The Lost World of the Weald

PUBLISHED: 17:56 01 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:28 20 February 2013

Not much has really changed in Horsmonden. The Gun Hotel remains, albeit renamed as the Gun and Spit Roast. There is still a corner shop in the same location. The main difference is that the roads were wider and also covered in animal droppings.

Not much has really changed in Horsmonden. The Gun Hotel remains, albeit renamed as the Gun and Spit Roast. There is still a corner shop in the same location. The main difference is that the roads were wider and also covered in animal droppings.

An invaluable photographic history of the rural High Weald reveals how much of our landscape and the people who live and work in it has changed over the decades

Often called the Garden of England, Kents landscape is actually more challenging and diverse than visitors might expect. A huge swathe of the county is accounted for by the rugged Weald, a word that means wilderness or forest. The Weald is divided into the central High Weald, the low Weald and the Greensand Hills, which are framed by the chalky North and South Downs.


Most dramatic is the High Weald which, for Kent, is largely the area that borders Sussex, taking in towns such as Tunbridge Wells, Cranbrook and Tenterden. Natural England, the governments advisor on the natural environment, notes that the High Weald was once an untamed, wooded area, with patches of wild grassland and heathland. By Domesday (1086), the High Weald remained the most densely wooded area of England and now boasts the highest proportion of ancient woodland in the country.


Much has changed since the Domesday Book was meticulously collated, with the wooded areas diluted by the resource-draining iron industry. And the landscape has changed yet again over the last few decades.


The fertile soil was ideal for the cultivation of hops, and the familiar oast houses became the architectural symbol of the county. The hop gardens have almost now completely disappeared, but fortunately a dedicated amateur photographer has preserved visual reminders of the days of hop picking


Almost 30 years ago, Paul Harvey, decided to spend a week of his holiday allocation capturing the atmosphere of the High Wealden countryside. Since then he has assembled a wonderful collection of historic and contemporary portraits of life in the High Weald of Kent.


In the early 1980s, I took a week off work around hop-picking time, Paul recalls. It was lovely late summer weather, with wonderful misty mornings. I thought Id take some pictures of the hop picking on the High Weald and capture the atmosphere. I sensed that these scenes might not be around for much longer.


I knew that the Kent landscape was starting to change, so I immersed myself into the life of the hop gardens around the Goudhurst area, getting up early to capture the photogenic mist. As I was taking the photographs, people started coming up to me to find out what I was doing and have a chat. Many of them had been hop picking for years and had come from families that had been working here for generations.


People would often give me old photos, which fascinated me. Before long, I had quite a collection of old images and I started putting on exhibitions in oast houses or barns.


The photographs all tell a story that can be pieced together by the clues in the images. They are priceless snapshots of history, recording a way of life that doesnt exist anymore.


CLICK 'ENRLAGE IMAGE' TO READ THE CAPTIONS

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 16:11

Your foreign holiday may be on hold, but there is a plethora of inspirational ways to enjoy days out right here in our home county | Words: Emma Ward - Photos: Manu Palomeque

Read more
Yesterday, 12:35

We’ve gathered six of the best dog-friendly pubs in Kent to enjoy a bite to eat after a scenic stroll

Read more

From its literary links to its cricketing history, this riverside town has plenty of surprises to discover

Read more

There may not be the usual crowds this summer, but we can still look ahead to our return to one of Kent’s favourite seaside destinations - Whitstable

Read more
Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more

As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer

Read more
Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Margate is Thanet’s trendiest seaside town so we selected some things to do, see and eat when visiting

Read more

Here are 12 places that may have flown under your radar before but are well worth seeking out

Read more

Kent is blessed with fine and indeed famous country houses, but over the decades has lost as many of its grander houses as it retains. A new book by Martin Easdown reveals 120 examples that have simply disappeared

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take our quiz to see if you can decipher the town or place in Kent from the emojis

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life