Spotlight on: Sevenoaks
PUBLISHED: 08:51 12 March 2016 | UPDATED: 08:51 12 March 2016
With arts, culture, history, great shopping and dining options, and stunning countryside surrounding it, there isn’t much this popular town doesn’t have.
1 1 Arts centre
There are few towns which still have a local theatre and a town-centre cinema, but in The Stag Community Arts Centre, lucky Sevenoaks has both. Run by the local council, it is a real community hub, with a café, an events suite, a theatre and two digital cinema screens. At Christmas it’s packed with families for the popular annual pantomime. In the past they’ve starred Neighbours actor Alan Fletcher, Boyzone singer Shane Lynch and former EastEnder Leslie Grantham. The cinema has parent and baby screenings each week.
2 Eclectic shopping
A small town with an eclectic mix of shops, Sevenoaks is a great place to do some shopping at a relaxed pace. Recent additions include Barkers of Sevenoaks (01732 451915), for pampered pooches, Scandinavian homeware/clothing store The Danish Collection (01732 452620), which has expanded from smaller premises, and popular gluten-free bakery Eat ’n’ Mess (01732 452620). Further out of town, the Hollybush Lane area is known for its independent traders and features Danish lifestyle shop Hos Hother (01732 668054) and new French homeware store Chic Et Tralala (07977 536 897). In the pretty surrounding villages, try some antiques hunting in Brasted and Sundridge, and visit chic new interiors shop Holloways of Ludlow (01959 565818) while in Brasted.
3 Historic Knole
With its own 1,000-acre medieval deer park and just a short walk from the High Street, Knole is the jewel in Sevenoaks’ crown. The house dates back more than 500 years and was once an archbishop’s palace. It came into the possession of Elizabeth I’s cousin, Thomas Sackville, in 1566 and his descendants have lived there ever since. But while part of the historic house remains a private home for Robert Sackville-West and his family, the rest is in the care of the National Trust and the subject of an ongoing refurbishment project. Visit the state rooms, galleries and grounds, explore its collections, browse its gift and book shops and revive yourself afterwards in the outdoor café.
4 Sevenoaks summer arts festival
Every summer for the last 47 years the town has come alive with music, comedy and family entertainment. The Sevenoaks Summer Festival has evolved from an annual musical celebration within Sevenoaks School to a community festival with a fortnight of events held in venues across the town. This year, organisers have promised highlights including an evening with Giles Brandreth, a night of country music with The Haley Sisters and a festival finale with Sir Rick Wakeman. Events run between 18 June and 3 July.
5 Eating out
There are dining options galore in this vibrant little town. Favourites like Loch Fyne (01732 467140), Côte Brasserie (01732 463362) and The Vine (01732 469510) sit alongside new places like Hattusa (01732 463752), an interesting Anatolian restaurant, and the highly rated The Little Garden (01732 469397), which is owned by the man behind the popular George & Dragon (01732 779019) in nearby Chipstead. There are also lots of fine coffee shops and cafés, some favourites being Nonna Cappuccini’s (01732 461160) and the new Zed’s Music Café (01732 465516).
6 Green space
The Vine is a town-centre green space and one of the oldest cricket grounds in England. It’s also home to the eponymous seven oak trees, which were planted in 1902, but six were sadly flattened by the Great Storm of 1987. Seven new saplings were planted alongside the remaining original, technically giving Sevenoaks eight oaks (to add further to the confusion, the council has recently planted seven more on Brittains Common). If you are visiting The Vine, however, be sure to pop into the new Café On The Vine. Opened last year, it’s a great not-for-profit community hub and is already proving popular with young families.
7 Himalayan hideaway
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise; and in the case of Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, it may well be a lurking yeti. Riverhill started life as the family home of Victorian plant hunter John Rogers and literally grew from the seeds he brought back from his adventures. Best known for its collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and trees from the Himalayan regions, the gardens were opened to the public in 2010. There are exciting children’s play areas, lots of den building opportunities, a Himalayan hedge maze, a lovely café and a chance to ‘spot the yeti’ in the woods. Regular events are held throughout the year too.
8 Moated manor
Lovely Ightham Mote is a National Trust property which looks as though it has just popped out of a fairytale. The moated manor, which dates back nearly 700 years, has been the home of medieval knights, Tudor courtiers and wealthy Victorians.
It’s a wonderful and peaceful place to explore, with a gift shop, a café and a very popular natural children’s play area in the woods. To top it off, the formal gardens are split into ‘rooms’ offering interest all year round, and the 546-acre estate features some great walks through woodland and orchards. Spring is the perfect time to see the bluebell woods in their full glory.
9 Haven for wildlife
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, set on a group of lakes just north of the town, is one of Kent Wildlife Trust’s most important reserves. Described as a ‘pioneering reserve’, it has equal amounts of land and water, making it a great place to spot a wide variety of wildlife. Surprisingly close to the M25, it provides a haven for birds, plants, insects and native animals. It’s even said to have the world’s largest bee house.
The excellent visitor centre is equipped with exhibition space, a museum, a shop and a tea bar, making it popular with families keen to involve their children in nature, and special family events are held throughout the year.
10 Hillside gardens
Emmetts Gardens are set in the village of Ide Hill, at one of the highest points in Kent. With spectacular views, the hillside gardens were owned by Edwardian banker and planstman Frederic Lubbock. Although later altered, they still retain the original character he took from the fashionable Gertrude Jekyll’s style.
Bequeathed to the National Trust in 1964, the gardens cover around six acres and offer lovely walks.
There is a café in the converted stables, a charming gift shop and of course Emmetts will be looking its finest now that spring has arrived. w