Spotlight on Kings Hill and West Malling
PUBLISHED: 16:59 09 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:59 09 May 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
One new, one old but two neighbouring towns with masses of appeal
West Malling is predominantly medieval, but a walkaround soon shows architecture reflecting most eras and reveals the stunning development of the town throughout the years.
What was once a large farm nearby first became Maidstone Airport, where pioneer aviators Alcock and Brown completed their transatlantic flight in the 1930s. Then during the Second World War it was home to RAF West Malling, where pilot heroes Guy Gibson and ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham earned their proverbial wings.
In 1989 a masterplan was conceived to build the new community of Kings Hill on this site (see opposite).
Malling Abbey has been in Swan Street for 900 years and is still occupied by a private order of Benedictine Nuns.
Just outside the town, near ancient St Leonard’s Tower, is the former Douce Manor estate; the house, originally built for an influential local family, still remains (converted to private apartments) and part of the estate now forms the scenic Manor Park, which is open to the public.
The top end of West Malling’s wide
High Street is where you’ll find Swan Street, with The Cascade, a Georgian waterfall on the wall of St Mary’s Abbey.
Also here is Mill Yard, an attractive medieval yard surrounded by shops in what was once 16th-century buildings.
At the bottom end of town is the village green, with a bronze sculpture called Hope of a running woman with a cloak billowing out behind her; this cloak depicts scenes from the town’s history. Other sights around town to see are St Mary the Virgin church (Norman), and historic King Street with Prior House (a medieval hall house) as well as many other ancient buildings.
Just outside West Malling are the remains of the 11th-century St Leonard’s Tower and also Manor Park, with squirrels, ducks, woodpeckers, swans and a lake.
The old county cricket ground in Norman Road is where the first recorded game of cricket was played in 1705.
This is a new, aspirational community set in landscaped parkland on the site of the former RAF West Malling airfield. There are welcoming public spaces, such as the village green, cricket ground and its own golf course.
Liberty Property Trust, the developer, in partnership with Kent County Council, has created what is described as a ‘soft and social infrastructure that gives a community a true identity’, exemplified by the public art commissioned throughout the whole development.
Five thousand jobs have been created in the business park to date, and a marketing forum, Kings Hill New Homes, has been formed by the homebuilders (Crest Nicolson, Hillreed Homes and Bellway) and Liberty Property Trust, in partnership with Kent County Council.
There are currently 2,600 occupied homes with prices ranging from £237,950 for a two-bedroom terrace home, up to £625,000 for a five-bedroom family house.
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council offices are based at Kings Hill, with a small area office at Tonbridge Castle. The borough covers an area from the North Downs at Burham and Snodland in the north, to Tonbridge in the south.
Shop and dine
There are plenty of interesting shops in West Malling High Street (more than 50), plus Abbey Arcade, an area of individual market stalls. Liberty Square, at Kings Hill, is the main shopping centre, with an ASDA store, gift shops, restaurants and an art gallery among others.
As for food, you can choose from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Belgian, Italian or English cuisine in the many restaurants. A few to note are: The Swan (01732 521910, ME19 6JU – Ed. recommended), Café Belge (01732 843247, ME16 6QH)), Farm House Restaurant (01732 843257, ME19 6NA), Thai Moon (01732 870870, ME19 4AU). Pubs serving a fine pint include: The Bull Inn (01732 842753, ME19 6QH) and The Spitfire (01732 220754, E19 4AU).
Kings Hill Mums (KHM)
KHM is a free bi-monthly magazine published in and around Kings Hill for local families to find out about what’s happening in the area.
Marika Cooke, who has lived with her family in Kings Hill for five years, set up the magazine and produces it, while her husband Jon does the design and layout. Marika is mum to Sophie, four and seven-year-old Sam.
“The idea of KHM is to help parents find out about local groups and events to take their children,” she says. “The knock-on effect is that they get to meet new people.
“Kings Hill is unique in the number of young families living here. I’m currently organising a group of mums to do the 20-mile Pink Ribbonwalk at Leeds Castle for Breast Cancer Care on 7 June.
“I’ve never lived in such a friendly and welcoming community as Kings Hill. Although it is an upmarket place to live, there are plenty of middle-income families living here.
“I’d like to particularly mention the newly opened Kings Hill Sports Park (ME19 4QP), a fantastic new facility and ideal for the local athletes.”
Marika loves: “The great schools and amenities on your doorstep, the easy commute to London, a great sense of community, and it’s all set in the beautiful Kent countryside.” n