In the spotlight: Chilham and Wye

PUBLISHED: 21:53 04 February 2016 | UPDATED: 21:53 04 February 2016

The pretty village of Chilham

The pretty village of Chilham

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Nestling in the Kentish North Downs, Chilham and Wye are peaceful and beautiful, surrounded by black-and-white cottages, orchards and oasts set within an agricultural heart.

Wye

Wye is at the heart of agricultural Kent and having been home to the famous Wye Agricultural College for more than 100 years, it remains very much with its feet planted in the soil.

A close-knit community with a shared affinity for the land, a passion for local produce and for sustainability, it is a charming area to visit and popular with North Downs walkers.

It’s here that the Wye Community Farm (01233 813298) can be found. Formed in 2007 in response to the closure of the college, it later entered into an agreement with Natural England to manage part of the Wye National Nature Reserve.

The farm now uses 120 acres and its main enterprises are locally delivered boxes of meat, firewood and charcoal, as well as preserves made from home-grown produce.

With all this emphasis on locally produced food and drink, Wye is unsurprisingly famous for its food. You can browse all sorts of excellent produce at the village Farmers’ Market twice a month, shop for it at places like nearby farm shop Perry Court Farm (01233 812302) or sample it at many of the village pubs and restaurants; The King’s Head (01233 812418) makes a particular effort to serve locally sourced food and drinks.

Chilham

The pretty village of Chilham is probably best known for its castle. Actually two separate buildings – one the keep of the original Norman castle and the other a Jacobean manor house – it is simply stunning. The manor house was built in 1616 for Sir Dudley Digges and has been owned by Stuart and Tessa Wheeler, who have fully refurbished it, since 2002.

During the last half of the 20th century, the castle buzzed with public events and drew thousands of visitors to events like falconry days and jousting displays but these days the house is mainly private, with the exception of occasional wedding receptions, private hires and business conferences.

There are open days where the gardens are open to the public however and the owners work closely with local author and historian Michael Peters, who runs private historical tours of the castle (www.chilham-castle.co.uk).

Set in the beautiful grounds of the castle, the 300-acre Chilham Park Equestrian Centre (www.chilhampark.co.uk) holds a number of popular events throughout the year, including the Chilham Park International Horse Trials each August, and has been established as a top cross-country course since 2004.

The Chilham Chase 400 Weekend, 20-22 May

Following the success of the The Chilham Chase Weekend in 2013, organisers have announced that The Chilham Chase 400 Weekend of Celebration will take place over the weekend of 20-22 May.

Celebrating 400 years since Chilham Castle was completed in 1616, the weekend will focus heavily on the links between it and William Shakespeare. As well as having close ties with the Digges family during his life, 1616 also happened to mark Shakespeare’s death.

To celebrate both 400th anniversaries, the castle has been chosen to host the premier of The Globe Theatre’s open-air summer season with four performances of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Also, on 21 May a medieval fair and classic car display will be held on the front lawns of the castle, and the Chilham Chase Race will take place around the park.

Visit www.chilhamchase.com and www.shakespearesglobe.com for further details.

Wye College site

After years of uncertainty, part of the old Wye College site has finally been sold. Developers Telereal Trillium have acquired the 18-hectare site, known as Wye3, which comprises a range of historic accommodation buildings, as well as laboratory and research buildings, commercial buildings and residential accommodation.

Central to the emerging plans will be finalising proposals for the growth of the Wye Free School, which uses some of the old Wye College buildings. The other buildings could accommodate a mixture of residential, business and community uses.

Graham Edwards, ceo at Telereal Trillium said: “We see this as a development opportunity to be realised over a 10-15 year time period, in close consultation with the Parish Council and local community.

“We fully appreciate the importance of the former Wye College site to the future of Wye as a sustainable rural community, and look forward to progressing proposals over the coming months.”

Eating and shopping

Popular places to eat and drink in Wye include The Wife of Bath (01233 812232), The King’s Head (01233 812418) and the recently opened Wye Coffee Shop & Kitchen in Church Street. Local shops include gift shops Botanic (01233 812426) and Ticketyboo (01233 812671).

Wye has a great bakery (see our Q&A with owner Pauline Hickson), a popular local butcher (Wakelin’s, 01233 812225) and all the local produce you could ever need at the wonderful fortnightly Farmers’ Market, which is held on the first and third Saturday of the month on the village green.

