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May 2016 Society visit to Sevenoaks

30th May 2016

On a sunny day in May, ten intrepid Members set forth in their shared cars to visit the Sevenoaks Society.   This followed the trend in recent years which has been to visit other similar Societies to hear at first hand their problems and interests. We were welcomed on arrival by the Secretary of the Society in his home for coffee and a brief history of the town. We were also greeted by two other Members, the Treasurer and their Publicity Officer.

The name Sevenoaks is derived from its original name Seouenaca, which was a small chapel built near seven oak trees around AD800, and the area is renowned for its extraordinary wealth and variety of trees in the town and surrounding countryside.  

An exhibition was held recently on “The Remarkable Trees of Sevenoaks” as an aid to the trees’ long term protection and a number of special trees has now been classified as “Heritage Trees”, being of considerable importance to the community.  We saw the large display boards, illustrating, naming and dating where possible over twenty of these historic trees, ranging from oak and chestnut to varieties of maple.   This exhibition was timely for us and was of course of great interest to the tree huggers among us.   

We also heard of planning problems similar to our own and although there were no Guildford Society planners among us, these were understood and appreciated by our group.

Accompanied by the three Society members, a delicious lunch at a nearby hostelry was enjoyed, with much conversation and conviviality.   Thus refreshed we were conducted on a walk to see some of the historic buildings in the old town with dates and information on their usage now and in the past.  

A big problem for this older area was the constant stream of traffic.   Transport links are generally very busy and town centre congestion is common at peak times and the roads are narrow due to the limited width available, but the walls and gardens we passed along our route were ablaze with wisteria and roses..

We were eventually led into exciting sunken depths at one side of the road, green with wild flowers and cobble stones.   Here we saw medieval looking buildings, derelict, crooked and picturesque, if somewhat dangerous looking, structures, resembling houses of a kind, cottages and small cottage gardens.   The tiled roofs were in various states of repair, and in mixed decorative order, as they were in private ownership.   One intriguing roof was an old “catslide” roof, which continued below the main eves to allow a greater depth of building without increasing the height.   We rather went for the other explanation  that cats in trouble at the top could slide to safety!

We were left with these fascinating insights into old Sevenoaks and led back to where we had left our few shared cars, to face the M25 return journey after a relaxing if tiring and enjoyable outing.