilidhs, craft fairs and music.
. End of May to early June: Ramsgate Spring Festival is a festival of dance, classical music, drama, pageantry and the obligatory fireworks.
. End of May to early June: Festival of Dover is a summer version of Ramsgate's spring festival.
. End of May to early June: Rochester resurfaces for its world-famous festival with displays, competitions and street entertainment all connected with Dickens.
. Mid June: Biggin Hill international Air Fair is a five- hour display with a large exhibition area and ground- floor events too.
. Mid June: Broadstairs has a greater claim to fame with Dickens and hosts a festival with Dickensian garden party, country fair and a play.
. Kent County Show is at Maidstone each July.
. The Queen Mother is often in residence at Walmer Castle where Her Majesty is Warden of the Cinque Ports . Sir Winston Churchill held the office too, and resided at Chartwell near Westerham where he found peace in painting.
. Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, often visited Kent . She set parts of novels in places from Ramsgate to Godmersham.
. Much of Nichotos Nidcfeby, David Copperfield and other early works written in Kent by Charles Dickens, set scenes in such towns as Broadstairs. He lived until his death near Rochester there is an intriguing Dickens Museum and ornate chalet.
. Absolutely Fabulous TV star Joanna Lumley once lived at the old rectory at Goodnestone, near Wingham. This is a fine example of an estate village with ornate Victorian cottages grouped round an old inn like a country calendar picture.
. Rudolf Nureyev danced in a house in Sandwich where Susan Hampshire once resided.
. Gloria Hunniford lives in Sevenoaks.
The County of Kent is administered by a two-tier structure throughout the majority of the County by Kent County Council and the 12 District Councils of Ashford, Canterbury , Dartford, Dover , Gravesham, Maidstone , Sevenoaks, Shepway, Swale, Thanei, Tonbrldge & Mailing and Tunbridge Wells. There are five unitary councils at Bexley, Bromley, Gillingham & Rochester, Greenwich and Lewisham which Kent County Council doesn't cover. North Woolwich is Kent detached in Essex under the auspice of Newham unitary borough.
THERE'S SO MUCH crammed into Kent , from the glorious architecture of Greenwich to the hop-drying conical- shaped oast- houses that dot this ' Garden of England '. It is of course a cliche, but Kent 's long-time tag is a true one. With so much poured into this county, it's not surprising perhaps that Kent is a county of confrontations. In its western fringes it is suburban, beyond the tidal Medway and its clutter of boats east Kent is surprisingly rural and undiscovered, even if it has long been the highway between Continental Europe and London , and then there are the archetypal seaside towns such as Herne Bay and Margate . The Medway in fact forms a neat dividing line between west and east, and even distinguishes the 'Men of Kent ': that is, the natives who live west of the Medway are known as Kentish men (probably of Anglo-Saxon origin) and those who live east are called the Men of Kent (of Jutish ancestry).
The range of sights, for a medium-sized county, is quite enormous. Once in the county proper, and especially as travellers venture away from the fringes of London to Kentish suburbs such as Bromley and Bexley, with its Tudor Hall Place , whether by train, car, bicycle, or even on foot ( Kent is excellent walking country) they will find a plethora of riches. The border with Sussex has many villages and is studded with crowded commuter towns such as Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood and Tunbridge Wells. At the top of Sevenoaks is an 18th-century enclave and the entrance to Knole, one of the great country houses of England , a mansion reputed to have 365 rooms, seven courtyards and dozens of staircases. It's surrounded by a large park with deer, always open and maintained by the National Trust. Nearby Penshurst has a lych gate with a house above it and imposing Penshurst Place , a medieval castle with an ancient Great Hall and terraced parterre described by BenJohnson 400 years ago.
There are spa springs in the centre of town at Royal Tunbridge Wells where you can taste the chalybeate water. In the middle of the town is a large common and abutting it is the famous Pantiles, a busy space with flagged terraces and old-fashioned shops. South of here you come to the wide flat spaces of the Romney Marsh, with hidden villages and wide views to the sea. Sheep fatten on the salt marshes, which are home to many birds and tiny secretive communities. At its southern point is New Romney with a big and ancient church. Romney is at one end of a resuscitated miniature railway line, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
Hythe is an old town on a hill with a curious pyramid of skulls in the church crypt. On flat land towards the sea is the Military Canal , designed to protect army supply lines in the event of a Napoleonic invasion. Nearby at Port Lympne is Studford Castle , standing above Lemanis, the Roman fortification of the Saxon shore. The castle grounds are now a zoo for endangered species. In the western part of the county many pleasant villages can be found. At Lullingstone is a Roman villa and a Queen Anne red-brick house and garden where silk for royal gowns was made. At Ightham is a rare example of a lovely medieval manor house islanded in a moat, busy with waterfowl. Owned by the National Trust, Ightham Mote can be visited and you can actually stay in one of the cottages in the splendid gardens. Hever has a fine house and Italian garden; Headcorn is charming with a wide main street and ancient wooden houses; and Pluckley is an estate village where all the houses have distinctive arched windows. Near charming Tenterden with its broad greens is Sissinghurst, where Vita Sackville-West made a most famous garden and south towards the sea at Smallhythe, once a harbour. Dame Ellen Terry lived in an ancient house that now houses theatrical memorabilia.
