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Journey into the Weald of Kent (1959)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Beginning in South East London and the Old Kent Road, the film leaves the city over Rootham Hill to explore the rural environs of the Kentish countryside, journeying down country roads past orchards, oast houses and little villages. Men and women harvest cherries from ladders raised in the trees.

The village of Smarden and its timber framed, weather boarded buildings. Betjeman traces the history of the village through the architecture of the houses. At Nettlestead village a cricket match is being played on the green. In Nettlestead church, attention is paid to the stained glass and the artistry of its creation.

Along past hop fields and more oast houses to Sissinghurst Castle. Betjeman appreciates the brickwork and detailing, before extolling the beauty of the garden restored by 'Mrs Nicholson'. The landscaped setting of Mereworth Castle, and the magnificence of its ground floor. Various details of the house are explored: the 'private sky' of the painted and plastered ceilings, the parquet floor of the card room, and the tapestries on the walls.

The summer hop harvest on a Kentish farm, with families stripping the hops from the vine. The ruins of Bayham Abbey on the Sussex border. Betjeman loves its 'unofficial', 'untidied' quality and tells the history of the Abbey while the camera glides about the walls and grounds.

Autumnal hedges with fruit on the bushes and trees, Betjeman describes the scene by quoting the Kent poet Edmund Blunden: "A symphony of sounds, sights and scenes".