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A Christmas Carol from Sheffield to Kent!
15th December 2020
Our lockdown INN CROWD residencies are hotting up! Stacey and Bethany, our writers in residence at the wondrous White Lion in Selling, took a trip recently to meet their host pub. We asked them to write us a little blog post about their experience and they have sent us a magical run-down of their time in Kent.
Stacey & Bethany should soon have a date to present the song to the community in person - watch this space!
This is what our postcard says. With a picture of us smiling out from our local bus stop.
Hello, we’re Stacey and Bethany from Sheffield. We are Remote Artists in Residence at the White Lion and we’d like to say hello.
What it doesn’t say is this: We have been cooped up in our houses… In our little laptop, paper, pinboard and post-it note laden corners for the past few months. It’s not our natural habitat. We like to be out in the wild. We wish we could say hello IN PERSON.
We had already made contact over Zoom, and phone, and email… But we started to wonder if it was possible to get down to our host pub. Just for one night. We talked about it loads, between ourselves and with our amazing collaborator – Karen, the landlady. We came up with a plan. We would be masked crusaders, socially-distant daredevils. We would make it happen.
So a couple of weeks ago, before the most recent set of restrictions came in, on a rainy Saturday morning, Bethany and I set off on our 500 mile round trip. We had 24 hours to absorb as much as we could about The White Lion, the surrounding village of Selling, and the people who make it the place it is.
As the endless motorways petered out into country roads we talked about the unfamiliarity of the landscape. The flatness. The glassy yellow colour of the fields, as far as the eye could see – punctuated only with the curious shapes of converted Hop Houses every few hundred yards. Nothing like our Seven Hills of home.
We found The White Lion nestled in the middle of a narrow street. A picture perfect pub with ivy climbing the walls, hanging baskets, brickwork studded with accolades – Including (personal fave) being winner of the intriguing Shepherd Neame Eggs Competition in 1984. Karen welcomed us like long lost friends and soon we had a glass of red wine in our hands and a seat by the fireplace.
Among the smiling faces of regulars we met Vic and Tony. Seasoned ale drinkers and story tellers. They told us about the hop-filled heritage of the area, how they remembered it as kids compared with how it is now. The scratch of the plants on your hands and arms as you picked them off the bine. We looked above us to see eight foot hop-picking stilts, attached to the ceiling. A piece of history, clinging to the rafters.
Karen explained how when they moved into the pub, almost every item of furniture, pictures and ornaments had been sold by the previous owner. The stilts, and a few faded photographs of people wearing them, were some of the only things that remained. Karen and her family took on the role of ‘custodians’ – Lovingly transforming the pub back into the charm-filled place it is now. We topped up our wine and made room for some home-made crumble, stuffed with plums picked from a stone’s throw away. We were getting the flavour of the place.
Next day the rain came harder, but we pulled up our hoods and set out to follow the round walk on the pub’s website – Up into Perry Wood and down through the orchards. We looked up at ancient trees, knelt down to appreciate fairy tale mushrooms, marvelled at the rows and rows and rows and rows of fruit trees. We stood on The Pulpit, at the wood’s highest point and looked out over a cloud-filled Kent sky to spires and fields and winding roads in the distance. We felt the opposite of locked down.
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