Home and Gardens of the High Sheriff of Kent
Following Sunday’s Celebration of Holy Eucharist in the Cathedral and picnic reception held on the grounds, about forty pilgrims boarded a coach anticipating afternoon tea with the High Sheriff of Kent, Richard Oldfield and his wife Amicia, at their home, Doddington Place.
The group of travellers was welcomed first at the entry gate by a tall gentle hound and next across the threshold by the Sheriff and given a brochure which included a guide to the gardens. The Sheriff provided a brief introduction to the gardens and directed us to explore at will. The brochure included a history of the house, built in 1870 and inhabited by the Oldfield family for approximately 100 years, and details and development of the gardens.
The experience provided much variety, while remaining restful. A first time visitor felt drawn into spacious lawns bordered by Yew hedges, beckoned by the call of water gently tumbling through the rock garden and embraced by shade provided by a high canopy of ancient forest trees. In a wall at the end of the south terrace, one encounters a number of plaques bearing names which one discovers are those of several generations of Oldfield Family dogs which have been buried there. Also encountered, are occasional Latin inscriptions, often ambiguous. The brochure explains: “Et in Arcadia Ego, loosely translated means either, “I, who am dead, am still with you in this lovely garden” or “I, death, am with you even in this lovely garden.”
Tea was received under a tent on the lawns adjacent to the house where our hosts engaged visitors in conversation including opportunities for personal introductions and social highlights of gathering for the Lambeth Conference.
As the party returned from the lawns to the awaiting coach, we encountered horses being brought in from the fields for a late afternoon bath before being stabled for the evening: Two adults, a gelding Hunter and a lovely Mare followed by her six month offspring. The filly, Arabella, enjoyed alternately feigning independence by nibbling grass and abruptly springing off, tail up and dancing, to rejoin her mother, to the delight of us all!
Back on the coach, a parting glance toward the entry gates recalled the nature of hospitality of the day, two dogs, the hound who had first welcomed us, and his small black Pug companion, trotted back toward the house, to the embrace of hearth and heart.