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What to do, see and eat in Westerham, Kent

PUBLISHED: 14:30 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:30 20 November 2018

Statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the village green, sculpted by Oscar Nemon (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the village green, sculpted by Oscar Nemon (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

This characterful little country town draws history lovers from near and far. Let’s explore Churchill’s beloved Westerham

The little town of Westerham is just five miles west of Sevenoaks and is as westerly as Kent gets before it meets Surrey.

It lies along the River Darent in the fertile Holmesdale Valley and has a history that goes back to the Neolithic Age. In fact, the remains of an Iron Age fort were found on the town’s Squerryes Estate and in 1927 the ‘Westerham Hoard’ – including one of the earliest coins thought to have been struck in Britain – was found on Hosey Hill.

Long associated with the brewing industry, Westerham was famously home to one of the county’s biggest breweries, Black Eagle, until 1965, and after a long absence brewing finally returned to the town last year with Westerham Brewery opening its new tap room and shop on Beggars Lane.

But beer isn’t the only beverage this area is famous for. During the Roman occupation the slopes of this valley proved successful for growing grapes and today the same fields are planted up as the vineyards of Squerryes Winery.

Quebec House is where General Wolfe spent his childhood years (photo: National Trust Images/Andrew Butler)Quebec House is where General Wolfe spent his childhood years (photo: National Trust Images/Andrew Butler)

It’s an incredibly scenic area too, with open countryside and fabulous views – and all within striking distance of London.

It was exactly this combination that attracted its most famous resident, Sir Winston Churchill. He and his wife Clementine bought Chartwell in Westerham in 1922 and it was their family home until he died in 1965. Now maintained by the National Trust, visitors continue to flock to Chartwell to see the elegant house and its grounds.

The National Trust has two other properties nearby; Quebec House in Westerham and Emmetts Garden in Ide Hill. The former was the childhood home of another of the area’s most famous sons, General James Wolfe.

Born at the house in 1727, Wolfe became the posthumous hero of the Battle of Quebec and an important part of British military history. Meanwhile, Emmetts Garden, laid out in the 19th century, stands at one of the highest points in Kent, with great views and year-round interest.

The Squerryes Estate, just outside Westerham, began planting its vineyards in 2006, and the first vintage was produced in 2010 (photo: Manu Palomeque)The Squerryes Estate, just outside Westerham, began planting its vineyards in 2006, and the first vintage was produced in 2010 (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The centre of Westerham has remained largely unchanged for centuries, with a pretty green surrounded by historic houses, shops, cosy cafés and friendly pubs.

Nestled in one corner of the green is St Mary’s Church, built in the 13th century, which records the baptism not only of General Wolfe but of three of Churchill’s grandchildren.

A largely affluent town, Westerham is popular with commuters who crave the country life but appreciate its proximity to London. The M25 is close by and, although Westerham lost its own railway station long ago, it’s a quick drive to nearby Oxted, Dunton Green or Sevenoaks.

Not far away is the more modern town of Biggin Hill, with its famous airport. One of the most important fighter stations of the Second World War, Biggin Hill is honouring its history with the creation of a new museum built around the on-site Chapel of Remembrance. It is due to open to the public this month, marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

In 1922 Winston Churchill MP bought Chartwell Manor on the outskirts of Westerham, which, apart from the time he spent at 10 Downing Street, was his home for the rest of his life. Chartwell is now administered by the National Trust (photo: Manu Palomeque)In 1922 Winston Churchill MP bought Chartwell Manor on the outskirts of Westerham, which, apart from the time he spent at 10 Downing Street, was his home for the rest of his life. Chartwell is now administered by the National Trust (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Westerham’s close-knit community comes together for a number of events throughout the year and the Christmas light switch-on is always a popular one.

Before that, Westerham Brewery is treating the town to its second annual Fireworks Spectacular on 9 November at its tap room and shop, with street food, live music and of course plenty of local beer.

Eating and shopping

Emma PageEmma Page

For Westerham, much of life revolves around the Green and the adjacent Market Square and High Street. Look out for historic pubs, including The Grasshopper on the Green, The King’s Arms and The George and Dragon, cafés including Tudor Rose, The Courtyard, Deli Di Luca and the Drop Bar at Westerham Cyclery and restaurants like Rendezvous, Napoli E, Tulsi and Chow’s. And don’t miss trendy wine bar No 17. Out of town, there’s Indian restaurant Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, with beer and street food on offer at Westerham Brewery’s tap room and wine tasting at Squerryes Winery – which also opened for Saturday seafood tapas and Sunday brunch over the summer months for the first time this year. And there’s a new tearoom in the nearby village of Brasted (known for its antiques shops) called The Raspberry Room.

Most day-to-day shopping needs are taken of in Westerham, along with a number of clothing boutiques, interior design stores and gift shops. A few favourites include Chocs on the Green, Manuka Shoes, Flawless Jewellery, The Vintage Home Co, Prelude, Zebra Zebra, Hopps and Orvis.

Getting there

Westerham lies on the A25 between Brasted and Oxted, close to the M25. Oxted is the closest train station.

Sat nav: TN16 1RB.

Property prices

Property is highly sought after in this desirable small town, with nearby Biggin Hill providing a more affordable option. Expect prices to start at around £230,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with two-bed houses starting at £300,000 and three-bed houses priced between £350,000 and £825,000. Larger properties are priced right up to £4million.

Postcard from Westerham

I’m Emma Page, a business and law journalist for 25 years, and now a cake maker and caterer, based in Westerham. I’ve made cakes for friends and family for as long as I can remember, but discovered the versatility of buttercream at a confectionery show five years ago and was captivated by the different effects that could be achieved by piping. I watched a demonstrator produce bouquets of flowers as if by magic and was determined to master the technique.

A buttercream cake has so much character and will taste delicious. My cakes have now appeared in Vogue, wedding magazines and hundreds of blogs.

I started catering about two years ago. I absolutely love cooking so I joined up with a friend, Sam, and we decided to share the business. We’ve forged a bit of a niche locally, offering big sharing platters for guests to tuck into. It’s a bit more fun and creates a real buzz around the table.

Sam and I try to get involved with the local community as much as possible.

We cook once a month at the Westerham community lunch, which started a couple of years ago with 30 diners and has grown to a group of more than 60, mainly elderly, residents who come to Westerham Hall.

Westerham has been a lovely place to bring up a family. My children have had a lot of freedom because it’s a safe and close-knit community.

We’re lucky to have retained a range of independent shops, and the town remains busy throughout the week, as well as at the weekend, when visitors descend to enjoy pub lunches, countryside dog walks and attractions such as Chartwell.

For family celebrations, Napoli E is fun, and serves the best seafood linguine. My favourite shop is Hopps, a little boutique tucked away in a courtyard opposite the green, and Deli Di Luca offers the best coffee.

Visit www.emmapagecakes.co.uk and www.prep-catering.com

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