Spotlight on: Sevenoaks
PUBLISHED: 06:46 04 April 2014 | UPDATED: 06:46 04 April 2014
10 good reasons to visit this charismatic, elegant town
1 Entertainment par excellence
The Stag Community Arts Centre (01732 450175, TN13 1ZZ) now operates as a charity, and includes a theatre, two digital cinema screens, and an alternative performance and conferencing facility. When the complex was forced to close in 2008, Sevenoaks Town Council took over the venue the following January with a 25-year lease after a formal bid process. Shows this month include South Pacific (9-12 Apr), Sinatra Sequins and Swing (25), and the Encore Dance Company (27).
2 Heart of town
Knole House and its vast deer park (01732 462100, TN15 0RP) was originally home to successive Archbishops of Canterbury and was given by Queen Elizabeth I to her cousin, Thomas Sackville, whose descendants still live there. You can admire 13 fine staterooms, filled with furniture, tapestries, silver and paintings by Gainsborough and Van Dyck. The 1,000-acre park has friendly Sika deer and there’s a beautiful Orangery. There are guided walks, after which you can browse the shop, relax in the tearoom and explore the children’s trail.
3 Shopping and Shambles
The High Street has plenty of top names plus many interesting independents, including The Sevenoaks Bookshop. Bligh’s Meadow is where you’ll find a concentration of similar high-quality retailers and, coming soon, the site of a former “grot spot” on London Road is set to be transformed into a new Marks & Spencer.
It will mean 150 new jobs for the town, and the existing M&S food store will be relocated into the brand new 42,000sq ft building in the Bligh’s shopping area.
The historic Shambles is an enclosed yard approached by a cobbled alleyway; in 2000 local artists decorated the walls to depict the medieval trades that once flourished there through murals and sculptures.
4 Ale and Plaice
Here are just some of the town’s many fine eateries: Vine restaurant (01732 469510, TN13 3TB), Loch Fyne Sevenoaks (seafood) (01732 467140, TN13 1JY), Sun Do (Chinese) (01732 453299, TN13 1JI), The House on the Hill (01732 450120, TN13 1BH). For great pint or some fine wine try: the refurbished The Royal Oak (01732 451109, TN13 1HY), The Chequers (01732 450144, TN13 1LD), the 16th-century George and Dragon (01732 779019, TN13 2RW) at Chipstead or The Woodman (01732 750296, TN14 6BU) (at Ide Hill).
5 Arresting architecture
Architectural historian Nicklaus Pevsner claimed that the southern end of Sevenoaks High Street had ‘more worthwhile buildings than in almost any other street in the country’. Look out for the Chantry (late 1600s), and The Old Vicarage (late 1700s), while St Nicholas Church opposite the entrance to Knole dates from the 13th century and had the poet John Donne as Rector from 1616 until 1631; near here there’s a fine row of old cottages in Six Bells Lane. The Old Market House, between Bank Street and Dorset Street, is the site of the original market.
6 Lakes and wildlife
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve (TN13 3DH) has five lakes, ponds, reedbeds and pools, plus spacious woodland habitats for a wide variety of fungi, plants and animals. There are bird watching hides and The Jeffrey Harrison Visitor Centre has displays that illustrate the prehistory and history of the site, the creation of the reserve, its habitats, and what wildlife it supports. Shop and tea bar.
7 Working oast
Otford Heritage Centre (01959 523140, TN4 5PG) in the nearby village of the same name has exhibits and displays covering 4,000 years of the area’s geology, natural history, ecology and archaeology, plus a working recreation of a Kentish oast house. There’s a model of Otford Palace, a 56ft timeline, Roman artefacts, local artwork, as well as details of Otford’s solar system: a construction of a model of the planets of the solar system built around the village, using pillars to represent planets.
8 Village life
Nearby Brasted has a compact village green, a single winding street and a row of Tudor cottages and is well known as an antiques centre – there are 11 antiques shops. Sundridge’s very fine St Mary’s church dates from the 13th century and Borough Green, at the crossroads of the A25 and A227, has three pubs and three churches. Ightham is famous for its nearby Mote (see below); the village itself has lovely tile-hung and half-timbered houses, and is where you’ll find the source of the River Bourne.
9 Moated manor
Ightham Mote (01732 810378, TN15 0NT) is a moated manor house dating from 1320, with a shop, garden and restaurant. It has a pretty courtyard, a crypt, the great hall, drawing room with a Jacobean fireplace, a Tudor chapel with a hand-painted ceiling, plus a Grade I-listed dog kennel. Surrounded by gardens with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks, in the grounds is Laundry Cottage (0844 8002070), available for self-catering accommodation.
10 Grand views
Emmetts Garden (TN14 6BA) is set at a high altitude, allowing excellent views out across the Weald of Kent (see also page 106). It has rare trees and shrubs, and the scenery transforms into a variety of exciting colours throughout the seasons. There are four acres of tree-packed gardens, and 14 acres of wooded valley, a rose garden, bluebell woods and a tearoom. n