A town guide to Tenterden
PUBLISHED: 10:25 17 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:25 17 October 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Tenterden is the little country town with a lot going on, from family attractions to vineyards and glorious gardens, all within a short drive of the pretty High Street. Words by: Caroline Read. Pictures by: Manu Palomeque
Glorious Tenterden might be small but it’s a bustling place brimming with things to do. Whether you’re exploring its shops and tea rooms or visiting the pretty villages around it, there are plenty of reasons to love the area.
Chapel Down, Small Hythe
There’s been a vineyard in Tenterden for almost 40 years but it’s only in recent years that owners Chapel Down have been making their voices heard in the world of wine. Today the company is booming, winning multiple awards for its wines, beers and ciders. Sales are through the roof and earlier this year it became the first wine producer to ever be listed in the London Stock Exchange’s ‘1000 companies to inspire Britain’.
Although Chapel Down now owns several vineyards across the south east, Tenterden is still very much home. At the superb visitor centre there is a shop selling high-quality local produce to complement its drinks; upstairs is the Swan Wine Kitchen, part of the I’ll Be Mother group, which seats up to 80 guests in its restaurant and beautiful terrace overlooking the vineyard.
You can also take a tour and learn about the grapes, the process of picking them and the work that goes into turning the fruit into wine.
Visit www.chapeldown.com for details.
Kent & East Sussex Railway
It excites both young and old alike. Old trains, whether they’re pulled by vintage steam engines or nostalgic diesel engines, seem to bring out something of the child in all of us.
Tenterden is lucky enough to have the Kent & East Sussex Railway on its doorstep, with its headquarters and railway museum set in the heart of the town itself.
Part of a rural line which was closed in 1970, local railway enthusiasts immediately set about preserving the tracks and it became a small-scale heritage railway. Gradually increasing the line over the years to include sections which had been closed for decades, it now offers families the chance to ride from Tenterden all the way through to Bodiam, where they can alight to spend the day at the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle. Along the route there are stations at Rolvenden, Wittersham Road and Northiam and it’s a great way to get a view of the area that’s rarely seen.
For families, there are regular special events during school holidays and hugely popular ‘Santa Specials’ in the run-up to Christmas. In October there is a Halloween-themed week of events during half term and a ‘Fright Night Express’ on Saturday 29 October.
Visit www.kesr.org.uk for tickets.
Cared for by the National Trust and dating back to the late 15th/early 16th century, Smallhythe Place was once the home of the Victorian actress Ellen Terry and still contains many costumes and theatrical items she collected during her life. First opened to the public in 1929 by Terry’s daughter Edith Craig as a memorial to her mother, that year she also transformed the 17th-century thatched barn in its gardens into a small theatre. Used during Edith’s life principally for an annual memorial performance on the anniversary of her mother’s death, the National Trust has always maintained that tradition.
The gardens are much as they were in Terry’s day, with a traditional rose garden, orchards, a nuttery and ponds. In early spring they come alive with a mass of flowering bulbs.
There’s also a vintage tea room and events throughout the year, including costume tours.
Eating and shopping
Known as the Jewel of the Weald for a very good reason, aside from historical importance it also has one of the UK’s most attractive High Streets with everything the community needs. From a Waitrose and a leisure centre to stunning St Mildred’s Church, it also offers tea rooms and antiques shops, lovely coffee houses and cafés, including Savannah, The Secret Pantry, HunnyBeez, Peggotty’s Tea Shoppe and The Nutmeg.
The main pubs all have a good reputation for food, as does Turkish restaurant Ozgur (01580 763248), The French Gourmet (01580 764287) and the London Beach Country Hotel (01580 766279), with a restaurant, spa and golf course.
The market town really comes to life on Friday mornings with stalls in the High Street and at new Market Square Cellars behind Savannah coffee shop. Shop at independent gems like Webbs of Tenterden hardware store, Rising Star gifts and Tenterden House Interiors.
Michelle Millard, Dotty Diva
Tell us a bit about you
My name is Michelle Millard. I opened Dotty Diva over two years ago now and the time has flown. My three children had all grown up and left home, giving me the freedom to pursue my dream of opening my own shop.
I had previously studied Art and Design at Rochester University, Interior Design and Silver Smithing and a job in an office was never going to be for me. While shop hunting I discovered Tenterden - a beautiful little town where many of the residents are so warm and friendly and supportive.
I have made so many new friends here and loved it so much I even sold my family house in Aylesford and moved into the area permanently.
What is Dotty Diva?
Dotty Diva is based on all of the things I love and have trained for. The main part and most successful part of the business is The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint which I discovered when I was designing new products to sell alongside my hand-made jewellery. The paint covers so well and transforms anything in such a short amount of time. It has no smell and is free of VoCs, you just can’t help falling in love with it. I have a sign in the shop warning of how addictive it can be. My customers come back time and time again.
How did you become an expert?
I travelled to Oxford where I stayed for a while and Annie Sloan mentored me in her shop and studio. Annie herself is very supportive of all of her stockists and really does take them under her wing. I think it’s become a big thing due to how quick and easy it is now to upcycle an old piece of furniture. Antique furniture and old pine is dated but good quality, the chalk paint just allows you to transform it completely.
You also run workshops?
A huge part of the business is all about workshops and teaching other people techniques to achieve different looks on their own furniture. I have recently moved just off the High Street into a beautiful barn, The Old Auction House, where there is the perfect space for people to come in and create their own masterpiece.
It’s a great space for holding birthday, hen and corporate events too, having a giggle while learning a new skill. We run Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshops (as well as other craft workshops such as bath bomb making) every few weeks. Dates are posted on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to our newsletter in the shop or on our website which is currently being updated.
Smallhythe Studio, run by Debbie Hynard and Rowena McWilliams, is an exciting little gallery and art centre near Tenterden which exhibits and promotes high-quality contemporary art.
Showing work by successful local artists, and with an emphasis on landscape and abstract work, the studio also uncovers and supports promising new artists, offering them exhibition space and helping to develop their work.
Often described as a little gem, this tiny building has a big heart and is packed with creativity. A varied and constantly changing selection of art, photography and writing workshops and coures are offered for children and adults at all levels.
Tenterden is pricey given its distance from London but it’s a highly desirable country town. Prices currently start at £175,000 for a two-bed maisonette and at £210,000 for a three-bed terrace. Three-bed semis are priced from £290,000 to around £380,000 and four-bed detached houses vary between around £380,000 and £975,000.
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