It’s been a while since Mr PP and I had a day trip and with Mr PP suddenly finding that he had a day off we took ourselves out over to Westerham in Kent to have a look round Quebec House, the childhood home of Major General James Woolf. Originally called ‘Spiers’ the house dates back to 16th century with subsequent modifications in the 18th and 20th centuries. Today, the house looks much as it would have done in the 1730’s when Woolf lived here as a child. It is not a large house and stands on the intersection of 3 main roads in what is now known as Quebec Square. The house was renamed Quebec House as a memorial to Woolf and his great battle victory at the Plains of Abraham where he also lost his life. It is now managed by the National Trust. Although Woolf only lived in the house for the first 11 years of his life the house is dressed out in a manner which would not have been unfamiliar to the young Woolf and there are many small, personal artefacts which belonged to the great man on display.
The old stables houses a tiny tea room, second hand bookshop, NT shop and upstairs a display telling the story of Woolf and his life. A visit here isn’t going to take more than an hour and that probably includes tea and cake (very nice), but it is definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in picturesque Westerham.
The front door
The back door
Side garden looking across Westerham to the church
Water pump dated 1792
After a pleasant and relaxing visit to Quebec House, on our way home we stopped in at Emmetts Garden at Ide Hill near Sevenoaks. A warm, sunny afternoon found us walking up the hillside towards the tea room at the top of the garden in the hope of finding something for a late lunch. Sadly we were disappointed, when all that was available were a couple of sad looking pre-packed sandwiches and some unappealing cake. After tea and a lovely slice of cake at Quebec House we were very disappointed, but settled for more tea and shared a ‘cream tea’ – 2 slightly stale and very dry fruit scones with a very expensive mini pot of jam (costing more than a full size jar in Tesco) and a small and equally expensive mini tub of clotted cream. We ate this outside along with the wasps.
Undaunted, we struck out on the trail through the Pinetum, basically an area with a group of pine trees. Stopping briefly to admire the view (I tripped over some exposed tree roots), but ultimately thwarted because of the overgrowth of trees that almost obliterated the view. Off we went again through the woods, down some very steep and uneven steps – good thing neither of us are unsteady on our feet, we walked round the trail until we came back towards the South Garden with its exotic shrubs and gazebo. Sitting in the gazebo, we listened to a recording of the Head Gardener talking about the planting, which I am sure would have been fascinating if there had been more to actually contextualize what he was talking about. The view from the gazebo was OK though. While sitting we spotted Batman running down the hill hotly pursued by a young lady who tripped over the edge of the gazebo. Stoicly she didn’t cry but stomped off to find Batman. A couple of minutes later she poked her head round the edge of the gazebo to announce that Batman had “done a wee up a tree” – nice! fortunately Batman’s Mum was nearby and dealt with it.
Obviously this was the queue to continue with our visit so we set off to inspect the South Garden. Oh dear, another disappointment, there were shrubs a-plenty, but most of those are quite commonplace in domestic gardens of today, just bigger. Crossing over, the tulip and cherry tree garden was past its best, although the rose garden and Italianate style formal sunken garden of roses still looked quite pretty. Just behind this is the Scree or Rock Garden, which has a pond in which a pond dipping session had just finished. A chat with the chief pond dipper revealed that there were an abundance of newts in the pond and also a probable Great Crested Newt baby which meant that there would be no more pond dipping. A huge sigh of relief from the newts I suspect! the rock garden was, well, rocky. Time to go with a brief stop in the shop for a small tub of Caroline’s ice Cream – super yummy! (Being made by hand in West Sussex it’s yummy credentials are a given! www.carolinesdairy.co.uk)
Steep and unstable steps at Emmetts Garden
Mr PP inspects the Beatrix Potter children’s trail
Plastic worm marks the place where worms are!
The view (or lack of it) from the viewpoint
Batman before his call of nature!
The Rose Garden, looking pretty but sparse (or pretty sparse)
Sadly this was a disappointing visit. The upside is that as an NT member I didn’t actually have to pay to go in, the downside is that it really wasn’t that inspiring and didn’t really live up to all the hype about innovative planting in the brochure, plus the tea room was rubbish with a surly youth serving lukewarm tea!