A picturesque oast house in Newenden
A picturesque oast house in Newenden

A pretty little hamlet on the River Rother, at the time of the Domesday Book survey Newenden was once one of only two villages in Kent with the right to hold a market. There was a pre-Roman hillfort near the current village, but the earliest reference to Newenden is in AD 791 when King Offa of Mercia granted the manor to the monks of Christchurch Priory in Canterbury.

Much later, in 1242, the first Carmelite priory in England was established just east of the current village at Lossenham. No trace of that monastery now remains, but what does remain is the wonderfully carved font in the parish church of St Peter. The font is probably late Saxon, and it is carved with intricate designs of mythical beasts, lions, plants, and floral symbols.

Throughout the medieval period, Newenden was a busy inland port for sea-going ships, until gradual silting of the river meant that it fell out of use in the 16th century. At one time there were no less than 16 inns serving the village, though only one, the White Hart, survives. If you fancy a pint, the White Hart was once named 'Pub of the Year' by the Evening Standard newspaper.

The 1706 Rother Bridge
The 1706 Rother Bridge

If you take the public footpath beside the inn you quickly come to a picturesque oast house, now transformed into a private dwelling. Oast house were made to dry hops as part of the brewing process. They are easily spotted due to their distinctive conical roofs pierced by a cowl made to be turned into the wind to draw hot air from the drying floor below.

Traffic through the village still crosses over an ancient bridge, which is still supported with its original timbers. The bridge, known alternately as Newenden Bridge or Rother Bridge, was built of sandstone in 1706, using a traditional medieval style so that it looks much older. It has three rouned arches with pointed cutwaters on the upstream side, with butresses on the downstream side.

The White Hart pub
The White Hart pub

From Newenden Bridge you can take a boat trip along the Rother to nearby Bodiam Castle, a moated 14th-century castle in a romantic setting overlooking the river.

You can also take a public footpath the other direction, following the river east past moored boats. Come here in the evening like we did and the sense of timelessness and peace is almost palpable.