Friday, 6 July 2012

Other people's lives

For a long time, my friend Jean and I have planned on going for a hike around the Littlebourne area where she grew up.  After months of talking about it, we finally packed up a picnic yesterday and headed out for the country.  Despite talk of some stormy weather, it was scorching hot so we didn't walk too far, but we did get some nice strolling in.

Jean's family have lived in Kent for generations.  We arrived in the village and she immediately showed me some little hidey holes including a tiny footpath that goes through someone's garden:

If you carry on going down that little footpath, there are a few people's gardens and then a water wheel, that still works.  Sometimes, if the man is in his garden he'll switch it on for you if you ask.

The waterwheel still functions on occasion
After a little interlude of looking at all the wildlife and Jean pointing out various species of insects and birds that were flitting about the place, we decided to move on to the other end of the village and have a picnic near the stream.  This is a chalk stream so the water is really clear and there are lots of fish and dragonflies and other people around.  I'd made a potato salad and a rice salad, and Jean had brought some fresh salad and some fruit.  We scattered some vegetable crisps out for the ducks who'd come to join us:

After that we went for a stroll towards Ickham.  Many regiments have been stationed out that way in various wars.  Her grandparents met because her grandpa was stationed in Littlebourne during the Great War and her grandma lived in a near by cottage so met the officers quite frequently.  The other set of grandparents lived across the way on another farm. We also passed the cottage that Jean was born in:

After that we drove out to Wickhambreaux, one of the villages a bit further on. She went to school here, so she showed me her old primary school, (it has now been extended, but the original building is still there) the village hall (built in 1911) and the old mill (that has now been turned into flats).  We stopped as she named various flowers for me and showed me all the names of the houses.
The Old Rectory
The Old Ballroom House
The one she wanted to show me particularly was this one:

1 and 2 Workhouse Cottages.  That's right, this was a workhouse for the poor in the area.  Technically, all towns had their own one, but in this case all three villages shared one.  The poor would have been sent here, the men to hard labour, the women would have gone into more serviceable positions and the children would have done sewing or other menial tasks.  In Victorian times, the masters of the house would often choose their maids and servants from the workhouse.  It would have been a great honour to be chosen to work in the 'big house'.

We stopped for a drink in The Rose Inn, the pub in the village. Jean's auntie worked as a barmaid there in the 50's, and on the wall there's a list of the landlords going back to 1779.  I was peering at the house next door and she said that her mum had worked there before she was married, she had to shine the knocker on the door amongst other things.

We had a last stroll past the church, and then headed out back towards home. It was lovely to explore and find out more about Jean's family, hear all her stories. I'm sure we'll be going exploring again soon.


  1. Replies
    1. It is! There is a trail you can do that covers all three villages. It's so beautiful.