Most villages contain unexpected surprises, but Rolvenden has one greater and more rewarding than most.
Falstaff Antiques on the High Street at first seems like little more than a little treasure trove of curiosities – a varied selection of items with an emphasis on model railways and cars, as well as petrol station memorabilia. The sign outside reads ‘MOTOR MUSEUM’ and you presume this is it; a collection of objects from the bygone days of motoring that you can buy.
In fact it’s only if you head for the counter at the back of the shop that you see a sign reading “Motor Museum – £4 adults.” (£1 Children)
Continuing through a door to the rear you find a showroom that Mr Booth the proprietor first opened to the public in 1972.
The main focus is on Morgan 3 wheelers, with the first example being built in 1909. It is perhaps the finest collection of these unique vehicles in the country and most are in roadworthy condition – proven by the fact that Mr Booth is frequently to be seen driving them. Motor enthusiasts make long journeys to Rolvenden to visit this unique attraction and if you are in the area it is certainly worth your time.
Rolvenden itself has a wide main high street with attractive period properties typical of the area on one side with more modern housing on the other.
St Mary The Virgin church, at the southern end of the high street, is large for a village this size and contains one feature that is worth seeking out. At the top right hand side of the nave a wooden box contains a book always turned to the current date, and then lists those resting in the graveyard who died on that date along with the year they were buried. Taking the time to make a note of the name and then venturing out to pay your respects is an interesting way of exploring the graveyard.
The nearby village hall, which is also of a good size for a village, suggests that this is a place with an active community. This can be best seen every Thursday morning when a popular farmers market starts early and is finished by 10am so make sure you set off in time to be able to take advantage of the genuinely fresh local produce.
There are two pubs. The Bull Inn has a menu of constantly changing specials which always indicates the ingredients are as fresh as the farmer’s market. And The Star, on the High Street, provides a very friendly welcome and benefits from a beer garden in summer.
Many visitors to Rolvenden will be there to take advantage of nearby Hole Park, a large country house famous for its gardens. Winner of many awards, the immaculate grounds are great for children to explore as well as adults to marvel at and are famous for their springtime bluebells. The gardens open especially in February for the snowdrop plant fair before the main season begins on the 1st of April.
Just over a mile outside the village (on the road to Tenterden) is Rolvenden train station, a stop on the preserved Kent & East Sussex Railway. Although Tenterden Town is the main terminus and where most people would embark from, Rolvenden is worth a special mention because even in off-season when the trains aren’t running the platform is unexpectedly open for anyone to explore.
Restored with a wonderful eye for detail, at the far end of the platform you can take steps up to a viewing platform which looks over the sidings headed into the engine shed where, even in the dead of winter, engines will be parked whilst undergoing maintenance.
For train-mad children and adults, this treat is entirely free (simply park off the road opposite the station) and there’s plenty to see.
Proving that all villages provide something unique, Rolvenden triumphs by allowing the transport enthusiast a visit to a wonderful motor museum and to explore a train station from the 1950’s even in the depths of January. Or if it happens to be February – there’s the snowdrops, too!
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