Welcome to Bressenden

Bressenden welcomes guests throughout the year. To find out more, the home page is a good place to start. Here are the essentials.

  • Cooked English Breakfast is included in the price.
  • Standard rate is £95 twin/superking bed with private bathroom or £110 king bed with ensuite. Off-peak rates usually discounted by £10.
  • Discounts for 3 nights or more.
  • Stay 7 nights for the price of 6 nights.
  • Reduced rate for Benenden Hospital patients: one night without breakfast at £15 less than the normal rate.
  • There is a two-night minimum stay (except for Benenden patients).
  • £5 off per night if you book online.

Preparing for Christmas

December 17th, 2021

As we wait for the omicron surge, I have decorated the breakfast room and will carry on as normal. Triple vaccinated and armed with colourful FFP2 masks and white FFP3 ones, we are open for business, albeit at arm’s length, until further notice. A happy Christmas to guests, family and friends.

Waterless weekend

Friday, December 3rd, 2021


At the beginning of the week, this is what the guest kitchen’s table looked like after two days of no water. A burst water main (yet again) proved difficult to repair, and when the water was turned back on there was no guarantee that it would not be turned off again. So I hurriedly filled every vessel I could lay my hands on while the going was good. My guests endured the lack of baths and showers, not to mention the waterless closet (i.e. non-flushing loo) with admirable stoicism. I watched the growing pile of two days’ worth of greasy bacon pans, sausage tins and egg and mushroom skillets, together with dirty plates, cups, glasses and cutlery, plus our own supper dishes, with increasing alarm. Would I run out of things to cook with or eat off? Poached eggs were definitely not an option as I barely had enough bottled water for the tea pot, coffee jug and tooth mugs. The water board claimed to have left bottles of water in a lay-by, but when I got there, there was not a drop left. The water came back just in time to avoid having to cook a second breakfast without it.

Autumn Golds

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

Waiting for the right moment to photograph the parrotia persica at the bottom of the garden is always nerve-wracking. It takes weeks for this big tree to colour up, and if I wait too long there is the risk of an overnight gale stripping it of all its leaves. But I think today is the day!

Bread and Butter

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Good bread requires good butter. What better to accompany Bressenden’s homemade sourdough bread than Kent Cowslip butter. This is made by Cheesemakers of Caterbury from cream that comes from local dairy farms, including Hinxden Farm in Benenden, which supplies our milk. The best thing about it, apart from the taste, colour and texture, is its shape. Its sausage-like form just happens to be an exact fit for my little glass butter dishes. All I have to do is to slice a piece off and pop into the dish without further adjustment. The extra cost of this wonderful butter is more than offset by the time savings. Before I found this butter, I would spend ages waiting for standard cubes of butter to soften to the exact consistency needed for spreading, moulding and easing it into my dishes. It would slip and slide around awkwardly in the process and was a surprisingly difficult and time-consuming undertaking, one of the many annoyingly fiddly chores that have to be done the night before a breakfast service. Now I can load my dishes in seconds at very short notice if required. Cheesemakers of Canterbury, whatever you do, please will you never alter the shape of your butter. It is just perfect!

Circles

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

This lawn has always been cut in stripes. Yesterday, my gardener Colin felt inspired to try circles. We both like the result so much that from now this will be the default. This poor lawn was recently attacked by an animal which dug holes all over it, presumably looking for something to eat and/or kill. It happened overnight  a few weeks ago and the lawn next morning was in a truly bad state, pockmarked from top to bottom and side to side. We’re filling the dozens of cavities with soil from molehills. This, together with the multitude of funguses, spiders and other living organisms that emerge at this time of year, is the down side of living in the middle of a wood. The big side lawn is the one that tends to attract the moles. It was being cut yesterday by a family of deer that spent the whole day grazing peacefully.

Low Season

Friday, October 1st, 2021

October 1st marks the beginning of my winter season. Not that it feels or looks like winter just yet. The fig tree, planted in the 1960s from a cutting of a tree that stood in the front garden of my family’s St John’s Wood home in London, has yet to shed its leaves. When it does eventually divest itself, there will be great piles of enormous leaves to clear away. This tree has to be pruned hard every year. If left to grow unchecked, it would by now be as big as the whole of the garden in which its parent stood at Number 8 Woronzow Road, London NW8.

