by Enza Ferreri
Kent is more rural and traditional than the leafy, posh, commuter-belt, neighbouring county of Surrey. In the summer road-side stalls sell freshly-picked strawberries and other fruit.
Kent is in the south-eastern corner of Britain, bordered on the north by the vast estuary of the river Thames. It is one of the "home counties", the English counties which surround London.
An extensive guide to Kent and Kent hotels and other accommodation, with other travellers' reviews and photos, can also be found on TripAdvisor .
Kent is the county closest to the continent of Europe, with the two ports of Dover and Folkestone for the main ferry links to France.
Kent has a long coastline, ending in the Isle of Thanet, its eastern appendix, with the seaside resorts of Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs.
Four of the five Cinque Ports of historical importance as a defensive military barrier on the Channel, Sandwich, Dover, Hythe and New Romney, are in Kent.
Garden of England
Kent is called "The Garden of England" due to its many apple orchards and hop gardens, vineyard-like fields growing the hops to make beer.
Kent is, along with Worcestershire, one of the two main production areas of hops in the UK.
Hops, growing taller than vines, have green flowers picked in late August and September, and sometimes the harvest is helped by temporary workers like students.
The oast houses that one sees all over the Kentish countryside, with their characteristic conical (cone-shaped) roofs, oast, i.e. heat and dry, the picked hops, which are then sent to the breweries to give the real ale its distinctive flavour. Many traditional oast houses have now been converted into living accommodation like houses, cottages, even B&Bs.
The main river in Kent is the river Medway, of historical, economic abd commercial importance for the region.
The towns and villages around its estuary are called Medway Towns: Rochester, Gillingham, Rainham, Chatham, Strood, and various villages.
The river Medway near Rochester
Charles Dickens lived near Rochester, which was for a long time his favourite town. He based many novels in the area, and several buildings and descriptions of the town appear in his books.
Some towns in Kent are outer suburbs of London, like Bromley, Orpington and Dartford, the birth place of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, the town where they went to school together, met and thought of forming a band, the town that saw the birth of rock's most longevous group. Just ouside the M25 is Sevenoaks.
Kent's county town is Maidstone.
Canterbury, the Medieval city home of the magnificent, gigantic Cathedral and see of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and chief religious figure of the Anglican Church, is historically the most important place and the only city in Kent.
Every year 1.5 million people pay to visit Canterbury Cathedral, and the city attracts about 55 tourists for each resident.
Canterbury also has several museums and The Canterbury Tales, an imaginative exhibition based on stories and characters from Geoffrey Chaucer's masterpiece of Medieval English literature.
There are 40-minute Canterbury Historic River Tours going on the River Stour and learning about Canterbury's long history.
The town of Tonbridge has an important public school. Past pupils still keep in touch through the Old Tonbridgian Society. In Tonbridge are the national headquarters of Animal Aid, the UK's largest animal rights organization and, founded in 1977, one of the world's oldest.
Tunbridge Wells is a lovely historical spa town with a pretty 18th-century Georgian colonnade, the Pantiles, which has today becomes a shopping area with art galleries, specialist shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
On the north coast of Kent are the resorts of Whitstable and Herne Bay. Whitstable does not have a proper waterfront promenade, you don't see the sea until you get to the stony beach, but it has a lot of old-fashioned character. Herne Bay has a seafront promenade with the usual amusements and chip shops, and a residential area.
Going from Folkestone along the coast towards East Sussex, past the two Cinque Ports towns of Hythe and New Romney, few miles from Lydd, at the end of a headland we find Dungeness, strangely voted among the 50 Best British Beaches by The Independent newspaper. The presence there of nuclear power stations towering at the horizon from a distance maybe has something to do with the desertedness of the place, and this may attract for its eerie atmosphere; even the name evokes something bleak.
In Dungeness is an RSPB reserve with very good bird-watching opportunities and a wide range of unusual vegetation and wildlife like bats, stoats, weasels and marsh frogs.
Another beach in Kent recommended for wildlife watching is Minnis Bay, on the west side of The Parade in Birchington-on-Sea which, if you circumnavigate,travel around the Kentish coast starting from the Thames Estuary going east and then south, is past Herne Bay and Reculver with its castle, in the Isle of Thanet.
From Minnis Bay in the summer you can go for a seal-watching sailing trip, to see animals on offshore sandbanks.
Minnis Bay, a rural, long and sandy bay with both rocky and shingle areas, a sailing club, a paddling pool, coastal walks, a windsurfing area, kite boarding lessons, cycling route and a promenade. It has something for everyone, is popular for water sports and is ideal for children. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed on the beach in summer months.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian web author living in London, and former journalist.
Email: ehg89 at britaingallery dot com