Spotlight on: Faversham
PUBLISHED: 08:24 19 March 2016 | UPDATED: 08:24 19 March 2016
The perfect mix of old and new, and with an unrivalled creekside setting, Faversham has long been one of Kent’s most important and beloved towns.
Set beside a fine, peaceful creek, Faversham has been one of Kent’s most important towns for centuries. Our oldest market town, once frequented by royalty, it was at the heart of the county’s ship building, brewing and explosives industries.
Our oldest brewery, family firm Shepherd Neame, still proudly operates from the town, brewing traditional Kentish beers to be shipped all over the country.
Set among some of the most productive fields and orchards in Kent, it’s no surprise that the area is also booming with producers of local food and drink. The local food culture is so strong that there is still a traditional market three times a week, and a Best of Faversham market on the first Saturday of the month, showcasing great produce as well as must-buy arts and crafts.
With a wealth of listed buildings at its centre and with several large new developments, particularly along the pretty creek which was once such a vital part of the town’s industry, it’s not surprising that more and more people are choosing to move to the town.
It is the perfect blend of old and new, with a buzzing town centre with great places to eat, traditional and independent shops and charming pubs serving local food and Faversham ales.
Eating and shopping
Faversham is so rich in local produce that it’s become a real foodie destination. Great places to eat include Read’s (01795 535344), Red Sails restaurant at the Faversham Creek Hotel (01795 533535) and Posillipo Italian (01795 590580). Good cafés and coffee shops include the popular Havishams, trendy vintage style café The Yard and The Pomegranate Tree at Standard Quay.
In a town famous for its brewery, the pub restaurants attract great praise. Try The Vaults Cask & Kitchen, The Phoenix Tavern, The Anchor Inn or The Sun Inn. And while you’re there, sample the fine beer the area is famous for.
Some of the charming independent shops include Goodness Gracious (see p80), Squires Antiques, Barley Mow gift shop and the quirky L Jay’s Attic. Standard Quay, a group of repurposed historic maritime buildings alongside the creek, has more than a dozen shops and businesses, including Styled by Vintage, Aladdin’s Loft, The Furniture Barn, Creekside Vinyl and trendy vintage homeware store Benedict’s of Kent.
Just out of town is Macknade Fine Foods food hall. Having recently opened a butchery counter, the store now provides everyday essentials plus fine foods, local produce and a café famous for its cheese and charcuterie platters.
Maxine Nelson, Extreme Chocolate
Tell us a bit about you
I moved to Faversham from Cornwall in June 2014. I had been through some massive life changes and Faversham just shone to me, so I took a leap of faith! I’ve been involved in natural fragrances and flavours since 1997, accidentally progressing to pâtisserie and chocolate work and working in Cornwall and France with my own business for many years. Now divorced and my children flown the nest, I consider what I do as a lifestyle rather than a career.
Tell us about Extreme Chocolate
Funnily, after leaving Cornwall I decided to sell my cake-making equipment and vowed to never bake again! However, I love making food, creating flavours, designing and challenging myself.
I took a step forward and trialled Faversham Food Festival. I met so many encouraging and lovely people, but I knew that the extravagant chocolate cakes I displayed were not a pathway for a market.
However, the few brownies I had made sold instantly. From there the business grew and my Extreme Chocolate stall includes some unexpected combinations, with names like Hunky Chunky, Charlie Brownie, Salted Caramel and Awesome Chocolate.
This year will see me at food markets in Tunbridge Wells, Shoreditch, hopefully Canterbury and Faversham, with a sprinkling of food festivals when I can. I also make celebration cakes and brownie cake towers through my website.
Favourite places to eat and drink?
The Bear Inn, a traditional Shepherd Neame pub where they buy in local produce, Cosgraves Coffee Shop (especially their amazing soups) and Annette’s Baguettes café.
And your favourite shops?
The Stationery Shoppe is possibly my favourite, plus the owner is lovely, and Sweet Scene in Preston Street. I love to browse the shops at Standard Quay too. Styled by Vintage has some lovely stuff.
Hanami Festival at Brogdale (blossom photo supplied by Brogdale)
Celebrated across Japan every year, Hanami is a festival dedicated to cherry blossom. For generations, families and friends in Japanese towns and cities have gathered together in the fresh spring air to enjoy an afternoon picnic under the beautiful trees.
