Ellen Terry Museum, Smallhythe Place, Kent

Needing to get some photographs for an article on pretty Kent villages, took myself off to the Weald last week only to find that places like Tenterden and Biddenden had thrown themselves into Jubilee mode with a vengeance.  Medieval doorways draped with the Union Jack, windows bedecked with red, white and blue ribbons, and bunting strung across the streets wasn’t what my editor wanted for the article, so I had to leave this particular area and postpone the writing.

Looking round for an alternative idea I thought of covering some of the lovely venues in the area and headed for Sissinghurst which I’d visited some years ago.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked opening days and when I got there found it wasn’t open on Wednesdays or Thursdays.  Very disappointed.

I felt it would have been helpful if National Trust had put a sign by the entrance giving the Opening Days, saving visitors a drive down to the car park and then a walk to the entrance, only to be refused entry.

Sissinghurst Castle

However, the sun was shining so I looked around the exterior of the buildings, checked out the plants for sale, was tempted by the David Austin roses for sale and enjoyed the lovely views.    The emerald lawns looked spectacular and the exterior was immaculate, making it even sadder that I couldn’t gain entry to the house and gardens.

Smallhythe Place Museum – former home of Ellen Terry

From there I drove on to Smallhythe Place, the best little Museum I have ever visited.  Also a National Trust venue but they were open – until 4.30 that is.  Smallhythe was the former home of one of England’s most beloved actresses, Ellen Terry, and the house still seems like a home, full of her treasures and memorabilia from various roles she performed on the London stage.

The Barn Theatre, Smallhythe Place

In the gardens is The Barn Theatre where many famous actors have worked (plays are still performed, but it is a private theatre), and the gardens are full of the roses she loved, every one of which had an exquisite smell.

So, all was not lost on my trip to Kent, but I have made a note to avoid all celebratory times if I want to take photographs as the decorations do date them.

Marble Bust of Ellen Terry

The Old Gaffers’ Festival, Isle of Wight

Yarmouth Harbour with Car Ferry in Background

It’s a bit late now to tell you about the Old Gaffers’ Festival at Yarmouth which was a great success last week-end 25-27 May.  Coinciding with what we hope was the start of our British summer, it attracted people from all over the south of England plus the residents of the Isle of Wight who flocked to the little town in their thousands to welcome the Old Gaffers.

Crowds throng the streets over the weekend.

For those of you who may be wondering what, or who, are the Old Gaffers, they are a type of sailing boat (I’ve given a link to the website where you can find the technical details) and the Yarmouth Festival attracts the boats and their owners for a weekend of sailing and merry-making.  The gaff-rigged boats, dressed overall, is something one doesn’t see every day and the harbour filled with the colourful boats is a complete contrast to the usual fleet of everyday boats.  The main race was on the Saturday, but people were arriving on the Friday for the Continental Fair (this could be Continental Fare as there was food from France, Spain, Italy and Germany on sale, both as takeaway and to eat there and then).

Boats Dressed to Kill

Glorious weather on the Saturday and Sunday meant that the town was pretty busy but the exceptional stalls in the main square, the displays of food, bread, sausages, pastas and paellas were so enticing, that more than half the people spent time looking and tasting which left the beach and pier less crowded for those whose main interest was the sailing.

Morris Dancers

Various horticultural merchants were offering bargains in unusual plants and shrubs, craftsmen and women were demonstrating their workmanship and the whole event was like an old fashioned Fair.  It was almost a novelty not to have the usual market traders hawking their goods.

Freshwater & Totland Samba Band

On the Friday night Rob da Bank topped the bill with some great acts and the tribute bands had their turn on the Saturday night.  Bands played all day long, marching bands, bands in marquees, jazz bands, and even the Freshwater and Totland Samba Band paraded through the town.  The Wight Hot Pipes (bagpipes, guitar and keyboard) were on hand, as were the Boogie Woogie Pianos with Team le Roc dancers, and The Crew sang shanties and sea songs in keeping with the Festival.  There was even a male voice choir.  Among the street entertainers was a magician, the Men O’Wight Morris Dancers, Irish country dancing from th Ceri Dancers and on the sea the RNLI lifeboat demonstrated a search and rescue mission.

Sea Shanties from the Boat

The Beer Tent and the Real Ale tent, the Strawberries and Cream Teas, and the local ice-cream makers were all kept pretty busy.  Those who could tear themselves away from the eating and the fun around the harbour could inspect the Veteran and Vintage vehicles that were on display.

Once again, The Old Gaffers Festival has pleased thousands of people.  Let’s hope the weather is equally kind for next year’s event.

The overflow found the shingle beach quite comfortable