A town guide to Tenterden
PUBLISHED: 12:51 04 July 2017
Tenterden is surely the Garden of England at its finest. Thanks to some strict planning regulations, much of the town retains its character and, from all the weather-boarded buildings, it appears its High Street has been frozen in time.
Visit on a market day and you’ll see it hasn’t changed much at all for hundreds of years. It still buzzes with activity, the traders still sell produce from the surrounding lush countryside and the locals still know each other by name.
With good schools, a friendly atmosphere and only a short drive to the coast, for some people Tenterden has everything you could possibly need. In fact the only thing it hasn’t got is the train links that would make it popular with commuters.
Spoilt for choice when it comes to visitor attractions and boasting almost too many great cafés and pubs to mention, it’s a popular place for a day out.
Visitors flock to the Kent and East Sussex Railway, with its steam trains and diesels running to Bodiam and back, as well as to the National Trust’s Smallhythe Place, Hole Park Gardens in nearby Rolvenden and the Rare Breeds Centre near Woodchurch. Add to that a popular live music scene, with the highlight of the summer being the Tentertainment festival (this year 30 June to 2 July), and you have a vibrant country town capable of pulling in visitors without losing any of its close-knit community feel.
The town’s museum is tucked away in Station Road, in a weather boarded industrial building that would have been typical of Tenterden in the 19th century.
With six rooms on two floors, among the collections are archaeological finds and artefacts from the area’s mediaeval shipbuilding industry, as well as photographs, maps, ceramics, coins and an old horse drawn fire engine.
Opened in 1976 and entirely run by volunteers, the museum proudly displays items covering 1,000 years of the area’s history. Perhaps its most important piece is the Tenterden Tapestry. Made by local schoolchildren in 1974, it comprises of 14 colourful panels, depicting scenes from local life going right back to the Romans.
There’s also an exhibition about the Cinque Ports, maps and models of the area and information about the Great Fire of Smallhythe in 1514 - which destroyed the entire hamlet and its shipyards.
And as you would expect for an area with such a rich agricultural history, there is an area dedicated to hop growing and a 19th-century hop press.
The museum is open to the public between Easter and October and groups and school visits are encouraged, www.tenterdenmuseum.co.uk.
Eating and shopping
When it comes to a cup of coffee, a slice of cake or a light lunch, Tenterden has lots of options. Try Peggotty’s Tea Shoppe, HunnyBeez, Bluebell Coffee House, Savannah, The Nutmeg, The Secret Pantry, Indulgence or The French Gourmet deli. Ozgur Turkish restaurant is very popular with the locals, as are Montalbano, The Lemon Tree and La Cantina di Tenterden.
The town also boasts several great pubs, including The Vine Inn, The White Lion, The William Caxton and The Woolpack. For more formal dining, The Swan at Chapel Down’s visitor centre is our top pick.
Browsing the shops on the town’s pretty High Street is one of the great pleasures of visiting Tenterden. There is everything from chain stores to quirky gift shops and independent clothing boutiques. Some of our favourites include Webbs of Tenterden hardware store, Rising Star interiors and fashion, Dotty Diva furniture, Tenterden House Interiors, Purple Penguins jewellery and trendy menswear store WUD.
Plans to extend the heritage railway
If you’ve ever been enjoyed a ride on the town’s excellent heritage railway, the Kent and East Sussex Railway (K&ESR), you’ll have noticed that Bodiam is the end of the line. But approved plans to extend the line will mean that soon an extra 3.5 mile stretch will connect Bodiam Station to Robertsbridge.
Rother Valley Railway (RVR), run by a group of enthusiasts who have been restoring the line from Robertsbridge end since the early 1990s, have been successful in their planning application to reopen the once busy route that links Robertsbridge with Tenterden, which will allow K&ESR’s vintage locomotives to travel beyond Bodiam for the first time. The move is expected to attract thousands more visitors thanks to a connection at Robertsbridge to mainline trains from Hastings and London.
With 1.5 miles of track and five bridges already restored, the cost of the project is likely to be between £3m-£5m and will be funded by private benefactors. RVR has also started work on building a station at Robertsbridge, next to the mainline station, and has been busily buying up land along the route.
It’s hoped the station will be completed in 18 months and the whole project should take four to five years. When complete the line will operated by K&ESR using its staff, rolling stock, and procedures.
Three Fields development
Formerly known as the TENT1 site, a parcel of land identified for development in 2014, new homes are currently being built at what is now called Three Fields. Sitting between Recreation Ground Road and Smallhythe Road, close to the heart of Tenterden, there will be a total of 249 new homes, built by developers Taylor Wimpey and Dandara.
All carefully designed to fit in with the character of the surrounding town, the Taylor Wimpy homes, which will all be detached or semi-detached, will be launching this September, as should Dandara’s homes, which will range from one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom houses.
It’s thought that some of the new roads will bear the family names of some of the local men who are remembered on the town’s war memorial.
It’s a small and highly desirable place to live and although it’s not one of our expensive commuter towns - the closest railway station is 15 minutes away by car - property here isn’t cheap. At the time of writing, asking prices started at £175,000 for a two-bedroom maisonette, with two-bedroom terraced properties priced between £250,000 and £375,000. Four-bed detached homes started at around £440,000 and there were several larger homes available right up to £1.8million. Visit the Dandara and Taylor Wimpey websites for information about the new development launching later this year.
Tenterden is on the A28 between Ashford and Hastings. There’s no station but Ashford International is around 20 minutes away by car, with Headcorn the closest at around 15 minutes away.
Sat nav: TN30 6BW
Postcard from Tenterden
I’m Gill Bridgestock and I’m an artist, working with silver, pewter and copper. I live just off the High Street and near enough to the steam railway to hear Thomas when he’s visiting. I have the best of both worlds; shopping close by and stunning views with lovely walks across the fields.
Initially I attended Adult Education classes for silversmithing and instantly fell in love with forging silver. I ended up spending five years with silversmith Owen Mahdloppe-Philips.
I really enjoyed making jewellery that included weaving pure silver wire (actress Anna Calder-Marshall wore four pieces I had made in an episode of the BBC’s New Tricks).
It wasn’t long before I began making goblets and flatware but quickly realised that in order to experiment making larger pieces I had to find a less expensive alternative to silver. I was given a small piece of pewter sheet by an artist friend to play with and the rest is history!
One of the first pieces I made I entered into PewterLive2014 at the Worshipful Company of Pewterers. I won a prize for Design and Collectability for a piece inspired by the sea, and I’ve been a finalist every year since.
I love Tenterden for its artisan shops such as the French Gourmet, and Eaton & Jones contemporary jewellers. There’s the Village Forge (their skills know no bounds), antiques shops and Dotty Diva.
The Montalbano restaurant is highly recommended, and The Woolpack is another place for good food cooked by a very talented chef. It’s a great place for live music, as are The White Lion and Vine Inn.
All in all, Tenterden is a lovely place to live. Every now and then I have to pinch myself I’m so grateful.