Spotlight on: Tenterden


Tenterden - Credit: Archant

A mecca for foodies and lovers of folk music, with a popular summer festival, Tenterden is not only beautiful but also has a strong community heart

Tenterden is a picture-perfect market town known to many as the ‘jewel of the Weald.’

Around 10 miles south west of Ashford, it’s instantly recognisable with its tree-lined High Street of beautiful shops and weather-boarded buildings, barely changed for a century.

It’s always popular with those seeking a bit of Wealden charm, whether afternoon tea in one of its many tea rooms or a browse around its excellent antique and gift shops. However, Tenterden is also becoming a mecca for foodies, with a focus on fresh local produce in its independent eateries and great country pubs.

It isn’t surprising for somewhere set in Kent’s agricultural heartland, but the modern-day fascination with local food has meant a definite boom in business.

Market day is a particularly good time to experience Tenterden. Held each Friday, the market and street stalls in the High Street are a great way of seeing how life has been in this town for hundreds of years and the best time to pick up some tasty local, seasonal produce.

The Market Square Cellars, a new addition to the town, is located behind the Savannah Coffee Shop next to Market Square and has stalls offering all kinds of tempting local goodies every Friday and some Saturdays.

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That’s Tentertainement

With an active community and a reputation for throwing a good party, Tenterden is a vibrant little town with a lot going on. Having a good time has always been at the heart of this place.

With a long tradition of folk music and Morris dancers locally, it is no surprise that a successful folk festival is held annually (see My Town with organiser Alan Castle).

But over recent years the summer’s main event has become Tentertainment – an ever-expanding family music festival which has grown from humble beginnings into a huge weekend-long event with music, food, dance, fairground attractions and plenty of fun on the town’s recreation ground.

This year the event will be held between 3 and 5 July and Clare Passmore, one of the original organisers, tells us how a small community music day evolved into one of Kent’s best-loved festivals.

“Tentertainment began as an unnamed one-day celebration to add something of interest to the town when the Tour de France came through in 2007,” says Clare.

“We never expected it to go down so well but due to the success and enthusiasm of all who attended, we thought it would be great to have something like that every year. “After that it just grew from one to two days - and then for the last four years has included the Friday evening too. There is such an abundance of local talent we instantly knew that we should create a larger platform to showcase it.”

The festival attracts between 10,000-12,000 visitors over the three days but Clare thinks keeping the community at its heart is vital. They offer free pitches to local community groups and charities so they can market their cause and connect with the rest of the community.

“It is predominantly a local crowd,” says Clare. “But it’s a nice way of showcasing the town to tourists too. Plus everyone in town invites friends and family down for the weekend now so visitors come from all over - even camping in each other’s gardens!

“We help to highlight Tenterden as a tourist attraction, adding to a diverse range of events. We showcase the best in local food and drink and we bring local residents of all ages together for a weekend, which goes a long way to adding to a connected sense of community that’s easily lost with people shopping in bigger towns and on the internet.”

This year the event will include a second stage for the line-up of local musicians, as well as an extended Toddlertainment Tent, with arts and crafts for children, and the popular vintage carousel and Ferris wheel.

Not forgetting the showcase bar for local drinks including Tenterden’s own Chapel Down wines and Biddenden ciders. Visit for more details.

Eating and shopping

The shops along Tenterden’s eclectic High Street range from independent gift shops and furniture stores to big names like Waterstones and Monsoon. At the Waitrose end of town you’ll find Sayers Lane and Sayers Square, with its cute tea rooms and shops. Woodcocks interiors (TN30 6BW) is a firm favourite here, as well as Mr Bean coffee house opposite and Poole & Co – a coffee shop with a great little antiques area.

Other shops well worth a visit nearby include Tenterden House Interiors (TN30 6HT) with its 10 upstairs showrooms and its friendly resident boxer dog, the Rising Star gift shop (TN30 6AR) and the many antiques shops at the far end of the High Street, opposite the war memorial.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food too. The Secret Pantry (TN30 6HP), Peggoty’s (TN30 6HT) and The Nutmeg (TN30 6BW) are all superb traditional choices but world food is also represented with Ozgur Turkish restaurant (TN30 6HT) and several Chinese and Indian options.

There’s also The White Lion (TN30 6BD) and The Vine Inn (TN30 6AU) – both with new managers – for tasty food and good beer, as well as The Woolpack at the top of the High Street (TN30 6AP).

And if you’re extending your visit, Kent Life particularly recommends London Beach Hotel, Spa and Country Club as a great place to stay (TN30 6HX, 01580 766279), especially for any keen golfers.

My Town

Alan Castle

Tell us a bit you and the events you organise

I’d been involved in organising folk music events around Ashford since the mid-1970s and in 1993 the folk club was temporarily without a venue and was offered the chance to move to the Eight Bells in Tenterden High Street. The first Folk Day was held the same year and slowly developed in to what is now Tenterden Folk Festival. In the 2014 New Year’s Honours I was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to music and heritage, something I never expected to happen!

What is special about the town?

Tenterden is a small Wealden town but still retains a strong community spirit. If you look closely, with a few exceptions, the buildings along the very wide, tree-lined, High Street have not really changed for well over a hundred years. This makes Tenterden unique and the ideal place for a folk festival.

Why does the folk Festival continue to flourish?

The Tenterden Folk Festival is now well established and is firmly in the international folk diary. The hundreds of Morris dancers who attend each year have plenty of space to dance on the wide pavements and forecourts in the High Street as well as the stage on the Recreation Ground.

Singers and musicians from all over the country love the four pubs we use for the song and music sessions. All the venues and other facilities are within easy walking distance of each other.

Your favourite local shops?

Tenterden has managed to retain some special shops the likes of which have gone from many High Streets. These include shops such as Webbs (TN30 6BH), very much a traditional ironmongers and department store. There are also the antique shops where, if you are a collector, you can often pick up a bargain from the past.

Your favourite places to eat and drink?

That is a hard one as there is such a wide choice and many of them support the Folk Festival. The William Caxton (TN30 6JR) hosts the Folk Club on the second Tuesday of every month and sells Shepherd Neame beers, so that has to be on the list.

The Indulgence cake and coffee house (TN30 6HD) is where I go to for a snack or to sample Lynn’s fantastic cakes. The barn at the back of The Woolpack hosts some great music as does The Vine. The list just goes on and on…

? This year’s Tenterden Folk Festival takes place over four days, 1-4 October. Tickets are on sale now at and there will be several free events.

Property prices

At the top of the market, five and six-bedroom detached properties on the outskirts of town are priced at around £1.2m, with four-bed properties at around £650,000 and three-beds at between £250,000 and £500,000. A two-bed terraced house can be picked up for around £240,000.

Warner Gray (01580 766044) and Humberts (01580 765858) both have offices in Tenterden.

Getting there

Tenterden is accessible via the A28 between Hastings and Ashford. The closest mainline station is at Headcorn (nine miles away) but Ashford with its international station is not much further away.

Sat nav code for the town centre: TN30 6BW