Town guide to Sevenoaks, Kent
- Credit: Archant
Surrounded by countryside yet within striking distance of the city, this busy little town is often listed as one of the top places to live in the country. It can only be Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter’s dream. Half an hour from London by train and with a friendly country town feel, it offers great schools, good shopping and an excellent choice of places to eat out.
With all the amenities a family could need and rich in history and character too, it’s no wonder property is so sought after here.
Historically part of the Great Manor of Otford, the town’s name was originally ‘Seouenaca’ – meaning ‘seven oaks’ and the name given to a small Saxon chapel in the area.
In the 13th century it became a market town, thanks to its handy location; Sevenoaks School, considered to be the oldest secular school in England, was founded in 1432.
Not long after Archbishop Bourchier bought the Knole estate near the centre of the town and built the great house there. Now one of the area’s biggest attractions, Knole is managed by the National Trust and as well as offering 1,000 acres of beautiful deer park, is currently going through the final stages of a fascinating restoration project.
Other historically important sites include the heart of the old town (The Shambles, Bank Street and Dorset Street) and The Vine cricket ground – thought to be the oldest cricket ground in existence. Nature lovers can spend time at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve and garden lovers can explore Riverhill Himalayan Gardens.
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Sevenoaks town centre also boasts a leisure centre and The Stag, a community hub, theatre and boutique cinema rolled into one.
Near to the busy station, the redeveloped Bradbourne car park has been converted into a multi-decked car park and plans have been proposed to create a new long stay car park on Buckhurst Lane.
Sevenoaks District Council was crowned Council of the Year at the Local Government Chronicle Awards this year, beating some of the biggest councils in the country.
Shopping and eating
Sevenoaks has an excellent mix of big brand and independent shopping. Visit the open air Bligh’s Meadow shopping centre and the High Street but don’t forget to explore the pedestrian side streets, too.
Names including M&S, The White Stuff, Fat Face, Seasalt and The Body Shop sit alongside places like Scandinavian lifestyle and clothes store Danish Collection, Sevenoaks Bookshop, Heaven, Mousetrap, Vintage Attic and The Clever Dresser.
On the outskirts of town there are several independent shops in the Holly Bush area, where Dartford Road meets Holly Bush Lane: try Hos Hother, Emily & Jack’s, Lovell & Vie and Chic Et Tralala.
When it comes to eating out there is pretty much everything you could hope for. Big names include Wagamama, Prezzo, Cote Brasserie, Giggling Squid and Bill’s, with other popular choices including Anatolian restaurant Hattusa, The Little Garden, The Vine and the new Brisket & Barrel. Good cafés include Otto’s, Mimi Bakery, Nonna Cappuccini’s, Malabar and Rafferty’s Café.
Northern Sevenoaks Masterplan
Back in December, Sevenoaks Town Council appointed consultants to develop a Northern Sevenoaks Masterplan. Working alongside the council, stakeholders and members of the public, the chosen company have been tasked with developing a vision for how the northern end of the town could develop over the next 20 to 30 years.
The masterplan will look at how key development sites can be linked most effectively, in addition to identifying additional sites for community infrastructure and development. The area includes such key sites as Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Sevenoaks Quarry, Bat & Ball Station and Sevenoaks Community Centre.
Potential plans have included ways to develop the wildlife reserve, including new access points and improving circular routes around the lake; a plan for the use of the quarry once it returns to community usage as a water recreation site; refurbishing Bat & Ball Station and adding a community café; and an ambitious plan to redevelop the community centre.
Plans that have been dropped include the suggestion of around 850 new homes north of the Wildlife Reserve and into Dunton Green, as well as the aspiration for a link road between northern Sevenoaks and Dunton Green.
Sevenoaks Literary Festival
22 September to 7 October
Sevenoaks Literary Festival is 15 years old this year and is celebrating with a diverse and star-studded group of authors. The festival kicks off with an evening’s conversation between Alan Johnson - former MP and author of three memoirs - and former Times Political Editor Philip Webster.
Rosie Lomas and Katarzyna Kowalik’s Literary Music event will celebrate the music of Jane Austen, who died in 1817, while Juliet Barker will re-assess the literary significance of Branwell Brontë who was born in the same year, and Professor Stephen Smith will examine the diverse impacts of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Crime writer Sinclair McKay will add spice to the Literary Tea event while crime is also on the menu in a conversation between bestselling writer of spy thrillers Mick Herron and Jake Kerridge.
Three popular speakers will be returning to the festival: Professor David Crystal for a talk about English grammar, Patricia Lovett to talk about the art and history of calligraphy, and Hilary Spurling to discuss her new biography of Anthony Powell. Emma Harding will talk about the radio poem on National Poetry Day and the excellent Michael Rosen will talk at a free schools event at Sevenoaks Primary School.
The festival closes with an evening of literature and song with Kathryn Williams and Laura Barnett.
Tickets are available from Sevenoaks Bookshop. Visit www.sevenoaksbookshop.co.uk and www.sevlitfest.com
Postcard from Sevenoaks
I am Laura-May Barber and I own Sevenoaks Candle Company, a family-run business operating out of our Sevenoaks home. We make and sell soy candles in a variety of styles and sizes, as well as other fragranced products such as soy wax melts and car air fresheners. We pride ourselves on their unique and professional style but with that homely, vintage finish that you would expect from a cottage industry.
There are so many positives about soy wax, especially when compared to the more widely used paraffin wax. It gives off fewer chemicals, which is a bonus for your lungs, but it also burns for longer than most other waxes and holds a larger quantity of fragrance. We even offer a recycling service, allowing customers to return their empty jars for a discounted refill.
We have a stall at many of the markets and fêtes in Kent and, despite our occasional struggles with the English weather, it really is lovely to get out and meet our customers. We see lots of the same stallholders at various events so it’s a really sociable environment. We’re all really passionate about shopping locally which means everyone is supportive of one another and we also get great support from Kent Farmers’ Market Association.
I find Sevenoaks to be very unique. We’re so close to London that we get to enjoy all the latest trends in regards to retail, entertainment and leisure, yet we still manage to hold onto the essence of a country lifestyle.
I love the fact that I can get the most from the chaos of the city and the busy town but also the tranquillity of somewhere like Knole Park or Ightham Mote. There are also some great walks around Chevening, Otford and Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. One of my favourite days out has to be Eagle Heights in Eynsford.
I love Malabar coffee shop and the new Brisket & Barrel is also really worth a visit. Mousetrap has some great one-off items of clothing - I always pop in if I’m looking for something to wear to a special occasion. Sevenoaks is also incredibly fortunate to have kept The Stag cinema and theatre which hosts a variety of great events from ballet to stand-up comedy.
Sevenoaks is an expensive place to buy a house, with the average price standing at £660,500. One bedroom flats start at around £200,000, with two-bed terraced houses priced between £290,000 and £700,000. Three-bed semis currently start from £340,000. Larger detached properties are available right up to £4.8million.
Less than 20 miles from London, Sevenoaks is popular with commuters. Trains take only 30 minutes into the city and for motorists the M25, A21 and A25 are also easily accessible.
Sat nav: TN13 1ZZ