10 good reasons to visit Ashford & its villages
PUBLISHED: 00:16 18 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:41 20 February 2013
Ashford may be renowned for its fantastic shopping and sporting facilities, but it also has a strong historic heart and its surrounding villages are well worth exploring...
Save the world at Singleton
The Singleton Environmental Centre (%01233 666519) is an eco-centre dedicated to sustainability and designed and managed by the local community. Run by conservation charity BTVC in partnership with Ashford Borough Council, Singleton hosts a range of activities and shares information with people of all ages. There are fitness and alternative health classes, arts and entertainment, community events and the centre provides environmental education for local school children. Caf and bistro.
Schoolhouse turned museum
Ashford Museum (%01233 629165) is housed in a 17th-century listed building in the quadrangle surrounding St Marys church. Built by Sir Norton Knatchbull in 1635 as Ashford grammar school, its one of the best examples of a 1600s schoolhouse. There are two floors of displays, including photographs of old Ashford, archeological and geological discoveries, exhibitions of everyday life, the Ashford Tapestry, The Ashford Litter and the history of Ashford fire brigade. Entrance is free. Museum open 10am-1pm, Mon to Sat, April to late October.
Prayers and performances
St Mary the Virgin dates from 1250 and is surrounded by a beautiful graveyard, and, beyond this, a quadrangle of historic buildings; this pedestrianised part of town is shut away from the busy High Street, yet only a step away. The church is also a venue for community arts and the Arts at St Marys town project, currently in progress, involves improvements to its structure.
Go to the Ashford Designer Outlet and youll get up to 60 per cent discount on 120 top-notch brands represented in this state-of-the-art construction, designed 10 years ago by Lord Richard Rogers for Macarthur Glen developers. In town youll find Park Mall and another fashion-specialist collection of stores at County Square Shopping centre.
Agriculture in an Oast
The Agricultural Museum at Brook (%01304 824969) is part of Court Lodge farmhouse, a set of lovely historic medieval buildings. Displays illustrate the history of farming in the area, and include wonderful old machinery and tools. A 14th-century aisled barn houses most of the Wye Colleges collection of old farm equipment and tools, which are mostly wagons and ploughs. The adjacent Oast House (dating from 1815) is a rare example of inner circle kiln construction, left partially open to illustrate its method of operation.
The Julie Rose stadium (%01233 613131) hosts international athletic meetings and is regarded as one of the finest athletic centres in England, and its facilities include a 400m all-weather running track, 800-seat stand, indoor training area, multi-use games area, fitness studio, 60m sprint track, and it is available for hire for athletic events, festivals, concerts, exhibitions etc. The Stour Centre (%01233 663503), in Station Approach, also offers a huge range of leisure and recreational facilities, including a 25m swimming pool, health club with Technogym equipment, and a health suite with spa area. Crche and a caf.
Wine, dine and snooze
The Eureka entertainment park, off junction 9 of the M20, is a great playground and has a comfortable Travel Lodge hotel, making it an ideal stopping-off point or for having a refreshing change of scenery in lively surroundings. Theres a 12-screen multiplex cinema, a wide selection of restaurants,nightclub, health and fitness centre, a childrens nurseryand crche. And free parking.
Ghosts and ghoulies
Pluckley was featured in the filming of TVs The Darling Buds of May and The Black Horse village pub appeared on screen regularly as Pop Larkins local. This village is also reputed to be the most haunted in Britain, with a phantom coach and horses, a highwayman, a hanged colonel in the woods, a red lady, a white lady, the screaming ghost of a smothered man, not to mention a phantom monk. If youre not too terrified to eat, why not enjoy the fantastic seafood at The Dering Arms (%01233 840371).
Perched on the side of a hill, Mersham dates back to Saxon times. Theres a beautiful church (St John the Baptist) and at the valleys bottom a pretty bridge over the East Stour river and an old water mill. An area of Hatch Park, an ancient deer park, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Little Chart lies to the north east of Ashford and encompasses two hamlets: Little Chart Forstal and Rooting Street. The village pub is The Swan Inn, and two popular walking routes pass through.
Godinton House (%01233 620773)is a fine Jacobean house set in 12 acres of gardens and parkland. Distinctively gabled and surrounded by yew hedges, its many rooms boast carved panelling and impressive collections of porcelain, furniture and paintings. The gardens have formal topiary, lawns and a pond, and theres a Wild Garden, Italian Garden, Rose Garden and a Walled Garden. House and garden open some afternoons March to October only.