Part of the old cherry orchard
at Churchfields Farm
Recently harvested wheat field
adjacent to Divan Court
The village lies in the North Downs, an east-west belt of small undulating chalk hills. A few miles to the north is the flat alluvial belt alongside the Thames Estuary. A few miles to the south is the Weald of Kent. Alongside these flat and fertile agricultural zones, on either side of the Downs, run the ancient roads connecting London to the Channel Ports.
In early times the poor Downland topsoils supported the grazing needed for sheep. Other cultivation was always more difficult than to the north and south, where horticultural produce was easily grown to supply the nearby towns. The introduction of railways in the mid 19th Century was followed by the agricultural depression: Eastling's surrounding rural landscape changed as it became economic for agricultural production to shift towards fruit growing - particularly cherries - and arable farming.
Materials for building were available from the earliest times. Roughly shaped flints were found near the surface; more regularly shaped ones could be quarried from the underlying chalk. Lime was made from the chalk, and sand was available from the coast or from Charing a few miles to the south. Timber (mostly oak) and straw for thatching were also locally available.
The unforgiving Kentish ragstone, had to be transported from the nearest quarries close to Maidstone and was little used. From the 18th Century fired clay bricks were produced from the brick earth deposits at Faversham. Later, the railways could bring other materials such as cheap softwood from the Baltic and the Colonies, slate from Wales, and easily worked stone from other regions.
The village is about 5 miles south of Faversham, 7 miles north of Lenham and on a north-south road which connects them. Eastling initially developed along this road's west side, then along incoming lanes from Throwley and Newnham. The present village extends to include the Church, Divan Court Farm, North Court Farm, and rural outposts at North Eastling and Kettle Hill. Further afield, and within the parish, are other farms, houses and cottages.
The village is surrounded by agricultural land, much of it part of the Belmont Estate. The current depressed agricultural economy has brought an increase in arable lands, while the area's traditional horticulture has declined.
The broad agricultural economy is in a period of transition, reflected locally. The financial underpinning is shifting away from food production quotas towards the land. Government-sponsored rural programmes now emphasise attractive landscape, and protection of the natural habitat for flora and fauna. There are financial inducements for setting-aside land from agricultural production, for planting trees and hedges, and for extending public access. There is also increasing regulation on the uses of chemical pesticides, weed-killers, fertilisers and feeds for livestock. The Belmont Estate is heavily committed to the "Countryside Stewardship" scheme.
Economically, farming is progressively unpredictable. Farmers are encouraged to diversify, and this has extended to the conversion of traditional farm buildings (oast houses, barns) to residential use, the provision of small industrial units on farms, and a shift to "horsey-culture" with stabling and livery yards. Although the Belmont Estate has no such plans, they are attractive possibilities for other smaller local landowners.
Thus the appearance of Eastling's rural landscape is changing. Enhancement of the landscape, its walks and bridleways, seems assured. If the emerging policies are successful, they will result in greater access for larger numbers of people.
© Eastling Village 2017
Designed and maintained by David Ainsworth