Responsible travel: Cranbrook oast house B&B, Kent, England
We are committed to sourcing our food from local suppliers. Bread is home baked on the day and we provide a selection of home made jams to accompany it. Our friend, Joan, makes the marmalade in her home nearby. We collect the free-range eggs from a neighbour down the road and our bacon and sausages come from the farms which surround us. Being able to trace the source of the food we eat is important because of animal welfare concerns and reducing food miles.
We are surrounded by our own meadows which support an abundance of wildlife. At specific times of the year, they are grazed by cows and sheep. Our garden terrace is a wonderful place to sit and relax – surrounded by flowers which are great for the bees and butterflies.
We are very proud of the fact that the oast house is the oldest in England. It is a 16th century building which was re-built in 1740. It has been restored in a sympathetic fashion with the assistance of archaeologists, specialist planning permission and conservation officers. We love recounting the history behind this special building – it started life as an oast house in 1580 but by 1740 was fairly derelict. Following this it was restored and continued to be used as an oast house until 1923, then it became a shed and then a garage. When we moved here in 2005 we wanted to bring it back to life and use it as part of our home. Careful restoration work was done with materials such as lime, horsehair, plaster and oak. The effect is very impressive and our guests are suitably wowed when they see the oast house, inside and out.
Our commitment to purchasing food sourced in the local area means that we are supporting the independent enterprises who sell these products. For example, we always use Hartley Dyke Farm Shop in Cranbrook. In the evenings, we encourage our guests to frequent local pubs and restaurants. Those that we recommend in Cranbrook are Apicius, The George Hotel and Terracotta. We also suggest some of the pubs and restaurants in the picturesque High Weald locations which surround us, for example The Great House in Hawhurst, The Bull in Benenden, The West House in Biddenden, The Curlew in Bodiam and The Swan at Chapel Down. This is a great way for visitors to see these areas and meet some of the people who live there. Tourist revenue is a great boost to the local economy so if our guests can contribute to this then this is a positive thing. I am involved with the local council so feel very much part of the local community. Although small, there are myriad clubs, societies and events in the town which ultimately make it a very interesting place to live and visit.
The main house was built in 1580, which we always tell guests was the year Sir Francis Drake returned from his round the world voyage having discovered California, named it Nova Albion (New England) and claimed it for his queen! We feel we live in a very special place due to the amazing history and geology which surrounds us. On arrival you will spot the ancient well which sits on the front lawn. It is a real Tudor well, descending 28 feet and is brick-lined. Then you will spot the 16th century oast house where, in times gone by, it would have been a hub of hop drying activity. A stay with us evokes the best of Kentish life, past and present. Past guests have described their stay with us as ‘English tranquility’ and ‘an exceptional place.’
We love imparting our knowledge about the local landscape with our guests and have shared many a conversation about the area. Being surrounded by meadows makes us feel very much at the heart of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and we absolutely love living here. Walking and cycling is a great way to absorb every detail of this wonderful area – the High Weald Landscape Trail crosses the counties of West and East Sussex and Kent. Unique and historic, the countryside consists of scattered farmsteads and small fields among wooded hills and valleys. The route passes right through Cranbrook so why not make us your stop off point!