4 great shops to buy local Christmas gifts in Kent
PUBLISHED: 15:33 03 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:33 03 December 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Nothing beats a unique, hand-picked present from one of Kent's superb galleries, spciality shops and gift stores. Here are just a few to whet your festive apppetite
• Lorna Roberts at The Hop Shop at Castle Farm, Shoreham
“Castle Farm is best known for its spectacular lavender fields which turn the Darenth Valley purple every summer. We are the largest lavender farm in the UK, and distil all the beautiful fragrant crop on site - the smell is amazing.
The high-grade Kentish lavender oil is then used in aromatherapy, toiletries, room fragrances, perfumes and foods. Many people are surprised to learn, however, that lavender is not all we grow.
We have more than 1,000 acres of arable crops, 280 head of cattle for our Castle Farm beef, hops which are used exclusively for interior decoration, our heritage Norfolk Royal pick-your-own apple orchard which ripens in September, and our productive pumpkin patch.
And, of course, we have The Hop Shop, which is open daily, all year round, selling our range of farm foods, seasonal produce, gifts and all things lavender.
We like to think that The Hop Shop provides a little escape from the high street in the run-up to Christmas. We create a beautiful space filled to the brim with Christmas decorations, festive foods, gifts for all ages, interior decor inspiration, stocking fillers and essentials for Christmas dinner. We have easy parking, sparkling fairy lights and a very welcoming atmosphere.
Our gift range includes delightful scarves, delicate jewellery, body and bath toiletries, gardening goodies, lavender decorations and aromatherapy gifts. Not forgetting chocolate gifts, treats for the kids and bottles of our Castle Farm apple juice to compliment your dinner table.
One of the favourite things our customers like to do is come to the shop, choose a basket, and make up their own hamper (think teas, lavender biscuits, mugs, Christmas decorations, hand creams, candles), and then we gift wrap the hamper all ready to go. If you can’t get down to the farm itself, we also offer ready-made hampers and other gifts through our online shop.”
Redmans Lane, Shoreham, Sevenoaks TN14 7UB
• Karen Papworth & Patricia Hawkins at West End House Gallery, Smarden
“West End House is a contemporary gallery in the heart of historic Smarden.
We took over in February 2011 and since then have done our best to create a bright and welcoming atmosphere.
Some people can find art galleries a wee bit intimidating but ours certainly isn’t and we encourage everyone to come in to see what we’re doing.
Original artworks on sale include paintings, prints, ceramics, glass, jewellery and crafts from a range of artists and makers. We host four to five themed exhibitions a year with an eclectic mix of work on show in between.
It has always been our intention to offer a broad price range and, therefore, we have beautifully made items from £4 to £4000. We represent a large number of artists, many of whom are local to the gallery.
However, we do go further afield to source work, the furthest being the north of Sweden.
Christmas is a very special, busy time at the gallery. We have a wide range of high-quality items, some of which are very festive indeed.
The perfect gift might include a robin with skinny legs by Jane Richardson, a mini ceramic Christmas village by Katie Brinsley, a glass candle arch by Fred Hollick or a more indulgent oil painting by Annie Waring. We’ll even offer you a glass of mulled wine while you browse.
There is something very special about buying a gift that has been hand made with love and care. We know just how much time and effort is put in by our artists and we try to convey this to our customers. We are both enthusiastic about what we do and it is a privilege to be able to offer information and back stories about each artist.”
Water Lane, Smarden, TN27 8QB
• Julie Small at The Cheese Room, Rochester
“I took on my first restaurant venture in 2004 with my husband Chris, after a career in the City. Running a fine dining restaurant, we began to realise that customers loved the idea of choosing their own cheese from a cheeseboard menu at the end of their meal. Specialising in British and local artisan cheese, the response was amazing.
Ready to take on another challenge, an opportunity arose to take on a shop a few doors down from our restaurant in Rochester and so, in 2017, we created The Cheese Room.
Primarily a cheese shop, there is a café space to sit in and try the cheese, whether coffee and cheese toasties at lunch, or perhaps a glass of wine and a British cheeseboard in the evening.
From day one The Cheese Room has been a big hit, with a quirky, ‘London-feel’ layout, knowledgeable and friendly staff and a seasonal cheesy menu.
Since then, The Cheese Room has expanded to include The Cheese Cellar – with more seating and a cosy fire, perfect for a winter catch-up with friends.
Christmas is our favourite time of year – and busiest. The cheese counter is a massive part of the Christmas preparations and we stock more than 30 different British cheeses, continental meats and sundries that will make the perfect Christmas table.
This year there are also cheese boxes – customers can choose from two different options – and The Cheese Room team will fill your chosen box with a lovely selection of cheese.
We also do hampers, made to order, to suit every budget. Beautifully selected fine wines, cheese crackers, fruit chutney and local craft beers accompany a great selection of cheese, and the café provides the perfect pit stop for those out Christmas shopping in Rochester.”
High Street, Rochester ME1 1JY
• Rose & James Marsh at Flory & Black, Whitstable
“My husband James and I opened Flory & Black in Whitstable in 2013. James had been training to be an interior photographer and I’d previously worked at Oxford University as a postgraduate neuroscientist. I was heavily pregnant with our first baby and we decided we needed a change.
We were both born and grew up in Whitstable but had been away for many years. Impending parenthood drew us back to be near the sea and our families.
James’ knowledge and passion for interior design made it a natural step to open a shop of beautiful things, so Flory & Black was born. Flory is a family name; James’ great grandfather ran a famous orchid breeding nursery in London called Black & Flory. We decided to mix it up in its honour.
Christmas in Whitstable is all about the independent retailers. It’s where people go when they are after that different, special gift. And more than that, the independent nature means that shopping is much more of an experience.
Shops go all out and there’s a friendly, warm and fuzzy vibe.
We basically live for Christmas here at Flory & Black. We literally transform our shop into a Christmas grotto of wonderment and definitely our biggest compliment ever was that we were like a magical shop in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. We also help light up the shops on Harbour Street, so everyone is twinkly and picturesque.
We like to think we have something for everyone and all budgets, from vases to mugs and totes, but we do our best to source the unusual, from animal candles that burn down leaving a skeleton to slightly rude cross-stitch.”
Harbour Street, Whitstable CT5 1AQ