A town guide to Tenterden
PUBLISHED: 11:45 27 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:45 27 May 2016
It's one of our best-loved towns, boasting pretty architecture, friendly locals and an enviably good High Street. Tenterden's reputation as the Jewel of the Weald is well deserved
Tenterden is a rarity in the modern world. A place where you feel able to take time away from the rat race and get back to a simpler way of life; where all your day-to-day needs are met on a single, pretty High Street, and where the locals know each other by name.
But far from being old-fashioned or stuck in the past, it’s a thriving little town with a big character. Traditional yet bustling with life, it’s high on the list of our favourite towns in Kent.
Set deep within the Garden of Kent, it’s at the epicentre of a productive rural community built on farming and continuing to focus on traditional methods. The number of producers of local food and drink continues to grow and, thanks to a renewed passion for eating fresh food grown close to home, the area has become popular with foodies. A new wine trail also hopes to encourage more visitors to the area’s vineyards.
There is plenty to do, with several great visitor attractions within easy reach, as well as two annual music festivals and a 10-mile drive to the coast. If you were picturing a stereotypically sleepy country town, think again.
Eating and shopping
Tenterden is a busy little town surrounded by countryside. As such, it’s where people come to meet up, to dine out and to do most of their shopping. With everything the community needs, from a supermarket to a leisure centre, as well as all the tea rooms and antiques shops that tourists and visitors enjoy, it’s a perfect place to spend the afternoon.
When it comes to eating, choices include Savannah coffee shop and restaurant (01580 766167), The Secret Pantry (01580 766696 - see our Q&A with owner Margaret Fowler) and The Nutmeg (01580 764125). Turkish restaurant Ozgur (01580 763248) has a great reputation, as do town-centre pubs The White Lion (01580 765077), The Woolpack (01580 388501) and The Vine Inn (01580 762718). New deli The French Gourmet (01580 764287) is also proving very popular. And just on the outskirts of town is the lovely London Beach Country Hotel (01580 766279) with a restaurant, spa and golf course.
With all sorts of shops including the Rising Star gifts and interior shop (now with a fashion section upstairs), Tenterden House Interiors, Monsoon, Waterstones and the wonderful Webbs of Tenterden hardware store, there is plenty to interest browsers.
Known as TENT1, the parcel of land behind Tenterden’s Recreation Ground was identified as an area for development and planning permission was granted in 2014. At the time the Planning Committee praised the architect’s initial designs for the new development but emphasised the need for this quality to be delivered in full.
Now developer Taylor Wimpey is preparing the site to start building this autumn and is planning to make show homes available to view from spring 2017. There will be 151 new homes, a mixture of two-bedroom apartments and two, three, four and five-bedroom houses. The development also includes new vehicle access from Smallhythe Road and Recreation Ground Road, new pedestrian access and an open space.
Councillor David Robey, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for planning and development, said: “It is never easy to promote important housing development, especially in a town with Tenterden’s character, but the quality and sensitivity of the scheme indicates the intention of everyone to deliver a development that Tenterden can be proud of.”
Things to do
Kent & East Sussex Railway: Climb on board a steam engine at this popular heritage railway, set in the heart of Tenterden, and visit its fascinating museum. Visit www.kesr.org.uk
Hole Park Gardens: In a tucked away spot near Rolvenden, this privately owned 16-acre garden is open to visitors on selected dates. April and May are particularly popular times to visit, with fabulous bluebell displays. Visit www.holepark.com
Tenterden Museum: With six rooms across two floors, this little gem contains all kinds of relics from the town’s past, including the Tenterden Tapestry and an old horse-drawn fire engine. Visit www.tenterdenmuseum.co.uk
Smallhythe Place: Cared for by the National Trust, this 16th-century house and cottage garden was once the home of Victorian actress Ellen Terry and features a theatrical museum and a thatched barn converted into a theatre. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Tenterden Folk Festival: Each year the venues, pubs and streets of Tenterden come to life with four days of family fun, folk music and Morris dancing. This year the Folk Festival will be held 29 Sept-2 Oct, www.tenterdenfolkfestival.org.uk
Tentertainment: The highlight of the summer is this fabulous free family festival held on the Recreation Ground (this year 1-3 July). Tentertainment focuses on local musicians, food and drink, dance and fun, www.tentertainment.co.uk
Tenterden Wine Trail
A guide to a new wine trail, taking in Tenterden’s award-winning vineyards, has already proven popular with hundreds of people exploring this beautiful part of Kent. The Tenterden Wine Trail has been developed by Ashford Borough Council and Chapel Down Winery and has been given the backing of Biddenden Vineyards, Gusbourne Estate, the Old Dairy Brewery and the Hush Heath Estate, who, along with other smaller high-end wine producers Farnell Farm, Harbourne Vineyard, Sandhurst, Westwell Wines and Woodchurch Wines, make up the trail.
