Kent Life checks out the hidden gem that is Gravesend
PUBLISHED: 19:40 25 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:14 28 February 2013
Regeneration is the zeitgeist of Gravesend these days, which also boasts Kent's largest shopping centre and its best transport links, riverside walks and parks plus historic gems
Regeneration is the zeitgeist of Gravesend these days, which also boasts Kents largest shopping centre and its best transport links, riverside walks and parks plus historic gems
Gravesends shop-packed High Street is on a hill, linked to the river below by the High Street, key roads being Parrock Street, Clive Road and Stone Street.
The shoreline has a riverside walking route, and theres a passenger ferry terminal (to Tilbury), plus the town pier (see below).
Towncentric (01474 337600) is Gravesends top-notch Tourist Information Centre, beside the St Georges Shopping Centre.
Buildings enthusiasts will like the Old Town Hall, Harmer Street Clock Tower and St Georges church, outside which is the lovely bronze statue of the Native American Indian princess Pocahontas. The new Gurdwara is a magnificent marble-clad temple, which can be toured on request via Towncentric.
Along the view-packed shoreline, youll find the landscaped gardens of Elizabeth and St Andrews. At the eastern end theres the fine promenade, Gordon Gardens and New Tavern Fort, bandstand and fort gardens, and also Milton Chantry the oldest building in town (1322), home of Gravesham Heritage Centre.
The landmarks in between are St Andrews Church, Mission House, the foundations of Tudor blockhouses, and tiny Anchor Cove. The renovated historic town centre pier (1834), the oldest cast-iron pier in the world, is occupied by the Riva Waterside Restaurant and Bar.
Where to shop
There are approximately 460 independent traders in town, and the two excellent shopping malls are St Georges and the Thamesmead, both with leading High Street names and many independents. The town centre is pedestrianised, there is a permanent covered Gravesend Market, plus there are more than 40 restaurants.
Bluewater, Europes largest shopping centre, is very close (320 stores in three huge malls). Impressive art galleries in the area include the Blake Gallery in the civic centre (contemporary exhibitions), and in the Village part of Bluewater there are splendid paintings in Thomas Kincade International and the nearby Castle Galleries.
Steve Mundy runs Phoenix Framing (01474 568200), a picture-framing shop that also sells prints, mirrors and photos on canvas; theres also an on-site photographer. Weve built quite a reputation over the 20 years we've been here, says Steve. People come from far and wide.
I was born and bred here, so I can see things from an insiders viewpoint. The regenerations great its going to be tremendous for the town in the long term. Gravesend is very much up and coming. Id like more independent traders to come here, rather than more chain stores.
Chris Parry (01474 323203) is a jewellery designer/maker, who designs and creates bespoke jewellery. He has operated from his workshop/showroom in St Georges Centre for 12 years, and can either make bespoke items or work with your existing jewellery.
A fingerprint ring is where I take the clients fingerprint and engrave it as an exact replica onto a piece of jewellery, says Chris, whereas a cremation ring is a way of treasuring a pinch of a persons or a pets ashes and encasing it in molten glass, which is then set into a piece of jewellery.
Customers like the fact that I make everything from scratch, specifically for them. Gravesend people are supremely honest: I have never once had a shoplifter!
Gravesend is a key part of one of the Thames Gateway government-backed growth areas. Intrinsic to this original growth strategy was the construction of Ebbsfleet International Station with the HS1 fast connection rail link to London and the Continent.
Leader of Gravesham council, Cllr John Burden (see also My Town), says : The regeneration we have coming is huge. But we do need, and must take, the community with us. If property values go up, the concern for me is to make sure we can maintain a supply of affordable housing, so as to encourage new people to come here.
Gravesend Heritage Quarter
This refers to the southern edge of the town centre, and the idea of the proposed new development here is to transform the underused areas so as to connect central Gravesend to the river. New developments will include a new town events square, 120,000 sq ft retail development, a new church hall, 400 new apartments, 20,000 sq ft of restaurant and leisure facilities, car parking, a hotel, 10,000 sq ft of commercial developments, plus therell also be new open spaces, and improved river connections.
Theres a masterplan reassessing land use around the station, so as to provide residential, commercial and retail developments, plus new transport facilities.
Plans have been prepared for developing this ex-industrial, cleared, land; Outline Planning Permission has been granted for mixed-use development for over 500 homes, and nearly 50,000 sq m of employment floor space.
This comprises the area around Ebbsfleet International Station, which adjoins Bluewater Leisure Park. Planned are 6 million sq ft of office development, 3 million sq ft of leisure, retail and community projects, and 10,000 homes.
Six hundred homes are being built, 260 units of which have been completed.
Mixed development between Ebbsfleet station and the existing railway line, containing the river itself; 464 new homes plus shops and commercial developments are proposed.
This area is east of the town centre, the aim being to create a riverside community with employment and leisure facilities. Proposed are 650 new homes, a riverside walkway, a new Quayside Square and three nine-storey towers. Some apartments and townhouses are now complete.
To the south of Gravesend, 113 houses have been built and 87 are on the way.
Set in parkland to the south of town, this is one of leading multi-sport centres in the south of England for first class cycling, running and extreme sports; it has a BMX racetrack, indoor pavilion, skate park and circuit track.
Where to eat and drink
Fine restaurants include Manor Roast, at Best Western Hotel (01474 353100), Riva Waterside Restaurant and Bar (01474 364694), on the old Town Pier, affording spectacular views as you dine and The Lakeside Restaurant at the Inn on the Lake Hotel (01474 823333), set in woodland. Pubs which serve great food are The Three Daws (01474 566869), an atmospheric 1400s inn on the riverbank, Manor Farm Barn (01474 834967) in Southfleet, The Millers Cottage (01474 358354), and the Ship and Lobster (01474 324571).
One- and two-bedroom flats cost approx. 95,000 and 127,000 respectively, a two-bedroom house around 164,000, three-bedroom house 209,000, and a four-bedroom detached house upwards of 336,000.
Gravesend is one of the four Medway towns in north western Kent. It is about an hours drive from central London, and 4 miles from junction 2 of the M25. Ebbsfleet International Station has high speed trains to London (24 mins) and the Continent, and Gravesend station also has HS1 links to London (22 mins) and the rest of Kent, and there are comprehensive bus services. Contact Traveline 0871 200 2233 for details.
Satnav postcode: DA11 0TB.
Cllr John Burden, leader of Gravesham Borough Council
Tell us about you and your role
I sees my role as principally providing the strategic direction for council services, and liaising with government agencies and bodies, as well as private sector organisations. Home is in the neighbouring village of Istead Rise, and Ive lived most of his life in the Gravesend area.
Your views on the regeneration?
Its a great opportunity: I think it will really energise the town and take us forward. Im excited by it. Ideally we want to link the town all together. There are some very large buildings on the riverfront and there are opportunities to go through gaps in those to link up with the riverfront walkway, so as to rediscover it. The way you provide the marriage between the listed buildings with modern developments can be thrilling.
Your favourite area?
What do you like about Gravesend?
We offer a variety of people and cultures, buildings and environment and were a really happy, friendly community.
Your favourite restaurant?
Not exactly a restaurant, but I love The Burger Van in the car park of B & Q in Clifton Marine Parade. Mish, the manager, is great, shes a marvellous cook.
Gravesend in a sentence?
Were Kents hidden gem. Weve got the greenery, the buildings, the friendly community, the opportunities, the gardens and the river. Weve got it all.