Nestled into the Greensand scarp on the National Trust’s Ightham Mote Estate, this Grade II-listed cottage is a jewel of a home. Surrounded by half an acre of garden in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this intimate yet versatile five-bedroom house extends to almost 2,000 sq ft of well-thought-out space for family living. The south-facing cottage is a local landmark and enjoys far-reaching views across the Medway Valley and Weald of Kent. Close to Hildenborough and Sevenoaks stations, it has fast and direct access to central London. A separate guest house is perfect for visitors or as a live-work studio.
Setting the Scene
Three-quarters of a mile off-road, at the end of a farm track, and surrounded by woods and farmland, the cottage is set into the steep hillside. The farm was gifted to the National Trust in 1986, and the cottage was derelict and uninhabited. The current owners took on a long lease and have painstakingly restored the property over the last 30 years. For more information, please see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
As is typical for the countryside, the back door is the everyday entrance and opens to the double-height 18th-century outshot, which runs the entire length of the house under a cat slide roof. The outshot is divided into a hall, a boot room, a separate living area, a cloakroom with a shower and washing machine, and a larder that opens off the kitchen. Beyond the hall is the dining room, currently used as a second sitting room; it is home to a wood-burning stove. From here, the Victorian cupboard staircase ascends to the first floor.
The country kitchen is housed in the later 19th-century part of the cottage and offers wooden cabinetry and exposed beams. A Stanley range cooker and boiler makes this the heart of the home, and a stable door opens onto a flower-bordered seating area, perfect for enjoying a spot of breakfast in the summer months. There is ample storage in the walk-in pantry. On the older side of the house, the main sitting room has a second wood-burning stove, set in an inglenook fireplace, keeping the room snug in winter. Windows to the front and side frame views of the garden and the open countryside beyond; a second (and the original) cupboard staircase leads to the upper floors.
The first floor has a large landing with a window overlooking the garden and distant views across the Weald. A bathroom is concealed behind double doors, next to a separate WC. The main bedroom has built-in cupboards and exposed beams. There are two further bedrooms on this floor, one of which is fitted for plumbing, offering the option to adapt it into a second bathroom.
A staircase leads from the landing to the second floor with two generous attic bedrooms and another large landing, currently used as a study.
The former generator house in the garden has been converted into a self-contained guest annexe with its own living space, kitchen, bedroom and shower room, wood-burning stove and underfloor electric heating.
The Great Outdoors
The garden immediately outside the kitchen is terraced with a stepped herb garden. The front garden has established flower beds and a small pond under an ancient willow. Behind the house are terraced areas of grass, running up to the steep woodland and offering different vantage points for a panorama of the Medway Valley. Beside the parking area, there are raised beds, fruit trees and shrubs. There are two garden sheds, plus a useful potting shed and the original ‘one holer’ (outside WC) now used for storage. The spring house at the edge of the property provided the cottage’s original water supply. The garden is carpeted with primroses, snowdrops, and daffodils in spring, while bluebells and wild garlic thrive in the surrounding woods.
Out and About
Footpaths lead from the cottage gate in all directions. The Greensand Way, which runs 108 miles from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent, passes close by. Some of the local area’s finest pubs and restaurants are within easy walking distance. The Plough at Ivy Hatch is closest, while an hour’s walk north, on the edge of Knole Park, is The Bucks Head at Godden Green. To the east in Plaxtol in The Papermaker’s Arms, with The Kentish Rifleman at Dunks Green.
The tower of Shipbourne Church can be seen from the cottage garden. A half-an-hour walk away, the church hosts a Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. Next door to the church, The Chaser Inn is a popular local hostelry. The Underriver valley, made famous by Samuel Palmer, lies to the southwest, where The White Rock Inn lies on a circular walk from the cottage.
St Julian’s Members Club is nearby with a pool, tennis courts, a cosy bar and a restaurant offering alfresco dining on finer days. Nizel’s Country Club near Weald provides golf, swimming and gym facilities, and there are many other golf courses close by, including Knole, Wildernesse and Darent Valley.
The area benefits from excellent schools, including Tonbridge and Sevenoaks schools, with state grammar schools in Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells.
In addition to the medieval manor house at Ightham Mote Knole, Penshurst Place and Hever Castle add to the array of fine historic estates in the nearby Kent countryside, enjoying rolling parkland ideal for weekend exploring. Vita Sackville-West’s world-renowned garden Sissinghurst is 40 minutes away for the keen gardener to explore.
Plaxtol and Hildenborough are the nearest villages with local stores and post offices. Four miles away in north Tonbridge, York Parade has supermarkets and an excellent butcher and bakery. There is a broader selection of national chains and independent bakeries and cafes in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, respectively, four and six miles away. Bluewater shopping centre is a 40-minute drive.
It takes 10 minutes to drive to Hildenborough Station, with direct trains to central London taking half an hour; Sevenoaks provides more frequent services. The cottage is 15 minutes from the M25, giving access to London Gatwick within 40 minutes and the Channel Tunnel is an hour away.
Underlying Lease Length: 99 years from May 2021
Ground Rent: £260 per annum, fixed
Council Tax Band: E
The south-facing orientation and its position on a spring line and track suggest that the site was a favoured place to live long before the current 18th-century cottage was first recorded. The cottage originally had two bays, and in Victorian times, a third bay was added, housing the current kitchen and floors above.
Ightham Mote dates back to 1340 and is described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “the most complete small medieval manor house in the country”. Like the cottage, it is constructed of Kentish ragstone with timber-framed floors above.
The American Palmer family lived at Ightham Mote from 1887 to 1890 and welcomed many luminaries of the aesthetic movement. Before that, another Palmer, the visionary artist Samuel, a key figure in the romantic period – painted many local landscapes.
The cottage was uninhabited from the 1960s until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1986. The present owners took out a lease on the home and commenced work on a loving restoration project in 1991. Their three children have grown up and moved on and the time has come for another family to savour and cherish this unique and tranquil home
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