It’s no coincidence that many of the UK’s finest drinks producers are based within a short drive of each other in Kent. The south-facing slopes, chalk soils and relatively warm climate are ideal conditions for grape growing. The same is true of hops, apples and pears, meaning that delicious beers, ciders and juices are also made here.
So with Tenterden as the beautiful centrepiece of the trail, visitors can also take in the surrounding areas of Biddenden, Rolvenden, Smarden, Woodchurch and Appledore.
Councillor Clair Bell, who launched the initiative, says: “The idea behind the trail is not only to enhance this wonderful area of our borough and really showcase the high quality food and drink that is produced here, it is also to encourage visitors to stay here for even longer. In doing so, the wine trail will have the added effect of supporting Tenterden and its businesses.”
Combined with great places to eat and to stay, the aim is to create a tourism industry around the vineyards like those in California’s Napa Valley and France’s Loire Valley.
Frazer Thompson, chief executive of the Chapel Down Group, says: “English wine continues to win awards and fans across the world and we are lucky to have some of the very best in the area.
“Chapel Down is very proud to play its part by surprising and delighting its 50,000 visitors with the very best of England’s wines in a beautiful setting with an award-winning shop, restaurant and tour experience.
“We are committed to being a driver of further economic and tourism growth in an area that is becoming increasingly renowned for its world class food and drink.”
While the main focus of the tour is wine, beer fans are also in for a treat. Chapel Down produces its very successful Curious Brew drinks range, and The Old Dairy Brewery has won a number of awards for its beers recently.
At the National Beer Awards, held in Sheffield earlier this year, the small pack (bottle and can) Supreme Gold Winner was Old Dairy Brewery’s Dark Side of the Moo.
Visit www.visitashfordandtenterden.co.uk to download a copy of the trail map.
Tenterden is accessed via the A28 between Ashford and Hastings. Train access is limited, with both Ashford International and Headcorn around 10 miles away. Sat nav: TN30 6BW
You can pick up a two-bedroom flat in a town-centre period property for as little as £150,000. Three-bedroom terraced houses are priced at between £230,000 and £325,000, with four-bed detached homes priced at around £450,000. At the top end of the market, Tenterden is surrounded by desirable rural villages with some impressive country mansions for sale for up to £1.75 million.
Margaret Fowler, owner, The Secret Pantry
Tell us about The Secret Panty
We’re a family run business based in Tenterden. My dream has always been to own my own café/restaurant and to this end The Secret Pantry opened in December 2013. We provide breakfast, light lunches, afternoon teas, drinks and cakes.
Everything is made on the premises. Food has always been an important part of my life. My family owned butchers’ shops and the abattoir in Wolverhampton. Two of my sons are now qualified chefs, one of them working at The Secret Pantry. My husband and I lived in France for 14 years, furthering my love of food. On our return to the UK, we decided to live in Tenterden as two of our children lived here. We had previously lived in Deal and Sandwich.
So local produce is important to you?
From the very beginning I have always consciously aimed to use local suppliers and produce, wherever possible. We do try to buy in Kent and use seasonal and local produce. Our suppliers include Marchants of Bethersden for meat, David Catt & Sons of Boughton Monchelsea for vegetables, Maws Fine Foods of Hawkhurst for dried foods and the Morghew Park Estate near Tenterden provides our potatoes. We also use honey from the bees kept on the Morghew Park Estate.
What do you love about Tenterden?
I always think Tenterden has the feel of a traditional English town, with a full sense of community spirit. It is a friendly town where people actually seem to have time to speak to each other and care about each other. It is also a beautiful town which is extremely well maintained.
The Secret Pantry, 4 Manor Row, Tenterden High Street, www.thetenterdensecretpantry.co.uk