Coulsdon Probus enjoyed a pleasant coach trip to our neighbouring county of Kent, famous as the “Garden of England”. Our destination was the Shepherd Neame brewery, one of only three breweries left in Kent. Before the last war there were over fifty breweries in the county. The vast hop fields grown for the beers were the providers of income for many a family in the east end and southeast of London. Whole families would take their holidays on the hop farms, parents and children picking the hops during the day and kipping down in huts provided by the farmer
Some members of our Probus who spent their childhood holidays on the hop farms remember the holidays with fondness, remembering the sunlit days picking the hops from the vines and spending the evenings with all the other hop pickers around bonfires with their parents downing flagons of ale and singing traditional songs. Others remember days of endless rain, squelching through mud to pick the hops, sleeping in leaking huts, trying to cook meals outdoors in the rain and the pitiful wages they received. The grape pickers in the “Grapes of Wrath” didn’t know how lucky they were.
As well as the traditional beers, Shepherd Neame produce lagers under licience, some of them being exported back to their country of origin. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable day visiting the brewry and the town of Faversham, another success for our out outings organiser Stan Rogers.