Spotlight on: Sevenoaks
PUBLISHED: 19:05 05 September 2014 | UPDATED: 19:05 05 September 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Celebrating its annual Literary Festival this month and with fine historic buildings, great walks, stress-free shopping and lovely surrounding countryside, Sevenoaks has got it all
The town’s motto is ‘May the seven oaks flourish’, however these oaks have actually been replaced a number of times, most recently after the great hurricane of 1987.
For centuries Knole, where Vita Sackville-West lived and worked, has been the raison d’être for Sevenoaks. Literary associations abound: H G Wells, Dickens and Jane Austen all stayed and worked in the town and the poet John Donne was rector of St Nicholas church.
This month Sevenoaks marks these links with its annual Literary Celebration.
The High Street is the heart of town, packed with interesting independent shops (much of this part is pedestrianised), and at its southern end are interesting old buildings: The Chantry, The Manor House, The Old Vicarage, and St Nicholas Church.
Just off Bank Street is the Shambles, a spacious enclosed yard with decorative wall murals and sculpture. Nearby Buckhurst Lane is where you’ll find the Kaleidoscope Library (see opposite.
The Stag Community Theatre (01732 450175, TN13 1ZZ) in the High Street is a fantastic venue: a theatre, cinema, café and art gallery, while the ancient Vine Cricket Ground (TN13 3UH), where you can watch matches, is to the north of town.
Walkers can enjoy some well-marked footpaths: the North Downs Way, The Greensand Way and the Darent Valley Path.
Shop and dine
Bligh Meadow is an excellent modern shopping centre just off the High Street, combining national chains and independents, and it holds a Craft and Country fair on Saturdays.
Traditional independents abound in the High Street, such as Williamson Butchers, and the renowned Sevenoaks Bookshop, which now has a coffee and cake shop.
Followers of fashion will adore Cortica Chic Ltd, which stocks handbags, footwear and accessories made from cork, while Maisie K, which opened in Bank Street in 2012 following its success in Cranbrook over the past decade, has added a lifestyle boutique offering a gorgeous clothing range to its stock of home interiors, furniture, imaginative gifts and goodies.
And dedicated chocoholics know to head straight for The Chocolate Shop for the best (and prettiest) selection for miles
Fine restaurants include The Vine Restaurant (01732 469510, TN13 3TB), The Chequers (01732 450144, TN13 1LD) and Valentina (01732 469349, TN13 1UX), while good pubs are: The Crown (Otford) (01959 522847, TN14 5PQ) and the Bricklayers’ Arms (01732 743424, TN13 2RZ).
This is a co-ed day and boarding school for pupils aged 11 to 18, founded in 1432. In 2008 The Sunday Times chose Sevenoaks as the Independent Secondary School of the Year, and in 2012 the Department of Education placed them at the top of its GCSE performance tables.
Arabella Stuart, who has lived locally for 27 years, is Director of Admissions and Communication, and also teaches Biology.
“Between 40 and 50 of our students are accepted by Oxford and Cambridge colleges each year,” says Arabella (right).
“Famous ex-pupils include Paul Greengrass (film director), Jonathan Evans (recent head of M15), and Simon Starling (winner of the Turner Prize, 2005).
“We have a full arts programme at The Space, our Performing Arts Centre and we’re presenting Les Misérables in October. As well as being a strongly academic school with wonderful facilities for sport and the arts, we’re a very diverse community, with children from a wide range of backgrounds.
“Walking is my main local hobby, especially the stroll from One Tree Hill to Ivy Hatch along the ridge, with stunning views down across the Weald. Malabar (01732 743055, TN13 1LE) is a great place for coffee. Sevenoaks is a small, safe market town with all the facilities you need on your doorstep, and great independent shops.”
Rebecca Norburn is the fundraising manager for the National Trust, based at Knole, and a lifelong Sevenoaks resident.
This historic estate actually preceded the town and its history is inextricably linked with Sevenoaks. Set in 1000-acre parkland, which is home to a wild deer herd, the house has 13 sensational staterooms housing an internationally important unparalleled Jacobean furniture collection and paintings by Gainsborough, Van Dyke and Reynolds. Perfect for a day out, visitors can also enjoy exhibitions, a shop, an outdoor café and children’s trails.
“My role is to help bring in vital funds for the biggest building and conservation project Knole has witnessed in the last 400 years,” says Rebecca.
“We’re creating a new Conservation Studio, café complex and learning centre, establishing environmental control in our showrooms to protect the fragile interiors and collections, and opening up new previously unseen spaces to the public.
“Knole is such a special place, tucked away as it is behind the busy high street – it’s more like a small town than a house! Travelling down the main drive and along the winding main path takes my breath away every morning when I arrive here.
“We run plenty of events throughout the year: October is the deer rut, so there’ll be walks in the park with the chance to spot the magnificent deer herd. In November there’s an archaeology lecture about the witch marks and demon traps at Knole. During the festive season there’ll be storytelling and decoration workshops.
“Sevenoaks is such a town of contrasts, full of history and culture and a treasure trove of architectural delights, and yet has all the modern conveniences, great shops and restaurants, with Knole at its heart.” n
To donate to the conservation of Knole, please call 0344 800 1895, or visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole/ (Knole: 01732 462100, TN15 0RP).