FUN AND FREE
FUN AND FREE
The decs are down, funds are low and the family is going stir-crazy stuck indoors. Here’s some fun, free stuff to get you through January
Pat Crawford
January can be a challenging (and very long) month, but there are so many good things too about the start of a New Year.

A fresh snowfall and iced-over ponds are stunningly beautiful; tobogganing and long walks in the countryside come into their own. Increasing the help given to wildlife – food and, equally importantly, water – is satisfying and fun.

Brave souls relish barbecues (midges are absent in the winter!) while for the even braver, outdoor swimming is increasingly popular in all weathers. Ice skating is generally best undertaken on rinks rather than ponds or lakes and Kent is fortunate to have access to a surprising number of all-year-round venues.

Meanwhile, the less energetic can always curl up in the most comfortable armchair with a book by a Kent author; the choice is massive. And best of all, getting out and about needn’t involve spending money on entrance fees, because the county has a staggering number of visitor attractions that open free-of-charge throughout the year – including January.

BROADVIEW GARDENS

Few gardens are open to the public in January, but Broadview is a notable exception. Created on stony silt soil above clay on what was part of the Medway flood plain, the 10 acres are divided into individually designed areas with their own planting plans. The earliest part of the year is made special by a National Collection of Hellebores and thousands of spring bulbs.

Sandell Lake, the Wildlife Walk and The Meadow attract an amazing number of species and, because the gardens are used as a teaching resource for the college’s horticulture students, many of the plants and trees are labelled. Large parts of the gardens are flat and so accessible to wheel and pushchairs; the map at the start of the gardens is a useful guide.

Adjoining the gardens, award-winning Broadview Tearoom is open seven days a week (closed over Christmas until 2 Jan) serving coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. Broadview Gardens, Hadlow College, Tonbridge Road, Hadlow TN11 OAL, broadviewgardens.co.uk Open Mon to Fri 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm

CHIDDINGSTONE VILLAGE

A joy for historians and those who appreciate architecture, delightful Chiddingstone Village is a must.

Mentioned in The Domesday Book, most of the largely Tudor period village (Grade 11* listed) is owned by the National Trust and the houses are tenanted.

Don’t miss the Chiding Stone; follow the short path located near the school to see the huge lump of sandstone which formed many millions of years ago. Legends concerning the use of the stone abound but the most popular relates to it being where miscreants – usually in the form of nagging wives and ne’er-do-wells - were chastised.

Opposite the row of historic houses, the Church of St Mary (Grade ll* listed) is built from local sandstone. The nave, chancel, aisles and chapels are early 14th century and many Master Craftsmen were involved in their construction and furnishing.

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January 2020