ALI DITZEL IS DIRECTOR OF CHIDDINGSTONE CASTLE. HERE, SHE TELLS US WHY SHE LOVES WHERE SHE LIVES…
Where do you live?
I live in a cottage that was formerly part of the Hever Castle Estate owned by the Astor family, before the vast estate was sold up in the 1980s. Hever Castle is only half a mile as the crow flies from Chiddingstone Castle, so it is the perfect commute to my job as director of Chiddingstone Castle.
How long have you lived there and what made you decide to move there?
I have lived here for seven years, but in fact have lived in the Chiddingstone/Hever area for almost 28 years – my three children were born here and all went to the lovely primary school in Chiddingstone village. Having grown up myself in nearby Rotherfield and Penshurst, I thought this was the perfect place to return to and bring up my children.
What’s your favourite shop locally?
There are some great traditional village shops in Chiddingstone and Chiddingstone Causeway, and a brilliant gift shop called Woodlea in the neighbouring village of Four Elms. Chiddingstone Castle’s gift shop is also an excellent one-stop place if you’re looking for gifts produced locally in Kent and Sussex. Beyond that I tend to head to Tunbridge Wells; there are so many excellent independent shops and boutiques there, that I’m always spoilt for choice.
Where’s the best place to go for a Sunday stroll?
The choice of beautiful places to walk around Chiddingstone and Hever is endless. I particularly love walking from Chiddingstone Castle along the footpaths to a couple of my favourite pubs – the Henry VIII in Hever and the Rock Inn in Chiddingstone Hoath. Both are happy to welcome my two Jack Russell Terriers too!
Where’s your favourite place to eat locally?
As a real treat, my favourite place to eat locally simply has to be Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells. The food and service is sublime and the place deserves all the accolades it gets.
Are there any nice views nearby?
There are many superb views around the area – the view from Ide Hill overlooking Bough Beech Reservoir is particularly gorgeous; you simply can’t believe you’re only 25 miles from Central London! My favourite view is from the top of the Castle’s flag tower – it’s a scary, challenging climb but worth it at the top, as you can see for miles all around.
Where’s the best place to meet friends and socialise?
There is a vast choice of excellent pubs locally, most of which serve really good food too. I’ve mentioned two of my favourites, but I’m also looking forward to the reopening of the Greyhound in Hever after the devastating fire there over a year ago, and the Castle Inn in Chiddingstone is soon to reopen too. All of those serve Larkin’s ale which is brewed in Chiddingstone village – I’m not a beer drinker, but I’m reliably informed that Larkin’s is the best in the world!
What do you do when you spend a weekend or day off in the local area?
Working at Chiddingstone Castle has opened my eyes to the very many other visitor attractions in the area and I absolutely love spending a day visiting one or other, wandering around their gardens, picking up tips as to what we can do better at Chiddingstone and just soaking up each one’s particular special atmosphere.
Why do you love where you live?
Kent is an enormous county with hundreds of beautiful, unique villages; but for me, this area of West Kent is unbeatable. Gently rolling landscape, brilliant pubs, lovely friends and hundreds of years of history around every corner – what’s not to love?!