This month, Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, will be one of the only places in the UK to celebrate Hanami, following on from its successful first event last year. And with the largest collection of fruit trees in the world, it promises to be quite a sight. With more than 350 flowering cherry varieties on site, there will also be apple, pear, apricot and plum tree blossom to enjoy.
There are two ways to celebrate Hanami at Brogdale. You can either visit for a relaxing Hanami Picnic (on selected dates in April) to enjoy the Japanese exhibition, tasters of Japanese snacks, a guided tour of the orchards and a picnic under the trees - or visit on the Hanami Festival day (16 April) to enjoy all of that as well as some special Japanese entertainment.
Kimberly Campion, development officer at Brogdale, says: “Introducing the Japanese tradition of Hanami has been the perfect way to celebrate the beauty of spring blossom at Brogdale. Visitors have embraced the romance of Hanami and picnicking under the blossom, and we are expecting an even bigger uptake this year. We are really excited to bring this new tradition to the UK.”
Check the website www.brogdalecollections.org for available picnic dates and for blossom forecasts which will predict the best dates to visit during April.
My Shop - Oliver Branson-Cole, Goodness Gracious
Tell us about your shop
Owned and managed by myself and my mother, Goodness Gracious is a curiosity shop in Faversham’s Market Street. It opened in October 2014 and inherited its name from my great-grandmother and her love of the phrase. My mother loves all things vintage and had a stall at Covent Garden and Portobello Road in the early 1980s.
We sell everything including antiques, curiosities, taxidermy, pianos, gramophones, vinyl, small furniture, jewellery and books. Our mantra is ‘anything that takes your eye, you can buy,’ apart from our wonderful 1950’s copper cash register (the reason we don’t take cards), the 00 gauge Hornby model train that goes around the shop above your head and a selection of our museum pieces.
What are your most popular items?
I’d say jewellery, haberdashery, lamps and shades, gramophones and pianos. My personal favourite item so far would have to be the baby grand piano which nearly didn’t fit in the shop. The old local photographs, letters and newspapers are also quite popular with the locals and tourists.
The oddest items you’ve sold?
The oddest items would have to be the taxidermy, particularly a Victorian armadillo basket. We tend to come across weird and wonderful items every day, occasionally accompanied by a great story. No two days are the same and it is an aspect we thoroughly enjoy.
What changes are planned?
When we first opened, a few customers said it would be nice to sit down and have a cup of tea here. Now we are launching GG’s vintage tea room within the shop and Ivy’s Yard out the back - Faversham’s first prohibition style temperance cocktail bar. We even hope to have a Speakeasy bar in the basement, depending on licensing, and we have obtained a license to screen classic and silent movies in the background as ambience.
What do you love about Faversham?
Faversham is pure, quaint, quirky and full of nostalgia, with many hidden gems. The community spirit is great and I love all the antique and independent shops, the listed buildings, the history and heritage, the creek, the cinema, the pubs and restaurants, and even the swimming pool.
Goodness Gracious is at 13, Market Street. Search Facebook for ‘Goodness Gracious Curiosity Shop’.
21 and 30 April: Visit nearby Belmont House, a grand Georgian house and gardens in Throwley, near Faversham, for a foraging day (21 April) or a special tour of the historic clocks around the house (30 April).
21-22 May: Faversham Transport Weekend.
Celebrating all kinds of historic vehicles, this popular weekend event includes free bus rides, food and drink stalls, music and entertainment, markets and a funfair, as well as town-centre displays of vintage cars, motorboats, bicycles and boats.
3-4 September: Faversham Hop Festival.
Celebrating the town’s famous brewing history, this event began as a beer festival in 1990 but has grown into something much bigger. The entire town turns out to enjoy music, Morris dancing, entertainment, stalls, food and, of course, some of the regions finest beers.
It’s still a relatively reasonable place to buy property but it certainly isn’t cheap. With a growing reputation as a great place to live and a lot of stylish new developments, the property market in Faversham is buoyant.
One-bed flats can be picked up for as little as £110,000, with two-bed terraced homes priced between £190,000 and £270,000. Three-bed properties average at around £295,000. Towards the top of the market there are five-bed properties priced between £450,000 and £800,000.
How to get there
Faversham is close to Canterbury and easily accessed via the M2. Trains run towards Canterbury, Dover and Ramsgate, as well as to Chatham, London Victoria and St Pancras.
Satnav postcode: ME13 8NS