Spotlight on: Dartford

Famous for its magnificent QE2 bridge and nearby Bluewater, Dartford also has the finest country park in the south east. And its own beach

Spotlight on: Dartford

Famous for its magnificent QE2 bridge and nearby Bluewater, Dartford also has the finest country park in the south east. And its own beach

Situated where the old London to Dover road crossed the River Darent, ‘Darent Ford’ was once a medieval market town and you may not be aware that bang in the centre of town is beautiful (and vast) Central Park, where you’ll find the source of River Darent.

One end of the High Street features One Bell Corner, marked by a fabulous first-floor millennium mural, while at the other is handsome Trinity Church, beside which is a fine timber-framed house near the medieval structures of Bullace Lane. 

In addition to Central Park, nearby are the vast swathes of Dartford Heath, Hesketh Park, Darenth Country Park, and Joydens Wood. And where the marshes meet the Thames there’s a sand and pebble beach that’s a habitat for marvellous wildlife.

Must see

Most Read

• Dartford Borough Museum (01322 224739)

• Holly Trinity Church

• Orchard Theatre (01322 220000)

• Miskin Theatre (01322 629433)

• Mick Jagger Centre (01322 291100), home to Dartford symphony orchestra

• Fairfield Pool and Leisure centre (01322 224400)

• Princes Park Community Stadium (01322 299990) public plaza and gardens venue for sporting events

• Acacia Fitness, sports centre with dance hall (01322 391973)

Where to shop

Bluewater retail centre has John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser stores at its three corners, linked by vast shopping malls, while in Dartford town there are lots of independents and two fine shopping centres, the Orchard and the Priory. There are also markets in the High Street on Saturdays, plus a Farmers’ Markets on third Friday of the month; the Priory Shopping Centre has markets on Thursdays.

Where to eat and drink

You’ll find excellent upmarket food at The Plough Inn (01322 862281), the Orchard Theatre has a fine restaurant and at nearby Horton Kirby there’s the remarkable Fighting Cocks pub and Riverside Restaurant (01322 862299). Pubs which also serve great food include The Lion (01322 860621) and The Pied Bull (01322 862125), both at Farnigham, and the historic Malt Shovel (01322 224381).

Property extra

One- and two-bedroom flats cost approx. �105,000 and �135,000 respectively, a two-bedroom house in the region of �181,000, a three-bedroom semi around �224,000, and a four-bedroom house upwards of �382,000.

Grade II listed Stone House Hospital, originally built by Victorian architect James Bunstone Bunning, is being sensitively developed years of dereliction by preserving the beautiful facades and splitting the interiors vertically to form individual dwellings.

P J Livesey developers are selling the so-formed three-bedroom houses and apartments within the outer walls as part of The Residence development (01322 293848) for between �135,000 (apartment) to �250,000 (three-bedroom house).

Ward Homes is constructing Victoria Park (0844 6626415) on the hospital’s land, a mix of apartments and two-, three- and four-bedroom houses for between �155,000 and �365,000, while affordable homes will be available via housing association Moat (0845 6001006).

Traders talking

Country Curtains and Interiors

Amanda Bristow is owner of Country Curtains and Interiors (01322 293237), a one-stop shop for soft furnishings, including bespoke and readymade curtains, bedding, cushions, throws, tiebacks, nets and blinds.

“We stock everything to make a house a home, including the full range of Kylie Minogue bedding – lots of heavy diamant�, lots of bling, lovely quality, new items coming in every week,” Amanda says.

“We’re a very individual shop, sell plenty of bits and pieces that are unavailable in some of the big stores, and we make bespoke curtains, as well as fit, hang and ‘dress’ them too. I love Dartford, particularly the easy transport and excellent theatre.”

Gummerfish Foot Spa

Gummerfish (07955912343) is a small, family-run business with a dedicated garra rufa salon offering fish pedicures. Your feet are immersed in spa tanks and the dead skin is removed by tiny, toothless garra fish, rather like millions of bubbles massaging your feet.

Jacky Gummer and her daughter pride themselves on care, hygiene and attention to detail. “Our customers enjoy the informal atmosphere and the fact that we offer a foot massage at no extra cost,” says Jacky. “It’s a complete pampering sensation that’s gentle and relaxing, as opposed to hard skin removal by conventional means.

“I’d say Dartford still has the charm of a small village but needs a bit of help with rejuvenation. Here at the Orchard Centre we try to bring people together by holding various clubs and activities throughout the year.” 

Getting there

About 12 miles away from central London, Dartford is on the northern border of Kent, where the river crossings (Dartford Tunnel and QE2 bridge) link it to Essex. For Dartford town take Junction 1A from the M25. Dartford station has regular links to London (30 minutes), and Ebbsfleet International is about four miles distant along the A2 with high speed links to London and Europe. Also there is Fasttrack, Kent’s Thameside bus transport.

Satnav postcode: DA1 1DE