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Let’s Go to the Hop: Faversham Hop Festival

On September 23, 2008

Right after breakfast we were on the road to Faversham and its annual hop festival.  Since I had also booked a tour of the Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham at 11 a.m., I was eager to get on the way and avoid searching for a parking space.  Although I am quite often the subject of derision due to my habit of starting off quite early, this time it was a good idea (it usually is) as the parking lots near the town were already filling up with people from all over.  I’m still not used to how Europe has become so easily travelled by residents of the EU countries who think hopping across the channel or across a border is all in a day’s journey and most of these travellers speak several languages in a variety of beautiful accents.

Even though the streets of Faversham were already filling up with hop festival visitors, many of the vendors were just setting up shop.  Setting up shop on this day meant decorating with hops – lots and lots and lots of hops.

As the day wore on not only buildings, kiosks and outdoor stalls would be covered with hops but the local entertainers and visitors to the festival would be as well.  While many vendors did not yet have their wares displayed, thankfully, Pawley Farm Cider not only had its table fully open

Pawley Farm
Derek Macey
Painters Forstal
Kent ME13 0EN
Telephone  01795 532043

but also laden with tasting samples of each of its ciders from sweet to dry and including the spiced cider – somewhat like that discovered at Chateau Buffalo in New York State but with its own distinct taste.  Unable to carry any back on the plane to the States, we bought just one bottle for consumption at a later British date.  We continued to amble round the town, watching various tables being set up and peekked at street entertainers doing their finally run throughs.  In front of the town’s Guildhall, a lively little band was getting people in the mood for traditional music to come later in the day.

Faversham’s Guildhall dates from 1603 (and that’s just when this one, the third and most recent, was built) and is the center of the town’s marketplace.  It is still in use and on this day a group of

Morris Dancers using the open air mall underneath the rear of the building to practice their routine.  You can look forward to another group of Morris Dancers performing their fertility dance in the next post.  Being accompanied by a knowledgeable Brit can’t be overrated when touring England.  Had I not been with one I would have thought this mailbox to be just another charming British vessel for receiving cards and letters.

My friend, however, pointed out to me that these types of boxes have insignia on them (you can see one there in the middle of the box) that tells the period during which the box was installed.  This mailbox dates from the days of Queen Victoria.  Venturing down an alley (always check alleyways when travelling in England; many of them hold wonderful, unheralded treasures) we came upon the spire of

The Parish Church of Saint Mary of Charity.

Services were going on – and although we were warmly invited inside – we didn’t want to disturb the service either by our entry or our departure.  Noting that we were obviously tourists, the woman at the entrance to the church said with a trace of apology in her voice, “We’re not a very old church , I’m afraid.” I guess that’s the kind of thing you say when Canterbury Cathedral is only a few miles away but, trust me, The Parish Church of Saint Mary of Charity is no slouch when it comes to being a house of worship.  Like every place I’ve visited in England, Faversham is awash in history.  Guess that’s what happens when you have monarchs and noblemen and armies traipsing a small island for century upon century.  Almost every building had some sort of historical marker telling of a king on the run who hid here or a prince who was sent to spend his summers there.  Toward the edge of town sat this lovely public house (pub, to those of us in the know)

The Bull Inn
1 Tanners Street
Faversham, Kent  ME13 7JL

which has signage claiming a visit from Elizabeth I.  Along with the history it seems in England there is always a bit of that somewhat odd and particularly British way of saying or doing things.  Take for instance the hand lettered sign this gentleman used to advertise his wares:

Yes, I know the British having lots of phrases not commonly used in the United States but this guy had to have some inkling…

And now on to the Morris Dancers….

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