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We boarded the steam train on the rural heritage railway to Bodiam.  We stopped at Rolvenden, Wittersham Road and Northiam before Bodiam Castle came into view.  The stations displayed historic artefacts and some original advertising boards.  A member of the volunteer railway staff told us of the history of the railway and pointed out places of interest - the former hop fields with oast houses still to be seen and apple orchards for cider making.  The railway runs alongside the River Rother - which originally was wide and deep enough to enable large ships to sail here from the sea.

The coach met us at Bodiam Station and drove the short distance to Bodiam Castle.

The Castle is medieval and much photographed - the ideal picturesque moated castle.  It was constructed in 1385 during the 100 Years War.  King Richard II gave permission to Sir Edward Dallingbridge (a soldier, King’s Knight and Member of Parliament) to fortify his existing mansion against any possible French invasion or local rebellion.  The castle became a comfortable home, a status symbol rather than a defensive structure.

It is now a picturesque ruin but one can still see the oldest dated portcullis in England, the battlements, arrow slits and murder holes as well as the remains of the Great Hall, kitchen with its well, the servants’ quarters and the Lord’s apartments.  The guest rooms had fireplaces and en suite toilets!

From medieval times the site was used by river trade.  The large pond provided a flow of water to drive Sir Edward’s watermill.  A pill box can be seen which was built in 1940 to defend Bodiam bridge in the event of a German invasion.  After later restoration Lord Curzon left Bodiam to the National Trust in 1926.  There was an interesting introductory film telling the history of the estate.

With thanks to Barry our driver and to John Gray - our escort.

Text by Janet Paterson                                                                         Photographs by Derek Little

Steam Train from Tenterden to Bodiam

On an overcast  but mild summer day, we travelled through the Sussex and Kent countryside to the Kent and East Sussex Railway Station at Tenterden.

  Early plans for a railway at Tenterden were made in the 1850’s.  The first section was opened on 2 April 1900 to a station at Tenterden (now known as Rolvenden). The line was closed in the 1950’s but enthusiasts have restored the track and the steam trains run from Tenterden to Bodiam.

The site has been in use since Roman times but the inside of the castle was probably dismantled during the English Civil War and later fell into disrepair.

The Wharf Tearoom is situated by the River Rother and overlooked the pleasant Kent countryside.   


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