I am a sucker for cute tiny villages which are quiet, calming and where I can experience slowliving, even if it means just for a day. We have been blessed with three bank holidays in the month of May this year. And last week I just couldnt think where to go. So I stumbled upon this village in Kent which was just about an hour and a half from London by train. So I thought to head here on a Sunday. The pictures were so pretty that I was quite sold already.
When I first stepped out of the train it seemed I am in middle of nowhere; other than me 5 other passengers alighted; with their ease of movement, I guessed they probably lived here. I followed them to the exit. The station opens into a road and I had no idea should I walk left or right.
Thanks to google maps, I started walking to towards the High Street.
So, when you exit, walk to your left. The old bridge, town center is all about 10-15 minutes walk. Walk on the station road till you come to the small bridge, its easy to identify as its such a small village, you cant go wrong.
Now this is what you see in all the pictures on the web and also on Instagram. A short stone bridge on River Medway connecting to the the Aylesford village. ……..
You will see pretty timber houses and the Chequers pub on the other side. You can click pictures to your hearts content from across the bridge and also on top pf the bridge. Its simply a beautiful scene, fit for a picture to be framed.
It was 11 am on a Sunday morning that I reached the village; Well we know its too early in England on a Sunday morning. Everything was closed and the streets were so empty that at a point of time I started feeling little eerie. The only place which Google said was open was Tea rooms at the Friar. So I decided to walk in that direction. You have to walk cross the bridge and take a left on the High street. Cross the Chequers and keep walking. It’s a little uphill and a patch of the walk doesn’t have a pedestrian path. You will end up in the Friar.
The Friars Tearoom
First thing I did after reaching there was visit the Toilets next to the Tearoom. Since I was famished I headed to the Tearoom and got myself an Americano, a fruit scone with jam and clotted cream. Heaven on earth!
It was way cheaper than London. All this for £6.50. And there is a cute shop next door where you can buy something for kids.
After my fill I headed to the Friar. Now this one came as totally unexpected. I assumed I will be meeting a church. What I got was a huge complex of beautiful pristine buildings in stone with lush green exteriors. This was just not a small church. So drumrolls for this please. This is Shrine of our Lady of the Assumption and St Simon Stock. Now this seemed like a lot to explore looking at its map, I was so intrigued. So here is what I gathered about the history of this place
Aylesford Priory or the Friars was founded in 1242 AD when the first Carmelites arrived from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. They came under the patronage of Richard de Grey, a crusader who gave them a small piece of land at his manor of Aylesford. Since then, §the Friar has changed hands in terms of its owners and was being used more as a house. A fire in 1930 caused immense damage but the restoration work brought to light many original features. In 1949 it was put up for sale to the Carmalites. In 1958, the idea was conceived to make it an open-air shrine. Today it’s a centre of prayer for all Christians in Kent and a place of peace for those who search for meaning in their lives
– Words are from a poster at the shrine.
The Village and Streets
Like with any other small village, there is not much to see and do other than soak in its quiet tranquil vibes. While I love outdoor day out, sometimes I love going to these cute, quite small villages where you can actually enjoy the #slowlife
Walk thru the Aylesford village, It has a really small high street with a barber shop, a village pantry shop, few pubs, real estate, accountants, laundry, that’s pretty much. All around you have absolutely lovely cottages with quirky decorations, I really wanted to peep inside few of them. There is also a village community center and a village church.
Now Iam a sucker for pubs. I prefer anyday a local pub than a high street food chain. Its important we support the local community by eating and buying local. And if a pub has views, it wins my heart.
In Aylesford, I stopped for a pint at The Chequers Inn. Fortunately I got a spot outside. The views are gorgeouse. It had a deck at the River side with the bridge right in front. Such a winning spot to sit and admire the slow life. I sat here for 2 hours and enjoyed my pint with a plate of salt and pepper squid which was absolutely delicious. And I clicked another 100 pictures of the bridge (sigh!!!)
If not Chequers, I also spotted few other pubs like The Bush, The Little Gem and also a restaurant with a very cute exterior The Heigist. These could be other options to explore in the village.
Closing Thoughts : Overall I think if you are looking for a quiet day out with not much to do in a village-y feel, Aylesbury is an option both by train or car which ticks all boxes. If you are looking for more to do, this could be a stop over for you before you head to spend a day at Leeds Castle or other trips in south of Kent.
Worth a visit for great views, quiet time at a pub staring at river views, walks along the river, tranquil green spaces, meditation at a monastery/shrine. I loved by little day out here. For me, it was more of a solo time, relaxation and getting the time alone with my own self and thoughts in a rather quiet place with least distractions and lots of green space.
How to reach Aylesford
By Train : I took a train from London St Pancras International to Strood in Kent. There was a wait time of 12 minutes. After that the connecting train is to Paddock Wood. Aylesford is about 17 minutes from Strood.
By Car : You can take two routes. Either A20 and M20 route via Chislehurst OR take A2 and M2 via Bexleyheath. Depending on which location you are in London, check on Google Maps for the recommended route. It will take about 45 minutes of driving time.
Where from here?
My original plan was to do Aylesford-Maidstone-Leeds Castle all in one day. Because I think I am a ‘Yoda’.
Honestly I think sometimes we pack so much to accomplish in one day on our holidays or day outs that we forget to enjoy and soak in the local vibes. In my usual life Iam chasing everyday something; goals, meetings, deadlines and what not. These weekends are meant to move away from them and unwind. So I decided I will only do Aylesbury and stay here and chill. So to answer the question, where next, I would recommend what I had planned. You can head to Maidstone. It’s a pretty little town in Kent which is very near to Leeds Castle. That would be the very obvious choice if you want to spend more of your day other than Aylesbury