Kent is a land of gardens and orchards, of historic castles and churches, of pretty villages and fine market towns, but above all, it is a land that is inescapably linked to the sea. Its proximity to Europe across the narrow channel means that invaders through the centuries have chosen the Kent coast as a gateway to Britain. The Romans landed here over 2,000 years ago, the Vikings followed almost 1,000 years later and the land was widely settled by the Normans following the defeat of Harold in1066. All these peoples, and the prehistoric Kent tribes that preceded them, have left their mark on the landscape and the language. Many place names, such as Rochester and Whitstable, are derived from Roman, Saxon or Norman origins. Norman churches and castles in various states of ruin or preservation still stand in the tranquil rural countryside that belies the bloodshed of centuries of successive invasions.
On the south coast, the Cinque Ports were set up in the 11thcentury as a commercial alliance of significant ports, although silting up of channels over the centuries has left many of them several miles from the sea. Henry VIII established a dockyard at Chatham, which was a major factor in Britain’s dominance of the seas in the centuries that followed. The whole length of the Kent coast has been the historic haven of smugglers, and every rocky cove and sheltered6Hop Farm, Tonbridge bay has seen daring and ruthless smugglers pursued by brave and determined but generally ineffective excise men. In villages across Kent, ancient tales of smuggling are still told and houses, churches and caves are remembered as places where the smugglers’ booty was hidden away.
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