During the summer just gone by I was in one of the prettiest of villages in Kent, the scenically lovely county of South East England which is often called the Garden of England because of its abundance of fruit and vegetable farms and orchards (supplying the great markets of nearby London) and also its many hopfields - hops of course going into the manufacture of beers and ales. The whole area is dotted with oast houses where the hops are stored and dried out. The pubs of Kent are some of the best I've ever been into, not only because they look so charming and are full of character, but also because you hear all the locals chatting together in the bars.....in their Southern Accents.
For Kent, due to its location, is very much the base of a Southern Accent...English English style. Basically it's standard English English RP but away from the Medway towns of Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham (the home area of the writer Charles Dickens, just for one) and the outer suburban areas close to South East London, places such as Dartford, Orpington, Bromley, Erith, Crayford and Bexleyheath there is not anything like so much of the Estuary influence in the speech of the younger people. I also noticed that many of the really older people had the more rhotic rural tinges to their accent, which I reckon is dyng out fast with the old ladies and gentlemen passing on to glory.
The village I am referring to is Goudhurst (the "Goud-" bit rhymes with "loud") which is to the south of Maidstone in the area of Kent called the Weald, which is simply gently undulating and extremely pleasant countryside with very chalky soil.
This chalky soil (seen it's all it splendour in the white cliffs of Dover and at Beachy Head and the famous Seven Sisters cliffs of Sussex and Kent).
It's this chalky soil (rich in calcium carbonate and magnesium) which makes the water supplies of London and much of southern and eastern England extremely hard. It's impossible to get a lather in these area no matter how much soap you use, all you get is sodium stearate scum floating on the surface, and it causes the furring up of kettles and pipes and washing machines, etc with white deposits unless you use various means to combat this problem. The use of such products as Calgon is essential if you wish to prevent your electrical devices becoming blocked up with this white chalky gunge.
Kent is also called the Gateway to England for obvious reasons.....just 22 miles of Englsh Channel separate it from Continental Europe. Most of the Continental registerd HGVs you see on the roads of the UK have entered this country through ports like Dover, one of the busiest such ports in the UK and a fascinating place it is, too. From the clifftop above Dover or nearby Folkestone you can clearly see the coast of France on 4 days out of every 5.
Here are a group of people (most of them young) practising the skill of campanology - the official word for bell ringing. It really is a skill and requires a great deal of training and practice. Every church tower in the UK has a peal of bells, and the guys you see here are in the tower of the parish church in the aforementioned Goudhurst. Each peal of bells is different and all of them have names.
Sunday mornings in the UK would not be Sunday mornings without the pealing of bells ringing out.
A mile or two outside of Goudhurst is Sissinghurst - the former home and country estate of the writer, poetess and renowned gardener Vita Sackville West and her MP (Member of Parliament) husband Harold Nicolson. It's an amazing place to visit, not only because of the beautiful ancient mansion and outbuildings but also because of the tall tower with a magnificent view out over the Wealden landscape and, of course, the beautifully laid out gardens.
During WW2 and especially during the invasion scares in the earlier part of the war, the ringing of church bells in Britain was banned under normal circumstances. A Government Order decreed that the ringing of church bells could only take place in the event of an actual invasion of British territory by the Nazi Germans. Thankfully the Order was never put into practice as no such invasion took place....wartime Britain heaved a sigh of relief.
In late 1944 church bells once again began to ring out loud and clear across the British countryside, for legitimate purposes.
The bell ringers of Goudhurst, Kent, England: