A weekend in 1066 Country,
101 things to do
Where English history begins is a mute point but a good place to start would be in 1066 Country. Covering an area 50kms wide and just over an hour from London this is where William conquered and Harold was shot in the eye. It is also home to a few castles, one of the best in the country is Bodiam in East Sussex. The castle is storybook in appearance, square with round towers in each corner and square ones in the centre of each wall. It rests in its own moat and has been there since 14th century. Its ruined interior gives you a glimpse of medieval grandeur. Some of the towers and battlements can be climbed so are perfect for adventurous children. In August (11th-12th) they are holding a grand medieval weekend with live jousting, music and food events.
There are other ways to occupy your time at Bodiam taking a lovely river cruise is a must. You can travel return or to other destinations such as Rye, they even do sunset and picnic cruises. There is no better way to enjoy this wonderful countryside than from one of their boats. Booking is advisable as it’s very popular, go to the Bodiam Boating Station for tickets. If the river doesn’t take your fancy then how about a steam train ride through the historic greenery? Kent and Sussex steam railway provide a full timetable during the summer months from Tenterden Town to Bodiam with a few stops on the way. Any young (or old!) aspiring train driver will love this journey. It might just bring out the inner Thomas The Tank Engine in your little ones.
There are also numerous quality places to eat in 1066 Country. I tried a few out I can heartily recommend, The Castle Inn at Bodiam for good gastro pub grub in a beautiful setting. Nobles in Battle High Street sets a high standard using locally produced and sourced food measured in food ‘feet’ rather than ‘miles’.
The Abbey at Battle is a magical place steeped in history you can hear how 1066 came about and the aftermath that changed Britain forever. It’s another half ruined building with lots of climbing for children. There is a great visitor’s centre with plenty of hands on stuff for kids and a cracking film that brings it all to life, a brilliant audio tour (and a kid’s version that had my lot enthralled) And a battle walk that will take you across the very scenes of the battle. The town itself is charming, full of independent shops, galleries and restaurants. There is a curious museum Yesterdays World that boasts over 150,000 items on display. The vast collection is presented in a series of set pieces covering the history of Britain. Well worth a look, I bet you won’t be able to help yourself join in reminiscing, there will be items from you childhood you thought you’d never see again, great fun for all.
For our stay in 1066 Country we stayed at Crowhurst Holiday Village between Battle and Hastings. It has a swimming pool, archery for kids, an adventure playground, bar and restaurant and is wonderfully quiet. The Vermont Lodge we used sleeps 4. It had two bedrooms, one double and a twin. A large kitchen dining room with table, TV and comfy leather chairs was where we ate and relaxed in the evening. This is ideally located for striking into the heart of 1066 Country. We travelled no longer than half an hour to get to anywhere. The lodges sit in acres of rolling green countryside with views for miles. It’s a great place for a self-catering holiday that has lots to do if even you don’t want to leave the park.
We also had to have a look around Hastings and Rye, two of my favourite south coast towns. Hastings is hosting The Seafood and Wine festival 14th – 15th September. Lots of interesting things to drink and eat as well as music and street attractions all held around the historic net huts by the beach. It’s bound to be great fun for all the family. We also enjoyed a truly stupendous meal at The Ambrette in Rye High Street. This modern Indian restaurant, winner of numerous awards is one of the best in the country. The food is neither typically Indian nor very hotly spiced. If you go, try the tasting menu, I couldn’t fault it.
There are plenty of other things to do when you are here, galleries, vineyards, Hastings Old Town, Fisherman’s Museum, funicular railway (always a hit with children), Drusillas Park Zoo, Camber Sands and of course the sea. The links below will take you to the sites I’ve written about here, also reviews of the restaurants I’ve mentioned will appear shortly in the food section of the magazine.