Spotlight on: Cranbrook & Hawkhurst
PUBLISHED: 18:30 21 August 2015 | UPDATED: 18:30 21 August 2015
Think you know Cranbrook and Hawkhurst? Think again. We invite you to discover the heritage, the art, the culture and the charm of these two Wealden wonders.
1 Cranbrook Museum
Set in the heart of town in a 15th-century timer-framed building, this lovely little museum has hundreds of exhibits encapsulating the history of Cranbrook and The Weald of Kent.
With costume exhibits, remnants of local industry and rural life, military memorabilia and a fascinating collection of 19th-century bird specimens, there is a great deal to look at. There’s also a wonderful display of paintings by the group of artists who settled in the town in the 1850s, calling themselves the ‘Cranbrook Colony’ and painting scenes of everyday life.
Visit www.cranbrookmuseum.org for opening times.
2 Union Mill
If you’ve ever been shopping in Cranbrook High Street you can’t have failed to notice a windmill overlooking the town. Union Mill is a Grade I listed building and the tallest surviving smock mill in Britain.
Maintained and managed by volunteers, the mill is often open for visitors between March and the end of September each year and on these open days its shop often stocks the mill’s very own stoneground wholemeal flour.
Visit www.unionmill.org.uk for information.
3 Queen’s Hall Theatre
Cranbrook School boasts its own theatre, seating nearly 300 people, which is open as a community venue as well as for the school’s own performances. Among the concerts and shows planned for the rest of the year are The Falcon’s Malteser by Anthony Horowitz, performed by touring group New Old Friends, on 9 October, and The Joliet Blues Band performing all the songs made famous by The Blues Brothers on 6 November.
Cranbrook Film Society and Cranbrook Operatic and Dramatic Society also call this place their home.
4 Cranbrook Art Show
Cranbrook Art Show has quickly grown into one of the most popular art events in the south east, with works carefully selected from the wealth of local professional artists.
The result is an eclectic mix of paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery and textiles. The show has helped raise the profile of Wealden artists and provides shoppers with a great variety of affordable local art.
This year the show is held between 12 and 14 November at The Vestry Hall in Cranbrook.
5 Cranbrook walk
There can be no better way to explore an area than to walk around it. Explore Kent has put together a wonderful circular walk of only three miles, starting near The White Horse Inn and heading up through the churchyard into the country footpaths. For part of the way you join the High Weald Landscape Trail and there’s an option to continue on to nearby Sissinghurst.
Download the route from www.explorekent.orgDISCOVER HAWKHURST
1 Kino cinema
It is such a luxury for a small rural village to have its own cinema. Not only does Hawkhurst have one, it just happened to be the first purely digital cinema in the UK. Built inside the old Victorian village hall and retaining the period appearance outside, the high-tech Kino cinema has just one screen but is able to show several different films each week.
New releases, live link-ups to national opera and ballet events, a lovely café and some of the most comfortable seats around make this boutique cinema the envy of many larger towns.
2 Hawkhurst Fish Farm
Often called one of the most beautiful fisheries in Kent and Sussex, Hawkhurst Fish Farm brings fishing to life for young and old anglers of all abilities. With four main lakes, it has large carp in three of them and the fourth, a long narrow lake ideal for pole fishing, has carp, tench and golden orfe.
There are three junior course ponds suitable for children and the on-site tackle shop is well stocked. In the summer many anglers bring family picnics to the scenic lakes and there’s a large café for relaxing in too. Visit www.hawkhurstfishfarm.co.uk
3 The Walled Nursery
A lovely plant nursery set in a walled garden with 13 Victorian glasshouses, The Walled Nursery is so much more than a garden centre. An experience in its own right, this delightful place was once part of the Tongswood Estate and has a fascinating history.
Whether it is to buy plants, visit their shop and café or to attend one of the many gardening courses and special events they run, it is well worth seeking out.
4 Hawkhurst Heritage Trail
A six-mile trail concentrating on Hawkhurst’s rich heritage and pointing out several key buildings, this is an initiative of the Hawkhurst Community Partnership. It’s a great way to look around the village, made famous for its notorious gang of smugglers in the 18th century, and takes in the colonnade, the infant school, Dunk’s Hall and the cottage hospital, among others.
Download a copy of the leaflet from www.visithawkhurst.org.uk
5 Golf club
With so much beautiful countryside surrounding it, it’s little surprise that Hawkhurst also has a golf club. Hawkhurst Golf and Squash Club has a great nine-hole course and, as its name suggests, the added benefit of squash facilities. Known as one of the friendliest golf clubs in Kent, it’s also good value for money and has a great reputation among social golfers.
