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Spotlight on Tenterden

PUBLISHED: 12:09 04 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:47 04 October 2014

Smallhythe Place

Smallhythe Place

Manu Palomeque

With its wide tree-lined High Street, lovely shops and ancient buildings, plus one of the finest rural light railways in the UK, Tenterden also stages its famous folk festival this month

First known as Tenet Waraden, translated roughly to mean ‘A clearing in the forest for pig rearing’, for 300 years Tenterden grew as a market town and a centre for the cloth industry.

It was once a prestigious port, incorporated into the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, as well as being a shipbuilding centre and producer of Kentish broadcloth. While the silting up of the port was a blow to the town’s prosperity, trading and cloth manufacture continued to thrive.

In recent times it has burgeoned as a foodie’s paradise, with many local food producers and two vineyards produce award-winning wines.

Tenterden Folk Festival

2-5 October

With a procession along the High Street on the Saturday, this comprises four days of music, dance and folk songs. There’s an English barn dance, many Morris sides, international dance displays, concerts, sing-a-rounds, music sessions, special shows, craft fairs, street stalls, music stalls and displays, workshops, plus events for children. Events are held at various venues throughout town, including the wide High Street itself, various pubs and a large marquee erected on the recreation ground.

Some of the headline acts are: Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol, Tom Lewis, Mark Gibson, Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman, James Findlay Trio and Jez Lowe.

Festival Director, Alan Castle, was presented with the British Empire Medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent in the New Year’s Honours list for services to music and heritage.

Things to do

Tenterden Leisure Centre (01580 765987, TN30 6RA), has a pool, sports hall, crèche and children’s play facilities, while the Kent and East Sussex Railway (01580 765155, TN30 6HE) is a 10-mile long rural light railway, with restored coaches and locomotives from Victorian days. Trains run from Tenterden through the countryside of the Rother Valley and terminate at Bodiam castle, in Sussex.

There’s also the Colonel Stephens Railway museum (same contact details) and excellent exhibits at the Tenterden and District Museum (01580 764310, TN30 6HN) too.

The Ellen Terry Museum at Smallhythe Place (01580 762334, TN30 7NG) specialises in theatrical memorabilia and has a pretty garden where the Barn Theatre is based (0844 2491895).

The Sinden Theatre (01580 764222, TN30 6LT), based at Homewood School, is named after renowned actor Donald Sinden, who lived near the town until his death in September this year.

Don’t miss St Mildred’s (13th-century) church and all the fine old buildings, including the Woolpack Hotel that dates from the 1500s and the Lemon Tree Restaurant, that began life as a medieval Wealden Hall House.

If you like English wine then Kent’s top vineyards are on the edge of town: Chapel Down Winery (01580 763033, TN30 7NG) and Biddenden Vineyards (01580 291726, TN27 8DF). Both have on-site wine and food shops and offer vineyard tours.

Shop then dine

Waitrose is at one end of town, near the lovely recreation park, there’s also Tesco, plus the tree-lined street with mostly ‘feelgood’ home-improvement stores, gift shops and fashion outlets.

On the High Street there’s a market and street stalls on Fridays. Quaint Sayers Lane is home to a range of excellent smaller retailers.

Locally produced foods are plentiful in Tenterden, and some notable outlets are: Gibbet Oak Farm Shop (01580 763938, TN30 7DH), Silcocks Farm Shop (01580 763351, TN30 6TL) as well as the Potato Shop (01580 766866, TN30 7LR), who grow and sell a vast variety of potato types.

Good restaurants include the restaurant and separate brasserie at the London Beach Country Hotel, Spa and Country Club (01580 766279, TN30 6HX) and The Swan at Chapel Down Winery (01580 761616, TN30 7NG). Decent pubs include the Woolpack Hotel (01580 388501, TN30 6AP) and the William Caxton (01580 764417, TN30 6JR).

Walkers’ paradise

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a mecca for ramblers and walkers, and there’s a set of seven circular walks that start and finish in the town, affording fabulous view and stunning scenery, ranging from orchards to wide-open spaces. There are also six Park, Walk and Ride trails, with a comprehensive variety of terrain, including waterside, fields, woodland paths and country lanes. Each one is designed to make use of the light railway and areas surrounding the KESR railway stations.


This is an exciting community photographic project designed to record a year in the life of Tenterden during 2014, with 365 photographs, one for each day of the year (www.tenterden365.co.uk).

Local photographer Stuart Kirk, who has lived in the town for 12 years, is the organiser, who says that anyone of any age is encouraged to take pictures of any subject with any type of camera, the only proviso being that the subject has to be in or around Tenterden.

The idea is to get a newsreel of Tenterden for 2014 – for each day the pictures will be sent to one of 60 local judges to select their favourite.

There’ll been an exhibition during summer 2015, but until then the website will host a random selection of the photos sent in, apart from the judges’ choices, kept from sight until the final exhibition.

“The project has really captured the imagination of the whole community and has been far more successful than anyone imagined,” says Stuart.

I originally envisaged my own personal 365 project with a picture of my own for each day of the year, then it seemed a much better idea to make Tenterden itself the subject and to get as many local people as possible involved.

We currently have 120 photographers, with more people still joining in. Literally anyone can produce stunning pictures, and it’s often the unusual ones that can catch a judge’s eye.”

Stuart’s favourite Tenterden:

“My favourite place is St Mildred’s Church, a beautiful building, absolutely iconic, its towers can be seen for miles around – I’m a member of the ‘Friends of St Mildred’s’, who aim to raise money to preserve the building’s fabric.

My favourite walk is through Morghew Park, especially when the rape seed is in full flower. Tenterden really is the Jewel in the Weald.”

Craftsman’s viewpoint

With more than 25 years’ experience in the antique furniture restoration and conservation profession, Neil Chapman (01580 231565 and 07759128992) has a wide variety of skills covering all aspects of antique furniture restoration, and has worked for museums, private collectors, the antiques trade and individuals.

Neil’s growing business is now based on the Hole Park Estate (owned and run by Edward Barham).

He specialises in working on furniture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and lives with his wife and sons in St Michaels, just outside Tenterden.

“I absolutely love antique furniture, but have a particular passion for untouched, un-restored items that display an honest visual passage of time,” says Neil.

I especially like walnut furniture of the early 18th century – the veneer on fine pieces often has fantastic figuring which, with years of waxing and polishing, produces superb warm faded finishes and patination.

In addition to restoration work I offer a fine cabinet-making service, where bespoke items can be made or reproductions produced to customers’ requirements.

Neil’s favourite Tenterden:

“Having two young boys, the recreation ground and leisure centre in the town are our favourite places.

We’re all golf fans, and go to Tenterden Golf Club (01580 763987, TN30 7DR) most weekends, and my boys Harry and Thomas both play for our local football team the Tenterden Tigers.

For a visit I would recommend Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden (01580 241344, TN17 4JB – check opening times), especially beautiful in the spring.

Tenterden is a delightful gem of a town bustling with character and charm, with individual shops, places to eat and lots of attractions.”

Getting there

Tenterden is on the A28, midway between Hastings and Ashford. The A28 is reached by junction 9 of the M20, joined to the M25 at junctions 3 or 5. The nearest stations are Headcorn (nine miles) and Ashford International (12 miles) with high-speed links to London and the continent.

Satnav postcode: TN30 6AU.

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