10 reasons to love Faversham
PUBLISHED: 11:36 29 September 2020
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
The creekside setting of this historic market town makes for a perfect escape to the country | Words: Caroline Read - Lead picture: Manu Palomeque
1) Regal resting place
This area was such a favourite of King Stephen that he and his wife Matilda of Boulogne founded a great abbey here in 1148.
The small settlement grew into a town and it remained so close to their hearts that both the royal couple and their eldest son Eustace were eventually buried in a vault within the abbey itself. It was destroyed in 1538, during the Dissolution, and their bones were said to have been thrown into the creek.
2) Historic heart
The heart of town is lined with Tudor and Georgian buildings, around 400 of which are listed, and it has one of the largest conservation areas in the country. Look out for the Guildhall, an Elizabethan building which sits up on stilts in Market Square.
Market stalls operated beneath it for hundreds of years. The ruins of the abbey itself are long gone but two barns that were part of Abbey Farm remain – Minor Barn was built around 1425 and the larger Major Barn dates from 1476. Next to the barns is the Abbey Farmhouse, part of which dates from the 14th century.
3) Maritime setting
Kent has plenty of seaside and riverside towns but Faversham is unusually set on a pretty creek. Inland from the Swale – the strip of sea separating Kent from the Isle of Sheppey – there’s a lovely walk from the town along this winding creek through marshes to the sea.
On your way you’ll pass Standard Quay and its striking warehouses, now home to many small businesses, and past boat yards and moorings. The creek was once navigable by large ships and barges, which docked in the town to load and unload valuable cargos. These days it’s silted up considerably, allowing only the smaller craft.
4) A local pint
This town loves its beer and is home to the UK’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame. With popular brands including Whitstable Bay, Bishops Finger and Spitfire, and owning a number of pubs throughout Kent, the company was founded in 1698.
It’s thought the brewing industry in Faversham began centuries before that, almost certainly thanks to the monks at the abbey. Now that restrictions have been lifted and pubs are able to open again, we suggest finding yourself one of Faversham’s ancient inns and trying a pint of local ale. You can see the beer being made on a tour booked at the visitor centre.
5) Glorious food
Surrounded by productive farmland and well known for its hop fields and fruit orchards, this part of Kent is big on local, seasonal produce. There are a number of small, artisanal food and drink businesses based in Faversham, many of which can be sampled at the monthly Best of Faversham market.
6) A bit fruity
With more than 4,000 varieties of apple, cherry, plum, pear, quince and nut tree, the National Fruit Tree Collection is at Brogdale, near Faversham. It’s no surprise to find it in an area so famous for its ancient orchards.
This attraction usually runs all sorts of seasonal food and drink events, including a popular cherry blossom festival and an apple festival, but there have been several cancellations this year – for obvious reasons. Having reopened to visitors again in June, there have been self-guided tours of the cherry orchards throughout summer and normality is resuming.
7) Glorious gardens
With a greater reason to focus on outdoor activities this summer, the Faversham area has some excellent gardens to explore. In the town itself is the amazing Abbey Physic Garden. A therapeutic community garden, it’s next to the churchyard of St Mary of Charity and adjoins the 1587 Grammar School, now a Masonic Hall.
The extraordinary half-acre walled garden is run by volunteers and takes self-referrals from those hoping to immerse themselves in the healing properties of gardening. Or head out to Belmont House in Throwley. The Georgian mansion was still closed at the time of writing but paying visitors were being welcomed back to its gardens.
Faversham is known for its quality independent businesses, and right now they need our custom more than ever. With the majority of non-essential shops having reopened in June and the cafés, pubs and restaurants having joined them more recently, it’s important that we start using them again – or risk losing them. Visit Standard Quay, with its array of quirky businesses, or browse through the shops in the centre of town.
There are some excellent places to eat – including The Yard, Posillipo and Read’s – and most are now open. Pubs and pub-restaurants are a speciality, with The Bear Inn, The Anchor and The Elephant among them. The Three Mariners at nearby Oare was Pub of the Year at our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2019.
9) Ancient market
One of the town’s claims to fame is it has the oldest market in Kent. Mentioned in The Domesday Book, its history goes back at least 900 years. The outdoor charter market still runs three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and there are two further monthly markets (one focusing on arts and crafts and the other on antiques).
Having been closed for several weeks earlier in the year, the markets saw a gradual reopening in early June and, as they’re held in the open air, offer a perfect way to shop at the moment.
10) Fresh air
Getting out and enjoying the countryside is not a problem here, with a number of great places to explore on foot. To the south is the North Downs AONB while to the north are nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Head to Oare Marshes to walk the unspoiled wetlands, take in the stunning views and spot all sorts of birdlife. Or walk around Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park, with its unique mix of green space and historic industrial ruins.