10 reasons to visit West Malling & Kings Hill
PUBLISHED: 15:45 07 May 2019
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Close neighbours, one ancient, one modern - meet the very different West Kent neighbours
1. Drink and dine
In West Malling look out for restaurants including ID Oriental, Pad Thai, The Swan, Amano, Frank's restaurant and mussel bar and The Farm House, along with cafés Bean Rush and Toast. The Hungry Guest was a runner up in the family dining category of our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2018. Drink at The Malling Jug, The Bull Inn, The Five Pointed Star, The Joiners Arms or The Scared Crow, or at the new Cow Shed cocktail bar. Kings Hill has The Spitfire pub, an Indian restaurant, a Chinese and a fish and chip shop.
2. History hit
West Malling High Street has been well preserved and many modern businesses are run from buildings dating back centuries. Malling Abbey was founded in 1090 and is still home to a group of Benedictine nuns, although there are Heritage Open Days for the public each September. The local history society has set up a number of blue plaques; see www.visitkent.co.uk for more details.
3. Let's go shopping
Interesting independents include Varoshe bespoke jewellery, Smith & Webb Cookshop, Down Swan Street gift shop, Chocolate Umbrella sweet shop, The Old Clock Shop, Dressed by Dee, Eves boutique, Story Of My Dress bridal showroom, West Malling Flowers, Number 39, Danmar kitchens and interiors, Martin Wilde jewellers, The Sewing Room, Soles With Hearts children's footwear, Monks menswear, Andrew Smith Jewellers and many more. Don't forget to explore the Mill Yard and the tiny Abbey Arcade.
4. Green spaces
Formerly the grounds of Douces Manor, 52-acre Manor Park Country Park includes a lake, stream and four fields. A popular spot for family walks, it is Green Flag accredited and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. The lake is home to swans, coots, grebes, moorhens and ducks. The Green Café is close to the excellent children's play area.
5. Aviation ace
Kings Hill was once the site of RAF West Malling, which played a key role in the Second World War. The original Art Deco control tower has been refurbished and now serves as a community space. Outdoor art has been used to point out its aviation history too, with a fascinating installation outside the control tower. There's a new aviation-themed playground opposite the community centre.
7. Farm fresh
In nearby Offham, the charity Spadeworks is a farm shop, café and garden centre all in one, run to help people with learning difficulties develop new skills. Both the farm shop and café feature produce grown on the site and locally. West Malling's Farmers' Market takes place in the town every fourth Sunday.
8. Ancient keep
A fortified residence built for Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, between 1077-1108, St Leonard's Tower stands on its own and has little recorded history before the 1700s. By 1782 it was being used by farmers for storing hops and in the 20th century it was taken on by English Heritage.
9. What a waterfall
The much-photographed Malling Abbey Cascade on Swan Street was originally part of a medieval building repurposed as a decorative waterfall in the 1700s. The blue plaque beside it remembers a visit to this site by the painter JMW Turner.
10. Clear lakes
Leybourne Lakes were created in 2004 from former quarries. With 93ha of woodland, grassland and marshland to explore, it's perfect for family walks and has clear freshwater lakes. A watersports centre offers scuba diving, open water swimming, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking. There's a mobile café, children's play area and cycle paths. Leybourne is home to the RSPCA animal centre.