Our next part of the journey would see us moving in a westerly direction, over the border into Sussex via the seaside town of Hastings and the self-proclaimed town of Battle, hopping on and off trains in the proceedings.
Whilst on our way out of Kent, we took in The Spa Valley Railway. It was opened in 1886 by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway as a through route from London to Brighton. It now has its headquarters in the spa town of Tunbridge Wells and the new station is situated on a site close to the original Tunbridge Wells West, where it still stands but is no longer rail connected with its use now being that of a hotel. The line stopped being a through route in the late 1980’s, closed by British Rail it is now blocked in one direction by a supermarket that has been built on what was part of the mainline. The town’s passengers have had to transfer to the nearby Central Station for their rail journeys since.
However, the line has been reopened in the direction of (and all the way back to) Eridge, where it now reconnects with the main line and is one of few preserved lines that shares one of its stations with the national network. Not often can you witness a 1920’s built Fowler 3F Jinty stood next to a Southern Electrostar electric multiple unit built in the last decade!
Bolney Wine Estate
Moving into the county of Sussex and not too far along the A23, this estate is situated at The Booker Vineyard in the village of Bolney. It has been making wines since 1972 and produces a full range including whites: Chardonnay; Schonburger; Reichensteiner; Wurzer and reds: Dornfelder; Merlot; Pinot Noir; Pinot Meunier; Rondo.
It is worth trying all the range of wines but we particularly liked the:
Bolney Estate Foxhole Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 – Crimson in colour, good acidity and tannins. Cherry and blackberry aromas and flavours with a hint of savouriness from the oak. A good example we thought!
There is a bright and well set out tasting area, cafe and shop, excellent to while away a few hours sipping a glass or two of Bolney wine. Regular guided tours are available in various formats of the vineyard and winery. Tastings by the glass can be purchased as well as by tasting flights. Kel had a red and white flight and Ruth had a sparkling flight – a great way to spend a morning!
Right, time for some fresh air entwined within a bit a classic English history – so off to the seaside we went.
Hastings is famous for its long sea front and classic old town as well as for the battle that it is named after, even though this event took place a few miles further up the road in the now aptly named village of Battle. Taking in this seaside town, exploring some of its many historical streets and taking a ride on one of its two funicular railways, that afford spectacular coastal views, is well worth it. There was also the opportunity to take a ride on the miniature railway that runs along the sea front (of which Ruth was duly compensated with the hasty purchase of an ice-cream!).
We had a brief English history lesson when calling upon Battle on our way to Ridgeview. Neither of us had been here before and it was great to absorb the atmosphere still felt as a result of the events that took place almost a thousand years ago that had such a momentous affect upon English culture.
Ridgeview Wine Estate
A relative newcomer as an English wine producer compared to some of the others that we had visited on this trip so far, established in 1994 and produced its first wines in 1996. Since then, the reputation of the Estate has grown out of all proportion and can now claim to be one of England’s leading sparkling wine producers.
Ridgeview concentrates on making a range of sparkling wines, which can be found in stockists all over the country. They also provide Marks & Spencer with their Marksman Sparkling English Wine as well as making wines for many other local producers. Their wines have also gained the Royal seal of approval by being served at state dinners.
What we like about Ridgeview is their ability to produce consistently good wines, having tasted the full range over several vintages and two of our favourites are their Grosvenor and Knightsbridge fizz.
On our visit, we had the tasting room to ourselves. It was great to spend some time sipping and tasting the range whilst either looking out at the vineyard or down into the winery. Tours are available, please see their website for forthcoming dates.
We did have the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Oliver Marsh who is Sales and Marketing Executive. It was great to hear his take on the Ridgeview brand.
It was now time to head back to Kent, which involved one or two detours along the way including a stopover with friends in the village of Marden and what will be the final part of our 2012 tour of English vineyards.