Hop Along - Celebrating Faversham

Celebrating its Hop Festival this month, Faversham is so charismatic, lively and full of history that a single visit just won't be enough to see it all...

Faversham has the largest number of listed medieval houses in England, a fine town square, a creek leading to the sea and it’s surrounded by scenic villages and countryside.

Famous in history for making gunpowder, bricks and beer, nowadays it’s an agricultural centre and one of the most intensely farmed areas in Britain.

It’s also got a world-class swimming pool, award-winning restaurants and nearby Brogdale Farm is the home of the National Fruit Collection.

September is when the fabulous Faversham Hop Festival comes to town, and it’s a great time to visit. And Faversham’s annual Classic Car Show was bigger and better than ever earlier in 2011, with a whole weekend of vintage bus displays and rides, hundreds of classic cars and motorcycles, and even a 1960s steam train in town. The 2012 event takes place on 19 and 20 May.

Getting around

The heart of town is the semi-pedestrianised grand open area of the market place and its surrounds: Market Street, Preston Street, Middle Row, Court Street, West and East Streets.

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The Market Place is notable for the pale blue medieval Guildhall building, which is raised up to room height on massive beams to form an undercroft.

Preston Street, leading up to the station, is where you’ll find the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre and Museum, as well as the red-brick Alexander Centre.

Court Street, leading from the market place, is home to the interesting old building housing the Shepherd Neame Brewery Visitors’ centre.

Faversham Creek is at the end of Quay Lane, and if you go along here to Standard Quay the chances are you may see some fine old sailing barges. Plenty of car parks plus some on-street parking.

Where to shop

There is a mixture of small specialist traders as well as national names. The town has several art galleries, toy shops (see The Toy Box and Arctophili) and the timber-framed Stationery Shoppe in Preston Street. Fine local produce is available at Macknade Fine Foods and A J Barkaway Butchers (see Traders Talking) as well as at the Heavenand Earth Health food shop, and Sweet Scene, a Victorian-style sweet shop. Homeware suppliers include Court Interiors, Housepoints, Faversham Carpets, Tickham Interiors and Whites of Kent. Regular markets.

Where to eat and drink

Posillipo is an excellent Italian restaurant (01795 590580) based in a converted mill overlooking Faversham Creek. Read’s Restaurant (01795 535344), in a Georgian manor house, is a Michelin-starred establishment, while The Dove Inn at Dargate (01227 751360) is an ivy-clad hostelry serving excellent food in a rustic dining area as well as in its fine gardens. Good pubs include The Anchor Inn (01795 536471), a beautiful building close to Faversham Creek, The Railway Hotel (01795 533173), a traditional Victorian pub, and the White Horse Inn (01227 751343), an ancient coaching inn mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. FestivalsThe Hop Festival on 3-4 September is a celebration of the hop harvest and the heyday of hop picking, when thousands of Londoners visited the Kentish hop gardens for a working holiday. Enjoy live music, street theatre, colourful processions and plenty of local Kent produce on sale, plus concerts, ceilidhs, exhibitions and craft stalls.

Brogdale Farm has a number of festivals still to come this year: Nut Day on 18 September, The Great British Cider Beer and Food festival 24-25 September and the Apple Festival 22-23 October.

Considering a move?

There are some excellent schools (Lorenden School, the Grammar School, plus several others), and it’s got good transport links (the M2 is close). Within the town, property is likely to be more expensive than that in surrounding villages, with one- and two-bedroom flats costing around �110,000 and �141,000 respectively, a three-bedroom semi around �219,000 and a four-bedroom detached house upwards of �413,000.

VILLAGE WATCH

 

Ospringe

Home of the Maison Dieu museum and near Brogdale, centre of the National Fruit Collection. The name is derived from Anglo-Saxon, meaning ‘Spring of the divinity’. There’s an 11th-century church of St Peter and St Paul, Lorenden Park, and plenty of houses dating from the 1500s.

Painters Forstal

Named after ‘Painters’, a (now disappeared) 1500’s manor house, and ‘Forstal’ which means ‘Land in front of a farm’. There’s a small village green and the 16th-century Alma pub, and Painter’s Forstal is surrounded by orchards, arable and soft fruit fields.

Boughton

Its full name is Boughton-under-Blean, to distinguish it from the other three Boughtons in Kent, the name meaning ‘Land held by book or charter’, the Blean being the ancient forest to the east. Its medieval church of St Peter and St Paul has an impressive monument to Sir Thomas Hawkins and his six sons.

Oare

Picturesque village at the head of Oare Creek with St Peter’s church, an old windmill and three pubs. Famous for the Oare Marsh Nature Reserve, once the site of Faversham’s gunpowder factory.

Graveney and Goodnestone

These associated hamlets form a village to the north of which is the South Swale Nature Reserve, and all around is farmland and grazing fields.

Teynham

A parish that includes the creek-side hamlet of Conyer and also Greenstreet, named after a section of Watling Street. Teynham’s 16th-century church is St Mary’s, built in the form of a cross of flint.

 

Traders Talking

Chris Barkaway Chris is the fifth generation of his family to own butchers’ shops in Kent (since 1850). He has run A J Barkaway Ltd (01795 532040) for 40 years; his son Paul has now joined the business. They’ve won prizes for ‘Kent’s Best Sausage’ three times and source most of their stock locally. “Faversham is a traditional market town, an unspoilt part of Kent,” says Chris. “It’s sad that shops are opening on the outskirts of towns, leaving the High Street short of footfall. I call it the doughnut effect. We have a very big customer base, and now we’ve a website people can also order online.”

Paul Cumberland

Paul and his wife have run Birds Birds Birds (01795 532370), an art gallery in Preston Street, for 19 years. “I’ve always been a keen birdwatcher and Faversham is a terrific place for ornithologists – the Oare marshes are one of the best migratory routes in the UK,” Paul says. “A few years ago we had the tufted puffin, and only seven people saw it. Faversham is the ideal place to come and shop if you want the kind of stores you wouldn’t find in most High Streets. The biggest thing I’d like to change here is to see more car parking.”

 

My Town

Hannah Rogers, Deputy Head, Lorenden Preparatory School (01795 590030)

Hannah Rogers, Deputy Head, Lorenden Preparatory School (01795 590030)

What do you like about here?

I like the community feel you get at the Hop Festival, Christmas and during other festivals such as the Illuminated Carnival and Classic Car Show. Everything is close enough to walk to.

Your favourite place in town?

The cinema! It’s big enough for you to always get a seat, but small enough to have a wonderful atmosphere of times gone by – plus it’s nowhere near as expensive as other cinemas. In fact, I love that whole part of town, it looks and feels so full of history.

What would you change?

I’d like to encourage more small businesses to open in the town centre. Oh, and I’d bring the beach closer! I grew up in Whitstable, and one thing I do miss is being able to walk to the seaside.

Do you have a favourite walk?

I enjoy walking down near the creek to look at the boats, and also up to Painter’s Forstal across the farmland and through the Lorenden Trustlands, near our school.

And a favourite restaurant?

The Albion Taverna (01795 591411), near the creek. The food is great, reasonably priced and it has a lovely atmosphere.

Advice to a newcomer?

There’s something for everyone and it’s so accessible to London and the coast. It’s a historic town with a growing number of good quality independent businesses, plus regular community events which the whole town can get involved in.

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