The Medway valley cuts the county almost in two and here are workaday communities known as the Medway Towns. Old centres include the county town of Maidstone with fine medieval buildings, while Rochester has exposed town walls, bricked high street and half-timbered houses, and a gaunt Norman castle on a mound which can be explored (until 200 years ago it possessed interior floors and walls, as Dover 's citadel still does). Rochester 's cathedral should not be missed: the second oldest in the country, it has many Norman and Early English features. The outline of the original Saxon cathedral is indicated with stones set in the floor.
East from here is the now industrial Isle of Sheppey, and the scattered low-lying islands of the Medway estuary.
Ashford is a market and railway centre and nearby is Jacobean Godinton Park with topiary gardens. Chilham is a picturesque hilltop village with a castle by Inigo Jones. To the east is Canterbury and its lofty cathedral that is the seat of the Archbishop, its three commanding towers surrounded by many ecclesiastical buildings and walled gardens. Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was born here and the theatre is named after him. South of the city towards the port of Folkestone , enchanting countryside is laced with tiny lanes that take you back to another age as they thread through isolated villages and past farmyards. A drive along the Alkham or Elham valleys will give an introduction to these beautiful natural features.
This part of the county stretches an indented coast along the edge of England , between the Channel and the River Thames . The Kent coastline trom Dartford all the wayround to Dymchurch varies from cliff to muddy strand.
There is a chain of interesting towns from Deal to Dungeness, from Whitstable to Walmer - all differing enormously, yet most offering at least something to see and to do. Some, like Faversham, are Tudor surprises whileothers, such as Margate (a raffish seaside resort, with a fairground and amusements, yet also a 200-year-old theatreand Georgian squares), are well known. Dover is a busy port, yet also has terraces of fine classical revival . __^ houses facing its beach. Kent 's seaside towns go from medieval ( Sandwich ) to Victorian (Broadstairs.) Many are rich with a profusion of history, architecture and folklore.
Near Chatham with its maritime exhibits is Kit's Coty House, a prehistoric cromlach - that is, a structure built of three huge slabs of stone capped with a fourth. A road nearby has the reputation of being haunted and this part of Kent is particularly rich in ghost tales.
Kent is rich in Roman remains. Rutuplse, the present Richborough, was once the Porta Britannica, the foothold established by Julius Caesar. His actual landing is marked by a stone near the wide arc of Pegwell Bay , a nature reserve. Through a noble, pale, marble arch towering above the surrounding estuary waters, two emperors came to their northern dominions and legions marched along Watling Street towards London , The Roman Painted House and the Pharos - or lighthouse - at Dover arenotable. At the Roman camp of Reculver, stone fortifications remain, and the Norman church, destroyed by an 18th-century divine has only the twin towers standing above the sea; they are still used as markers for mariners in the Thames estuary On the edge of marshes that once were the sea floor of the wide Wantsume Channel - making the Isle of Thanet separate and navigable until the end of the medieval era - is Minster, with an ancient abbey founded in AD670 which claims to be the oldest inhabited building in England . The name Cinque Ports comes from cinque portus meaning 'five havens'. Actually they number more than five, especially when many minor ones or 'Limbs' are added. (Most of these are now high and dry, far from the sea.) These towns, some in Sussex , all have fascinating histories and marked walks for discovery. The home of the Warden of the Cinque Ports , a title held by many famous people, is a noble one: it's the Tudor castle at Walmer where once the Duke of Wellington resided in retirement. With sea views from its terraces and a magnificent garden with ancient yews, Walmer is managed by English Heritage and makes a marvellous outing.West of Tonb ridge, Hever Castle is where the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, grew up, and where Anne of Cleeves, his fourth wife, lived after they divorced - she was less unfortunate, divorce being preferable, presumably, to beheading.