Shepherd House, Faversham

I had never considered visiting Faversham, that is until I discovered Shepherd House. Clare Weston and her husband Simon have recently bought this beautiful Georgian property and have decorated the period house into what is now Kent’s most stylish b&b.

The boutique accommodation is minutes away from Faversham station, where a fast train takes just 1 hour to get to London King’s Cross, making it the perfect weekend escape. We arrived on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, greeted by the lovely smiley Clare. I fell instantly in love with the house and felt like Clare was an old friend welcoming us into her home. Downstairs, we admired the vibrant green and yellow living room, which embraces the Georgian features while adding a contemporary personality and sense of fun with modern artwork, fresh flowers and patterned rugs. Vintage jazz music was playing and a small spirit collection is left out for guests who wish to relax with an evening aperitif.

Currently there are three bedrooms of varying sizes, though work is underway to open a few more soon. We quickly settled into the ‘Very, very large double’ bedroom, our home for the night. Clare has a real talent for interiors – each of the rooms has a subtle colour theme with vintage and modern touches that are carefully balanced to create a sophisticated but relaxing environment to spend time in. All of the bedrooms feature indulgent bathtubs, ours was a freestanding masterpiece from Albion Bath Co. The room was decorated in a palate of pinks and greys with the original floorboards, fireplaces and grand windows still intact. Appealing coffee table books and seasonal flowers adorned every surface and the king size bed was topped with a soft duvet and cushions.

The bathroom was my favourite part, with luxurious his-and/hers rain showers, expensive Kiehl’s toiletries and views overlooking the town. Shiny grey and black tiles contrast with the dusty pink paint and give a glamorous retro feel.

We spent as much time as possible in our bedroom, flicking through the books, listening to music from the retro Roberts radio and making good use of the coffee facilities… the Tanzanian Garage Coffee was the best I’ve ever tasted in a hotel room. I slept for much longer than I normally would, my body relishing the opportunity to truly unwind. In the morning the large windows let in bursts of sunlight, it was bliss.

Guests are encouraged to enjoy the whole property and the spacious garden at the back is particularly lovely on sunnier days. Breakfast in the morning is served in the living room and Clare cooked up a feast for us to devour, it was as delicious as it looks. Fresh juice and coffee, fruit salad, yoghurt and pastries arrived first. We picked at things while catching up on emails and reading the days’ news. Then came the main event, hot dishes from the lavish brunch menu. The full breakfast and French toast with blueberries and bacon were both delicious, so good in fact that I wondered if Clare had thought of opening up as a brunch parlour for outside guests too.

Nearby, guests may choose to visit picturesque Whitstable for fresh oysters or hip Margate where the new Dreamland and Turner Contemporary gallery are boosting tourism. Foodies will delight at the opportunity to visit Britain’s no.1 gastropub, The Sportsman in Seasalter. Needless to say there is more than enough to keep you busy for a weekend minibreak, though I wouldn’t blame you if you barely ventured out, Shepherd House is pretty difficult to say goodbye to.

More information and book a room at Shepherd House here.

Hop Farm Festival 2012

Hop Farm is a happy festival. Couples cuddle, kids play and music lovers unite for three days of listening, watching, eating, camping and dressing to impress.

We were blessed with predominantly sunny weather this year for the 5th annual festival in Kent. The line-up wasn’t perhaps as thrilling as previous years and yet the positive mood and joyful vibe were enough to ensure everyone had an awesome time.

We arrived late afternoon on Friday and after parking my friend’s dinky convertible, we started the epic walk to the campsite. Both of us were laden with pillows, tent equipment, clothes and fake eyelashes – I felt like a donkey, and must have burned several thousand calories trekking with all the baggage. Luckily I had just enough energy to flirt with a couple of security guards and they carried our bags for the final leg, helping us find a suitable spare clod of grass for our miniature tent. The final gasps of breath were used to blow up two air beds and construct our accommodation, a tall order for a pair of girly girls. A bottle of white wine later and we were on our way, following the pumping beat and the distant melodies coming from the main stage.

This year Hop Farm had a variety of vintage stalls and before I even had the chance to see a band I was in the midst of second hand silk shirts, floaty dresses, scarves and headbands… all the festival gear you could possible need. There was the usual face painting artists, a bohemian couple with their wishing tree and other hippie areas.

For me musically there were a few real highlights, most blend into a haze of beery, sunny relaxation.

For the headliners, well I’ve seen Bobby D before and I’m sad to say that this year his voice sounded wearier, his attitude sulkier and his performance less memorable. Noone can deny his obvious musical genius though and a virtuosic harmonica solo made his presence worth watching. Peter Gabriel and the New Red Blood Orchestra made quite an impression… this artist certainly pushes boundaries, his filmic set filled the field, a mysterious and exciting style of music that I felt really suited Hop Farm’s ambience.

I am always appreciative of Hop Farm’s petite scale, after gobbling our Breakfast Club burritos in the morning we wandered with glitter only partially distracting our vision. Discovering new artists is such a joy for me and here we fell in love with the talented ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ and the veteran ‘Taj Mahal’ and sang along to great bands like Athlete and Damien Rice who both gave heartfelt melancholic renditions of their repertoire on stage. A mention must also go to Sir Bruce Forsyth, who at the age of 84 gave one of the most spirited and smiling performances of the weekend, tap dancing and singing tremendously, obviously overjoyed by the audience’s warm welcome.

To avoid the traffic queues home on Sunday, we left before Suede, the final headliner. But we went out with a bang, standing at the very front for Kool and the Gang and grooving enthusiastically to the infectiously fabulous musical show on stage. These hip guys dance with charisma and masses of sex appeal… the crowd went wild, flinging themselves energetically towards the stage, arms flailing desperately towards the attention loving performers.

On the way home to the Euro football final, we reminisced about the spectacular weekend we had enjoyed at Hop Farm. As ever this festival presents its visitors with great music, delicious food and an unbeatable atmosphere. I can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring to this special event.

Visit the Hop Farm website here.