10 good reasons to visit Dartford
PUBLISHED: 15:36 19 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:33 20 February 2013
With an Olympic-standard Judo centre and great sporting facilities, the county's biggest shopping centre on its doorstep and a huge wildlife area, there's something for everyone in Dartford
10 good reasons to visit Dartford
With an Olympic-standard Judo centre and great sporting facilities, the countys biggest shopping centre on its doorstep and a huge wildlife area, theres something for everyone in Dartford
A walk in the park
Host to the Dartford Festival in July, Central Park, near the town centre, has formal gardens and ornamental displays of 45,000 colourful plants, a large childrens playground with a variety of traditional swings and slides, climbing net, climbing wall, and ball games area. For adults theres fresh-air fitness equipment, and a skatepark. South west of the town centre is Dartford Heath, home to a wide range of birds and insects, including dragonflies, grasshoppers, rabbits and green woodpeckers, as well as a profusion of flowers, from heath bedstraw and harebell to foxglove and honeysuckle. There are ponds, woodland (silver birch, oak and elm), heather/gorse and grassland. It covers 361 acres and is divided by roads, with four convenient car parks. The heath is designated an area of Local Landscape Importance and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.
Shop till you drop
Bluewater offers one of most exciting shopping experiences in Europe. Now opened for 11 years, it has won many international awards, including a Millennium Product Mark. Set in a valley, with chalk cliffs soaring above, the shopping centre is triangular shaped, with John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser each marking a corner and connected together by three shopping malls, with the retailers grouped together in distinctive customer-friendly blocks. The Guild Hall is home to high fashion retailers, lifestyle stores and restaurants and cafs, as is The Thames Walk, which additionally offer a 13-screen showcase cinema. The Rose Gallery is comprised of largely High Street retailers catering for families. There is also a boating lake, cycle track, golf course, fishing lake and discovery trail. Bluewater is easily accessible by car and theres ample free parking, plus its served by buses and coaches to London.
Opened just four years ago, Dartford Dojo (01322 222071) is a coaching centre for the British Judo Association and home for the internationally renowned Dartford Judo Club (one of the top sporting clubs in the UK). The first purpose-built training centre to meet Olympic training standards since London was chosen for the Olympic games in 2012, its the finest purpose-built Judo centre in the country, with two full-sized mats, space for 400 spectators, a weight-training room, seminar, meeting space and social area. They also offer a full programme of walk-in evening exercise classes and complementary massage, fitness and wellbeing classes including Aero Tone, Hatha Yoga and the Felden Krais method.
Princes Park Community Stadium (01322 299990) has a Clubhouse, function rooms and bar, community pitch, public plaza and gardens. The stadium is built along ecologically-friendly lines, with timber cladding, water recycling eco-system and a grassed roof. Its an award-winning community stadium, available for booking by individuals, organisations or teams, built to conference standard and home to Dartford Football Club and a great venue for football, golf, running events and celebrations. Princes Park is also home to Princes Golf, Dartford Roadrunners and the Kent Ravens and popular for conferences and wedding receptions. Princes Golf is a nine-hole course, extensively remodelled in 2007, and open to the public, with a very reasonably priced pay-and-play system. Theres a public bar that also serves food on the first floor of the stadium with views of the main pitch and Princes Park lake.
In the steps of Henry V
Youll find the beautiful old Dartford parish church, Holy Trinity, in the town centre (open for 10am-3pm Mon to Sat). It was built by Bishop Gundulph around 1080, and in the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt and dedicated to St Thomas Becket for pilgrims going to Canterbury. In 1415 Henry V celebrated victory at Agincourt by bringing 700 soldiers into the church and leading a thanksgiving service. And in 1422 Henry Vs body lay there for a requiem mass before continuing to Westminster Abbey. Dont miss the 1485 wall-painting of St George and the Dragon and the early 17th-century tomb of Sir John Spilman.
A thoroughly modern museum
Sharing premises with the library, Dartford Museum (01322 343555) was revamped in 1956 to become one of the first modern museums in the country, utilising light colours and understandable labelling, and it now attracts more than 8,000 visitors a year. Among notable exhibits are finds from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery sites at Risely and Horton Kirby, and the Darenth Bowl, a Saxon glass bowl (AD 450) found in a grave in the grounds of Darenth Park Hospital in 1978. Theres also a collection of objects dating from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and both World Wars, plus ceramics, and 18th to 20th century costumes and coins. The natural history section has insects, plants, birds eggs and marine and freshwater shells. There are flint tools from the Paleolithic period and Roman artifacts and Anglo-Saxon jewellery, brooches and bead necklaces. There is also a display dedicated to the Dartford Warbler, one of only two species of bird to be named after a British town.
See a show
The Orchard Theatre (01322 220 000) is a wonderful 1000-seater theatre with the latest in top entertainment, and its own Circle Restaurant. From 5-8 August you can see the amateur production of Fame The Musical, the stage version of the film and TV series, with a cast of 250 local young people. From 16-21 August is Dreamboats and Petticoats, The Musical, featuring some of the greatest hit songs of the rock n roll era of 1961. And on 26 August see The Texas Tenors, Stars of Americas Got Talent, voted 2009s Vocal Group of The Year.
The Mick Jagger Centre (box office 01322 291100) is a live performance facility for music and the arts for the area, named after the eponymous ex-resident rocker of Dartford, based at Dartford Grammar School. Started in 1998 and completed in 2000, it was opened by HRH Duke of Kent and Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and three of their children. Then the centre was comprised of a large and a smaller hall, both equipped with sound and lighting facilities, professional recording studio and rehearsal rooms, with foyer and bar, kitchen and box office and video wall. It was extended in 2004 with the addition of a Music Technology Suite and store rooms, visual arts suite, dance drama room and two more teaching and rehearsing areas.
Relax by the river
St Johns House is a beautiful ancient moated house in nearby Sutton-at-Hone, beside the River Darent. It was originally established in 1199 as a Commandry of the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem until it passed to Sir Maurice Denys in the 16th century. Since then it was lived in by naturalist Abraham Hill in the 17th century, and from 1755 the eminent historian Edward Hasted was the occupant. It is now owned by the National Trust, who let it as a private residence. However, St Johns Jerusalem 13th-century chapel and cool secluded garden are open to visitors on Wednesday afternoons in summer (01732 810378, care of Ightham Mote).
Exercise and swimming
Acacia is a 30-acre leisure, business and social centre, comprising a Grade II listed mansion house (Acacia Hall), gazebo and marquee, suitable for meetings and weddings (01322 343475). In the grounds is Acacia Fitness (01322 343490), a multi-purpose sports centre, with a dance studio and sports fields fitness centre, also offering exercise classes. Fairfield Pool and Leisure centre (01322 224400) has a 25-metre swimming pool, a 50-station gym, health suite, squash courts, crche, teaching pool, group fitness studio and a soft play facility. It also has a newly opened health and beauty centre with a number of specialist therapies on offer, including aromatherapy, reflexology, sport and remedial massage, manicure and pedicure.
Dartford is linked to London via the A2, and is around 12 miles from central London and close to the M25. There are trains and buses to London and the main Kent towns, plus Fastrack, Kents Thameside Bus Rapid Transport. For rail and bus enquiries contact Traveline, 0871 2002233.
Satnav postcode: DA1 1DE