Drive into the Kent countryside and you’ll soon spot reminders of its history as a centre for growing hops and brewing beer. Most visible are the white-topped oast houses that dot the countryside. These iconic buildings were used for drying hops – one of Kent’s most important crops in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
A full-scale refurbishment of one such building near the charming village of Appledore has brought it right up to date, and transformed it into a beautiful holiday home that’s ideal for large groups.
Although it takes just an hour to reach Horne’s Place Oast from south London, it feels like another world, and by the time you reach the oast house you’ll already have been treated to a glimpse of why Kent is known as the Garden of England. Once surrounded by hop fields, the oast house now nestles among farmland and the vineyards that are helping to bring about a renaissance in English wines.
From the outside, the oast house appears to have changed little, save for a lick of paint on the characteristic Kentish clapboard that covers the top half, but step inside and you’ll appreciate its transformation. Sympathetically refurbished in the summer of 2017, the oast house offers a relaxing and sociable space, both inside and out. It’s perfect for group getaways and family holidays, where you can catch up over long lunches and perhaps a glass of the sparkling wine produced just a mile away at the Gusbourne winery.
The more the merrier
With exposed beams and an inglenook fireplace, this country house feels cosy in the winter months and offers a great base from which to strike out on bracing country walks on crisp days. In spring and summer, there’s no better place to enjoy the sunshine and watch the wildlife than from the ample deck which overlooks the oast house’s own large pond. Dining alfresco becomes easy with a built-in barbecue and outdoor pizza oven on the terrace, and children will be well entertained with a well-stocked games room and extensive play area within the garden. The property sleeps up to 17 (including children) with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms. Thoughtful touches, like the large double-doored American-style fridge and extra-wide oven ensure that catering for a group is easy. Bedrooms and bathrooms are simply decorated with a fresh contemporary feel while vintage pieces in the games room add to the quirky character of this unique property.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax and escape the city, Horne’s Place Oast is perfect. It’s situated on the edge of the village of Appledore. Take a country walk and you’ll discover a pretty village that feels wonderfully lost in time, with just a pub, a vintage tea room and a small grocery shop. There are canal-side walks on the banks of the historic Royal Military Canal which meanders through the village while the Saxon Shore Way, a long-distance footpath, passes within half-a-mile of the property. It offers an easy route to several country pubs which cook with the produce that the Garden of England is so famous for, alongside local specialties like Romney Marsh lamb and Rye Bay scallops.
Horne’s Place Oast is also a great base for getting out to see the sights of Kent and the south coast. The ancient and attractive towns of Rye and Tenterden are both within ten miles of the oast house, as are some of the finest sandy beaches in the south east at Camber. Families will love the chance to see farmyard animals at the nearby Rare Breeds Centre and more exotic ones at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park; all ages can get on board with the two heritage railways that pass within a few miles of the oast house. Vineyard tours and tastings are available at the Gusbourne winery and at two others nearby, which makes Horne’s Place Oast a great place for getting on the English wine trail.
Generations of Londoners used to make their way to the hop fields of Kent on working holidays at harvest time, with whole families enjoying the fresh air and countryside while picking hops. Now, a new generation are being invited to escape the city – but these days the emphasis is on leaving the work behind so you can relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this beautiful rural idyll.