From now until Easter, although it is tempting to shut up shop and take a holiday, I try to keep one room open. Bookings naturally tail off after September, especially in rural locations like this one. But hosting one set of guests once a week for a couple of days provides a trickle of income towards maintenance and energy costs, justifies the weekly food deliveries and gives me something to keep me occupied without giving me the enormous workload that I have during the short, intense summer season. Having plenty of days off also gives me a chance to do repairs and upgrades, touch up paintwork, clean or renew mattresses and bedding and just generally take stock of the state of things like roofs and windows (both of which there are far too many in this house). Such tasks are impossible during the hectic summer months.

If you want to book a room, you will find that the only one available online for the next couple of months is the East Wing. If it’s already booked and you want to come and stay, you will need to contact me to find out whether I can open up another room for you. I recently adopted a policy of not releasing dates for booking rooms more than two or three months in advance. In previous years I opened up dates up to a year ahead, but I found that almost all of those advance bookings got cancelled, usually at fairly short notice. Short lead times make life much easier for me.

Secret Corners

Saturday, September 11th, 2021

Four miles down the lane from here is the village of Rolvenden, where Great Maytham Hall is said to be the inspiration for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. This was one of my favourite books as a child, and the name Colin has always been associated in my mind with that novel. My gardener is called Colin, and since starting work here this summer — among many other gardens that he also looks after in this area — I feel that he has waved a magic wand over the grounds, which I had begun to neglect in recent months. His energy is a wonder to behold and I look forward to the improvements he is intending to make, particularly to the yew hedges, which are tricky to trim. Yesterday he was busy uncovering the old ornamental well, hidden behind bits of overgrown rhododendron, bramble and yew. I remember the day I was first able to peer over the edge and see the black mud at the bottom. I was seven years old and felt very grown up.

We are enjoying some glorious weather that we should have had in August but never did. Let us hope that these fine days will last through to the end of September, so that the many guests who are due to stay here this month may enjoy the garden and the fruit of Colin’s labours.

Socially Distanced

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

Here are place settings for two couples at opposite ends of the table. Normally guests are seated near to the window end of the room and they generally enjoy making one another’s acquaintance over breakfast. On this occasion, it was clear that one couple preferred as much separation as possible, so I quickly re-arranged the place settings so that they sat at the far end near the door. This photo shows the table laid for the second morning, with the jams in No-man’s land in the middle of the table.

This was a few weeks ago. Since then the number of covid-19 cases in the area has gone up fairly steadily until it is now back to a level at which I no longer feel comfortable accepting new bookings other than from patients at Benenden Hospital. Added to this, my cleaners have covid in the family and are self-isolating, so I have had to do all the cleaning as well the hundred and one other chores that are involved in running a B&B. Time, therefore, to scale back my operations — at least for a while until it becomes clear which way the wind is blowing.

I run this B&B more or less single-handedly, certainly as far as cooking breakfast is concerned. If a guest were to transmit the virus to me and I become symptomatic, I should be forced to self-isolate and would not be able to look after my guests or give them breakfast. Turning away guests at such short notice would be hugely disruptive and inconvenient, especially as I hear that hotel or B&B accommodation is in very short supply around here. I suspect that other B&Bs have either closed or not re-opened since restrictions were lifted.

I have quite a few guests arriving in the coming two months. I will of course honour these bookings but have disabled all future online bookings for the time being and will re-open rooms and dates as and when this unpredictable situation changes for the better.

Another Tree Down

Monday, July 26th, 2021

This garden was planted up a century ago. Inevitably, some of its trees are reaching the end of their lives. Ten days ago I casually mentioned to my tree surgeon that the big cherry tree near the yew hedge was beginning to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It has been like that for years, and we have sometimes removed boughs to reduce the weight on one side, but this summer the angle widened to a worrying degree. The roots were rising from the ground and the yew hedge was now at risk, so I asked the tree surgeon to come over and look at it last Wednesday.

We decided that the tree must be felled sooner rather than later. This was sad, as that tree had been part of my life since my early childhood in 1960 when we came to live here. We had four more days of hot weather scheduled, so he said he would take the tree down once the heat had abated. That was five days ago.

Yesterday the weather turned. At the end of a day of rain and thunderstorms, I glanced out of an upstairs window and saw that the tree had taken matters into its own hands. That venerable old cherry, having just yielded its last crop of fruit to the local wood pigeons, jays and blackbirds, decided to gracefully bow out from this world rather than be subjected to the guillotine.