My village is in Kent, which once was known for its smuggling, fighting, outrage, and theft… perpetrated by rogues that infested every street corner’.
This was in the 19th Century. It was known as Milkhouse Street back then (also Mylkehouse), and due to its bad reputation, it was changed to Sissinghurst. The name stuck.
The village is far removed from the rogue-infested hub of smuggling, outrage and smuggling. It’s an idyllic chocolate-box village with a noteworthy rollcall of former residents, including poet and gardener Vita Sackville-West and Ian Hislop, and a charming rustic pub, The Milk House – my lodgings for the night.
Ted stays at The Milk House pub, pictured, in Sissinghurst, reaching it by way of a 55-mile bike ride from South London
Four comfortable bedrooms can be found in the Milk House which dates back from 16 century.
The Milk House’s bar where Ted and his chum can enjoy ales by an open flame.
This charming bolthole was a great place to stay with a friend. We cycled 55 miles (88km), from our South London home, across leafy lanes and through idyllic hamlets, past beautiful examples of the unique oast house, which were conical structures that dried hops during the beer brewing process. Most of these houses have been converted into houses.
We start our day in the morning, and plan to stop at the tearoom for lunch in Otford (just north of Sevenoaks).
However, the Downe Road climb stands between the cakes and sandwiches. This is an infuriating little climb that has an uphill on 2 bends at the top, which can reach 24 percent.
Fortunately, this mildly terrifying section – so steep you must lean over the handlebars while pedalling – is mercifully short.
Before we reach our Otford stop, Sally’s Cake Emporium, we experience the excitement of descending Star Hill with a maximum gradient 12 percent.
The paradise of sweet-toothed delights is decorated cartoonishly and we stop by for a snack like BLTs or cinnamon cake.
We are full and ready to go, so we continue onwards towards Hadlow, with its remarkable 175ft tall folly, Hadlow Tower. This Gothic Victorian structure was built in Victorian Gothic style, which served as a Home Guard watch post during WWII.
Ted’s route to The Milk House pub includes a quick stop to admire the extraordinary 175ft-tall Grade I-listed Hadlow Tower
Ted embarks on his Kent journey with Colin, his friend. The picture on the left shows their bikes outside the delightful Sally’s Cake Emporium in Otford (right)
The next stop is an encounter with High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and then a cruise at dusk through Cranbrook’s time capsule village. Just beyond the AONB border is Sissinghurst.
Warmly lit, the 16-century Milk House pub offers relief from sore legs and eyes.
The place is managed by Sarah and Dane Allchorne (a professional chef), who purchased it in 2013, when the Bull was still called The Bull.
Sarah says: “When Dane (and I) took it over, we felt it needed to be completely refreshed. It was closed for 3 years. We wanted to make a fresh start because of its poor reputation.
‘It’s a listed building – the front of the pub where the fireplace is, is where we think the original 16th-century structure started. Many previous owners added to it. It was only repainted and moved a few walls. This was an old coaching house on Mylkehouse Street. We came up with the new name.
“It took a lot of work to negotiate The Milk House but it was worth it.”
Your hard work paid off.
Ted rides through Cranbrook’s Union Mill while on his journey to Sissinghurst. He also stops at The Milk House Pub for the night.
Sarah and Dane employ friendly staff and have fun making puns about the menus. They also let the heritage breathe with the guests enjoying a soothing palette, wooden beams, and the occasional wonky floor.
(I’m not sure what the bookcase wallpaper is.
We love our twin room – The Buttery, which is one of four. Mini milk churns are used to store fresh milk and towels for coffee and tea.
I am unable to locate the handle for my handheld shower, however the rain shower in the bathtub restores my pre-55-mile ride perkiness.
Ted and Colin stayed in The Buttery, a twin-room at The Milk House. The image below shows one of the double-bed options.
The dining room occupies a large part of the downstairs space. Guests can enjoy “good value, grinning gourmet pub grub”.
It’s now time to refresh yourself and discover this pub with rooms.
Harveys Sussex Best beers are offered by the flames of the bar.
Due to Dane’s skills at the stove, a lot of downstairs space is used for a dining room.
Sarah and Dane Allchorne (professional chef and owner of The Milk House) run the establishment. They bought it in 2013 and renovated it.
To commemorate 2007’s Tour De France through Sissinghurst, the Penny Farthing was installed
He has worked with Michelin chefs in London, Australia, and as a chef.
This man offers good quality, grin-inducing pub grub.
I really enjoy my fresh and sprightly grilled mackerel fillet with sourdough ciabatta, dill and chive cream, citrus pickled cucumber and radish slaw (£11) – and a first-rate main of fish and chips (£14) keeps the taste buds dancing.
But I’m slightly miffed by my dessert – a pink grapefruit curd with meringues, cream and freeze-dried blackberries (£7).
I find the curd too bitter.
The wines are appealing and have descriptions that make it easy for non-connoisseurs to understand.
We quaff Mountfield Classic Cuvee, a highly competent fizz from Sussex (£10), and post-bubbles I go for another Sussex number, a £7.50 glass of Stopham Estate Pinot Gris (‘local gem, stone fruit, lively’), while my companion Colin opts for a £6.50 glass of Primitivo Grifone from Puglia (‘rich, bbq, rustic, bramble fruits’) to go with his tasty bangers and mash (£12).
The St Clere Estate’s majestic grandeur is one of the highlights on the return leg. The following picture is from Creative Commons.
The service itself is outstanding.
The breakfast is equally impressive. Dane returns to the kitchen, making delicious scrambled eggs, and creating a tasty veggie breakfast. Dane has stacked the tomatoes and mushrooms so that they can be used as little houses.
Also available are jars of honeyed Greek Yogurt with Berry Compote.
After exploring the village (which included investigating the large metal Penny Farthing commemorating the Tour De France passing through in 2007), and admiring a charming duck pond at its back, we were ready to set out for London.
Highlights of the return leg include Ightham (a new route for the first 30-miles or so), a flat white from a Wateringbury pop-up cafe by the River Medway, the majestic majesty and splendor of St Clere Estate, as well as a hot cocoa with marshmallows at Sally’s Cake Emporium Part 2.
Going back up Star Hill isn’t so joyful and louts in a Golf GTI yell ‘w*****s’ at us as we brave the Downe Hill road descent (perhaps their lineage can be traced to the rogues of Milkhouse Street), but we still feel buoyant once back in the city – proud to have conquered the Kent Alps and keen to spread the word about Sarah and Dane’s heavenly haven.
Which, by the way, is also easy to reach by car and train…