EATING AND DRINKING
Cranbrook and its surrounding area is full of great tea rooms, restaurants, pubs and cafés. We recommend the excellent patisserie café Cocolicious (TN17 3HF), traditional café Food For Thought (TN17 3DF) and Italian deli Gastronomia Campo Vecchio (TN17 3HF). And of course Cranbrook boasts the Michelin-starred Apicius restaurant (TN17 3HF, 01580 714666).
The area is also known for its great country pubs serving delicious food. Top picks include The Globe and Rainbow (TN17 2SG, 01892 890803) in nearby Kilndown, The Woodcock Inn (TN17 4HT, 01580 240009) and The Bull (TN17 4DE, 01580 240054) at Benenden, and The Great House (TN18 5EJ, 01580 753119), The Queen’s Inn (TN18 4EY, 01580 754233) and The Black Pig (TN18 4PF, 01580 752306), all in Hawkhurst.
When it comes to shopping, take a stroll along Hawkhurst’s pretty colonnade where you’ll find boutiques offering ladies fashion and gifts as well as a traditional greengrocer’s and florist.
Cranbrook’s High Street and Stone Street are packed with shops, mostly independents, offering everything from children’s toys at the lovely Alfie & Daisy (TN17 3HE) to fashion, gifts and accessories at the popular Spice (TN17 3HF), as well as art galleries, antiques shops and many others. w
Nick Driver of Hartley Dyke Farm Shop in Cranbrook
Tell us a bit about you
My name is Nick Driver and I run Hartley Dyke Farm Shop. As you would expect of a farm shop, we have a fantastic range of fresh fruit and vegetables, sourced as locally as possible. Our bakery stocks the renowned Lighthouse Artisan bread, the deli has a huge range of cheeses and hams, plus there is Taywell ice cream, Cook meals, local wines and even coffees to take away.
How long have you run the shop?
I have run Hartley Dyke for 16 years, with the help of family and staff. But last year we had to move from our original site at Hartley Dyke Business Centre, as our lease expired. We were very fortunate to be offered a unit at nearby Charity Farm Country Store, where the Clarke family have made us feel very welcome. The new store stocks the same great range as before, and now we have a lovely plant nursery too, plus the country store next door.
It was a huge relief when we finally secured planning permission for the new store. We were fortunate to have great local support during that time, which kept our spirits up; our customers are a very loyal bunch. Our regulars are particularly important, and often stop for a chat, or to enjoy a wander round the plant nursery. Some of our older customers no longer drive, so I pop out to deliver their shopping. The question customers ask most often is when we plan to open a coffee shop, so I need to give this some thought!
What do you love about Cranbrook?
I love living and working in the Cranbrook area because of the lovely community feel, where everyone really does seem to know each other. Cranbrook High Street is a beautiful place to be and is enhanced even more thanks to the efforts of ‘Cranbrook in Bloom’ and their colourful floral displays. I think the town offers some lovely unique places to shop and there is lots to do in the area too.
Your favourite shops in the area?
My wife Mel particularly likes Spice (look out for Spice Dog in the window!) and Lemon Blue for gifts, and Bell House Fabrics too. Cranbrook also has a nice range of coffee shops, we go to Cocolicious for fantastic cakes and Gastronomia for proper Italian panini, and the new Ted’s Tea Room has free Wi-Fi and charging points too.
Your favourite places to eat?
I can highly recommend The Great House in Hawkhurst and The Goudhurst Inn, both lovely places to eat too, each offering fantastic local produce on their menus. Sissinghurst Castle Gardens also has a nice restaurant open most of the year, and there is plenty of space for the children to let off steam. There is a pleasant countryside walk from Cranbrook to Sissinghurst, where we stop for a drink or lunch at The Milk House, which has a relaxing beer garden too.
Where is your new shop?
Our new site is located next door to Charity Farm Country Store on the B2086 Swattenden Road, a few minutes’ drive to the south of Cranbrook. Look us up on Facebook or visit www.hartleydyke.co.uk
Property here, particularly thanks to the much-coveted Cranbrook School catchment area, can be expensive. A two-bedroom apartment can cost around £200,000 with a two-bed terrace priced at around £250,000 and three-bed semis at £370,000. But it’s larger, individually designed homes that make up most of the housing stock around here and prices start at £430,000 for a detached four-bed house and at £650,000 for a detached six-bedroom property.
How to get there
Cranbrook is around 15 miles south of Maidstone, on the A229, and Hawkhurst is four miles south of there, where the A229 meets the A268. Train connections are sadly lacking in this area with Cranbrook’s closest station at Staplehurst and Hawkhurst’s nearest at Etchingham.
Sat nav: TN17 3HF for Cranbrook and TN18 4EY for Hawkhurst.