In Chilham you can choose from The Woolpack Inn (01227 730351) or The White Horse Inn (01227 730355) or enjoy afternoon tea at the quintessentially English Shelly’s Tea Rooms (01227 730303). Chilham has several shops including a farm shop (Chilham Shop, 01227 730348), Tudor Lodge gift shop (01227 730596) and Bagham Barn Antiques (01227 732522).

Janet Naylor, Principal, Wye School

Opened in September 2013 and based in the Kempe Centre building at the old Wye College, Wye School is an all-ability, co-educational Free School serving up to 600 students aged 11 to 19.

“Starting a school is both an incredible challenge and a privilege. I had never planned on being a Principal, but the opportunity to be fully involved in the creation of a new school - from appointing every member of staff and designing a curriculum to writing every policy and ordering every piece of furniture - was irresistible.

“To my delight we became part of United Learning, a group which includes both independent and state schools. This also led to our close relationship with Ashford School, with whom we are starting a Combined Cadet Force and Duke of Edinburgh programme.

“The school is now growing year by year. Last summer, the Kempe Centre was confirmed as our permanent home. The designated area of the site includes the hop fields at the back which will house our playing fields and sports facilities - our first priority in this development. The Kempe Centre will remain but, in a phased development, we will add to this to create the full-sized school.

“Located in this beautiful rural setting, we promote learning outside the classroom and have appointed staff with this specialist interest. We not only have the beautiful Downs on our doorstep but have two allotments and access to an arboretum at the end of the playground and are surrounded by organic farms.

Little wonder we will offer Land-Based Studies at GCSE and run Gardening Club, ably assisted by some of the finest agricultural minds who still live close to the old Wye College.

“It is not hard for schools, like other institutions, to be unhappy places. At Wye we think very carefully about how we can be ‘architects of happiness’ and ensure that all our students and staff feel positively about coming to school.

“If that is the final legacy of Wye School, I for one will be very happy.”

Visit www.wyeschool.org.uk

Pauline Hickson, owner of Wye Bakery

Tell us a bit about you

My name is Pauline Hickson and I am the owner of both the Challock Chutney Company and the Wye Bakery. This year I won the best ambient product at the Taste of Kent awards with Wye Community Farm Raspberry Jam. For several years I was also the manager of the Farmers’ Markets at Challock and Wye.

How have you come to run the bakery?

I knew the previous owners of the bakery, Mary and Nigel, and when they decided to retire last year I jumped at the chance to own such a lovely little business set in such a charming Grade I listed building.

I was then very lucky to meet a very experienced and talented baker, Gary Selling, who is really making himself known with the wonderful breads he produces.

What do you love about Wye?

I love the community spirit in Wye and there always seems to some event going on. There are notice boards around the village for the various clubs and societies such as the cricket club and the Women’s Institute.

The church, schools, Wye Community Farm and local businesses are all very supportive of each other. It is a great place to live! Plus it’s right on the North Downs so you can go on some beautiful walks and yet we are not that far from the coast if you fancy a trip to the seaside.

What are some of your favourite shops and restaurants in the area?

My favourite pubs and places to eat are The Kings Head and The Wife of Bath, both in Wye, as well as The Blacksmiths Arms in Willesborough and The Red Lion at Baddlesmere. We are also very lucky in Wye to have Wakelin’s the butchers, Ripple Farm Organics and nearby Perry Court Farm shop. And don’t forget the fantastic farmers’ market - it’s the oldest one in Kent.

Visit www.wyebakery.com

Property prices

Wye and Chilham are both small villages with limited housing stock so finding properties for sale can be challenging. At the time of writing there was a two-bed terraced cottage for sale in Wye for £200,000, a period three-bed terraced for £460,000 and a five-bed detached for £795,000. Chilham offers a little more thanks to a new development called Chilham Place, with a range of one, two and three-bedroom new builds from Orbit Homes. Also on the market are several four, five and six-bedroom detached homes for between £585,000 and £1.3m.

How to get there

Wye is 12 miles from Canterbury and four miles from Ashford, off the A28 Canterbury Road. Sat nav for village green: TN25 5AH. Chilham is further along the A28, closer to Canterbury.

Sat nav for village centre: CT4 8BY.

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