Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent

Whilst I may now be based up in Edinburgh there are still a few posts to share from my time almost at the opposite end of the country in Kent. One such post is about Mote park in Maidstone. When I think of it I think of times spent there with my cousins during the school summer holidays when my Uncle used to take us there, doubtless to burn some energy off and get us out from under our Grandma's feet for awhile. I remember swimming lessons taken at the leisure centre next door as a child too. I also remember being a little older and heading there with a friend to the Radio 1 Roadshow (yes I'm old enough to remember the predecessor to the Big Weekend) when it came to Mote park. I have no recollection of who we saw though so I'm guessing it was no one that great. Then when I was working in London but still living in Maidstone the Radio 1 Big Weekend came to the park and this time Madonna (yes the actual Madonna came to my hometown) headlined and other good bands played too. Of course I tried my luck in the postcode lottery to get tickets and remember being incredibly disappointed when I wasn't successful. I had convinced myself it was a given as I lived so close to it. But since then my life naturally moved on and going back to a park from my childhood was not a high priority when I was back home. After such a long time then, and it being somewhere I'd barely thought about, it was nice to take a walk back there, particularly with my husband who'd never been before. From my parents home the park is not far so perfect for a spontaneous decision to go for a walk somewhere and get out of the house for awhile.

Growing up I just knew it as a park in Maidstone but it has quite a long history, certainly more than I would have previously given it credit for, its name comes from the Old English word, 'moot' meaning meeting place. Another place close by, Penenden Heath, was used as a venue for Middle Age shire moots so it seems these areas were places of great administrative importance. Records going back to the 13th Century also indicate that the 'mote' lands were incorporated into the manor of local landowners as well as there being a manor house in the park area which was described as fortified. These were incorporated into an area that was stocked with deer suggesting the area may have been one of the earliest deer parks in Kent.

I've also discovered that the park had Royal connections, being purchased by the Woodville family from Northamptonshire in 1370, whose Elizabeth Woodville would subsequently go on to marry King Edward IV in 1464 meaning the park became a possession of the Royal family. The land was eventually sold to Sir Henry Wyatt who lived at nearby Allington castle (somewhere else we spotted on another walk around the Maidstone area) in 1492 and was bequeathed to his grandson, Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1524. As some of you may know he was ultimately beheaded for treason so it returned to Royalty before being eventually sold on again. Subsequently the first house was demolished, a new one built (which is still there now) and many improvements made to the parkland. Since then the park has had many uses over the years, as a fixture for County cricket, an army training ground at various points, including during the Second World War and as a host for the Kent County show. The house has also at various times been used as an orphanage, a care home and is now used as retirement apartments. The final thing I found out which I had no idea about (I guess that comes of living overseas) was that in 2013 it was voted the third best park in the UK and in 2014 it came second! I had no idea to me, as I said before, it was just a park near my parents.

I admit learning all this about this place that we just went for a spontaneous walk in (admittedly a nice walk) was quite surprising. I actually feel a little bad that I knew so little about it and was so disparaging about it previously. Has it altered much? That I can't say in all honesty, I guess it must have but my memories are all of gorgeous summer days paddling in the lake with my cousins, running and playing games. I enjoyed those times but couldn't tell you whether it was any different as a park then as opposed to now.

Our walk though was pleasant, we hardly saw anyone else there asides from some people  at the cafĂ© and a few Mums and children and dog walkers. We walked around the lake which did seem a lot bigger than my memory recalled as did the park itself with its wide green spaces and trees. This though was a walk of rediscovery for me, even before I found out all I did about the history of the place. I did leave that day wondering why I'd not been back here in years especially as it's so close to my parents. A walk that brought back memories from another time and one that made me think about the places I take for granted on my parents doorstep.


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