Take a look at our new regular column with Muddy Stilettos, in which they will be taking their ogling addiction to the next level.....
In each issue, Fiona Penny – founder 12 years ago of Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders and who knows the property industry and this area of the country inside out – will lift the curtains on a secret property hot spot in Kent.
Ooh er missus. That’s right, the first town is spruced and ready to seduce you. Introducing… WEST MALLING! Read on to see why it made the shortlist…
With Sevenoaks just to your west, Maidstone just to your east and London about an hour by train this property hot spot is in just about the perfect location.
If you love character this town definitely punches above its weight. The abbey at the heart of the town dates back more than 900 years – and the weekly markets first originally held by the nuns still take place today.
In terms of landmarks you’ve got beautiful St Mary’s church, pictured below, with parts also dating back nearly 1000 years to Norman times. West Malling is reputed to be the site of the first recorded cricket match in Kent (this match may even have inspired Charles Dickens – he visited the area while writing Pickwick Papers, with its famous match between All Muggleton and Dingley Dell – one for the culture vultures).
Photo credit: The Arts Society Malling
But most importantly, West Malling itself is packed with lovely shops and restaurants (gorgeous eateries, independent shops and a monthly farmer’s market).
35 miles from central London and with great road and rail connections, it has become a popular commuter town. Just under 1 hour by train into Victoria – from a station that is 10 mins walk from the high street. Easy and quick access to the M20 which takes you 45 mins to drive down to the East Kent coast or quickly links to the M25 and onwards.
You’re spoilt for choice, with good local Primary Schools as well as the Grammar Schools of Tonbridge and Maidstone nearby. Or there’s excellent Independent Schools, such as Tonbridge School, Sevenoaks School, Sutton Valence Senior School and Rochester Independent College. Excellent Prep Schools include Sutton Valence Prep, The Schools at Somerhill, Fosse Bank and Hilden Grange.
On the high street you’ll find hairdressers, beauticians, dentists, opticians, alternative therapists, high street banks, it’s own library, a good selection of local supermarkets and post office. Dating back to the 1550s, the Mill Yard Craft Centre also now houses specialist shops and the charming Old Mill Tea Room.
In terms of local indie businesses you’ll love everything from Bush Barbers (bit trendy), independent Hardy’s Wine merchant (hic) to Monks & Co clothing (not habits, silly, but men’s clothing boutique) and Coco & Bloom (gorgeous flower shop). You’ll want to visit Soles with Heart (super cute shoe shop) or even Chocolate Umbrella (tempting chocolatier).
In fact we discovered a brilliant story while researching for this article that sums up this town. Two talented local ladies, who run a photography studio called the white studios took photos of all the local businesses in their town centre as a neighbourly initiative – to prove that the high street is not dead but very much alive and kicking in West Malling.
They took all these pics, (see collage above) and many more of West Malling stores, and the people who work there. This is the kind of community spirit and local pluck we love here on Muddy! Here they are below, looking as cool as this story.
Charlotte and Karolina from the white studios
The Farm House
I’m telling you babycakes, we’re gonna have to invest in a serious selection of elasticated joggers when we move here, because it’s foodie heaven. Michelin-listed brasserie, The Swan, is a must – and it’s also home to a sleek cocktail bar too – and there’s private dining rooms for all those surprise parties you’re going to throw me.
The other must-not-be-missed is The Farm House (pictured above). With its origins as an Elizabethan coaching inn, this stylish, cosy pub is perfect for families. Still has its original mews at the rear which has been converted to house a Pizza Shack & Juice Bar and the old stables have been converted into The Cow Shed shop. Eat. Drink. Shop. Perfection.
If you’re after something a bit different you’ll love Frank’s Restaurant & Mussel Bar – housed in a 16th Century bakers, with open log fire, exposed beams, cosy vibe and speciality of mussels cooked 21 ways!
No. 64 At The Joiners is where to go for boutique rooms tucked away off the high street. Italian food lovers will want to head to Amano restaurant for authentic eats sourced freshly from Italy coupled with seasonal ingredients from local producers – plus there’s some stylish bedrooms here to stay.
And while we’re eating our way round town, let’s roll on over to Imperial Dynasty for some top quality oriental cuisine in a contemporary setting. Or you’ll find me in Bombay Cuisine – a family run business, specialising in authentic Bengali cooking techniques. Salivating, much?
Then there’s The Hungry Guest – a busy, bustling café and upmarket artisanal bakery and food store. Here the focus is on sustainability and the food’s environmental footprint. So while you sip your incredible coffee, nibble on your baked goods or select ingredients for imaginative meals you can enjoy a certain peace of mind at the same time. And for a fun, no-frills, community micropub there’s The Malling Jug or for buzzy pub with live music there’s The Five Pointed Star.
Right to left: The Hungry Guest, Pizza Shack at The Farm House, The Swan, Frank’s Restaurant & Mussel Bar
OUT & ABOUT
You’ve got easy access to great shopping at Bluewater and Maidstone town centre. Manor Park Country Park makes a good destination for a family walk. This lovely former estate grounds boasts natural fields, a wild life rich lake and open play areas. Nearby you’ve got Mote Park in Maidstone – 440 acres of award winning, multi-use parks and Maidstone Leisure centre & swimming pool. And if it’s your thing (or his) there’s three Golf Clubs within easy distance – West Malling, Wrotham Heath and King’s Hill.
Average price for a 4 bed detached family home in West Malling itself ranges from £650-£750k. In comparison, a similar 4 bed detached house in the Kings Hill area (new village built 10 mins away) would be around £450-£550k.
WHAT WE LOVE: Rich pickings for all the things we most admire on Muddy – indie shops, cafés, restaurants, local businesses and community spirit. There’s lots to love about this high street. West Malling offers that perfect marriage – handsome-historic-high-street, meets modern-much-loved-eateries-and-indie-shops. My bags are packed.