Ghost Connections Recce - Mid Kent
Every so often the Ghost Connections team embarks on an evening out to research future sites for investigation. The decisions to conduct a survey of these locations is based upon any number of factors- some sites are referrals through our web site, some have reports or legends attached and some are considered of significant historical or aesthetic interest.
This does follow soon after the last exploration but Ian was away and we have some interesting venues booked in the coming months so we had another recce night.
On this occasion we chose to explore the mid Kent area and had for some time been intending to locate and assess the first site.
Deciding first to grab something to eat and in the local area we settled for the Dirty Habit public house. This is known for its Thai cuisine and English menu. We found it to have a few customers in already and all were seated. The Thai landlady, Samjitr Oke, served us some drinks and left us with a menu as she then went to clear another table and promptly fell over running back to the kitchen with the crockery! We took seats at a table and ordered. Now this is where our first bone of contention comes in – despite advertising an 'excellent' English, European, Mexican and Thai menu it only consists of 5 dishes. Thai curry (non specific) and Stir Fry were also offered. We ordered two Thai curry's medium hot and then the crunch came – the steak was not available. The reasoning was that it was too expensive! That's one dish unavailable out of 5 on the menu – not a good start! The Pork Calvados was ordered instead and we waited whilst treated to the sight of the landlady running out the kitchen at full tilt with meals – not very encouraging. Ours arrived and the Thai curry at least resembled Thai Green Chicken curry. The advertised choice of new potatoes or chips never happened for the pork so came with chips. It also arrived with 'vegetables' or rather fried green beans and carrots dripping in oil and red cabbage tasting of vinegar and cooked in oil. Preserved green cabbage? The pork itself was incredibly fatty and grisly. The caramelised apple was not pleasant either. The general consensus was that it was cooked in the same wok as our curry. Speaking of which, the curry was mediocre. Hedging our bets we thought we may have more success with bulk purchased desserts that would probably not be made on the premises. Asking for the desert menu we were told there was a choice of two ( sticky toffee pudding or chocolate fudge cake) so we declined. So in summary a 5 item 'extensive' menu with only 4 choices on and only 2 choices of desert with this being the start of the bank holiday weekend. A land lady literally running around doing all the serving and falling over doing so. No other staff to serve. If we didn't know any better these were the signs of a pub going under. We paid up and left somewhat disgruntled.
Moving on to the night proper we made our way to a location which is associated with rebellion, evasion and local tradition. It may or may not be a true story.
In 1450 a certain John Mortimer moved to Kent and renamed himself Jack Cade. He took it upon himself to lead the peasants in their revolt against increased taxes levied by Henry VI to finance the wars with the French. The numbers were swollen by soldiers returning from France and they all met at Blackheath where they numbered 20,000. Entering London, Cade declared himself mayor and upon reaching the Tower they captured the Lord Treasurer and beheaded him. Returning to Southwark for the night the rebels found themselves in battle at London Bridge during the night and retreated back into the home counties. Cade was now wanted dead or alive as a traitor and was killed near Heathfield in July 1450. His body was quartered and displayed in the capital. It is suggested that whilst on the run he hid on the North Downs near Hollingbourne in a place known as Jack Cade's Hole.
We had been aiming to locate it for some time and approached it from some distance. It is off the beaten track and not signed. From a distance it appears to be a solitary beech tree in the middle of a field. It becomes apparent however that the tree sits above a deep depression which is overgrown and littered with flints and the remains of some building which had clearly been erected here at some point. There may well have been a deeper depression here in 1450 and it was probably not in the middle of a field then. Park Wood, nearby, is of some age and may have extended over the field then. We did however find that there is a hole in Jack Cade's Hole!
Having spent some time here we ventured back into Hollingbourne village for an explore of an old mill site. Grove Mill was demolished in 1894 but the site managers house still stands beyond the village hall. The footpath beyond the hall goes right through the old mill site and past the mill pond immediately on the left through a gate into a field. This is all private property and no buildings or remains of can be seen or accessed from here. The village of Hollingbourne is littered with the remnants of old mills and a previous hub of papermaking.
A decision on where to go next reminded us that Paddy missed out when we last visited Binbury Castle. Binbury was one of the North Downs forts built after the Norman Conquest at Binbury, Stockbury and Thurnham. The most substantial ruins are at Binbury were a mural tower survives in a derelict state in the undergrowth. It possesses a stairwell and ground and first floor brick fireplaces built when converted into a house a few hundred years ago. Original chains still hang in the ground floor fireplace. After fighting through the nettles we settled down and took in the atmosphere.
There was something tranquil about the place and a sense of someone being with us. Somehow it is comforting to know that this little piece of preserved mediaeval England survives year to year with so few people knowing even where it is that its thick walls are left to be swallowed by the vegetation that surrounds it and you can be at ease within its walls completely secluded from the outside world as once its owners must have felt.
From here we moved on to one of the staple venues for paranormal groups but one which offers a different sense on every visit. Bicknor church is secluded away from the beaten track up on the Downs. Many reports of strange occurrences posted by other groups and ourselves in the past force us to visit it occasionally and we hadn't done for some time. The Victorian porch is open and benches provided although the church itself is always secured. We spent some time in the porch here and although windy and the rain falling outside there was still the odd unexplainable noise. As usual on such nights it wasn't the sense of achievement of the investigation that got to us but the other observations made.
On this occasion the local winged inhabitants weren't shy of flying into the porch with us there. We are coming across bats in our travels more and more and on this occasion we were fortunate enough to be able to observe the summer roost of a pair of brown long eared bats made from mud high up in the porch roof timbers. Protected as all bats are we left them be after taking a couple of photographs and then left the area.
Our recce concluded we made for home.
Our investigations begin again in earnest next month.
24th May 2008
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