6 of the best villages to consider around Canterbury, Kent
The city of Canterbury has been a destination for pilgrims for over a thousand years. Site of the first Christian abbey in England, St Augustine's, the city is now dominated by its Cathedral and 190ft Bell Harry Tower.
Its ancient streets are lined with timber-framed buildings, small terraces, while modern shopping arcades provide a wide choice of branded shops and independent traders. The Marlowe Theatre, alongside the Great Stour river which runs through the city, has recently been rebuilt along with the library and museum. The city is home to two universities, the University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch, and plays host to a number of foreign language schools.
Kent International Airport, Manston, is 13 miles to the east, and the cross channel port of Dover 17 miles to the south. Canterbury is less than an hour from London by High Speed rail, making it popular with commuters, many choosing to live in the pretty rural villages that surround the city and coastal areas to the north.
Lying less than three miles from the city centre is the village of Sturry. Originally centred around the watermill driven by the Great Stour river, the narrow village High Street is lined with small white painted and red-brick terrace houses and little village shops including a post office, chemist, restaurant, Cooperative food store and the Swale Inn public house. The village, which sits on the A28 Canterbury to Margate road, has a church, primary school and well used village hall, and benefits from a main line railway station with journey times to London Charing Cross of 1hr 54mins, or to St Pancras by High Speed of 1hr 23mins.
Blean lies midway between Canterbury and the popular seaside resort of Whitstable. The village gives its name to the national nature reserve at nearby Blean Woods, the remnants of the Forest of Blean, and is just two miles from the University of Kent campus. Famously the home of Peter Firmin, who with Oliver Postgate created children characters Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and The Clangers, Blean remains the headquarters of the Smallfilms company. While the old village is linear, extending along the main road, the centre is now located around the junction with Tyler Hill Road, with its small parade of shops, and newer developments and the village school expanding into the surrounding countryside. Local attractions include the Druidstone Park and The Royal Oak pub and restaurant, both on the main road to the north of the village.
Barham village nestles seven miles southeast from Canterbury in the valley of the Nailbourne river, close to the A2 Dover road on the southern edge of the Barham Downs. First recorded in 799AD the village is overlooked by the church of St John the Baptist, with its distinctive copper spire. Nearby 17th-century Broome Park was home to the 1st Earl Field Marshall Kitchener and is now a golf and country club. The village enjoys a number of traditional village shops, including a butchers, doctors surgery and antique shop, and the Victorian village school serves the village and surrounding areas. The narrow village streets and lanes are lined with typical red-brick terraces dating back to the 16th century, many of which are listed, including the Duke of Cumberland pub in The Street, built in 1749.
To the north of Barham, and just five miles from the centre of Canterbury is the charming village of Wickhambreaux. Thought to have been a settlement in Roman times, the village has a traditional feel with the church, rectory, manor house, inn and mill encircling the village green. The Manor house was home to Odo, Earl of Kent and half-brother to William the Conqueror and later to Joan of Kent, mother of King Richard II. The 500 villagers enjoy many activities in the village, including the cricket club and an active church community, and the tiny village school remains on its original 1869 site. The Grade II-listed Wickham Mill stands over four storeys on the Little Stour River alongside the Old Stone House, while the Rose Pub, one of the few businesses left in the village, remains the hub of activities.
A mile from Wickhambreaux and just off the A257 Canterbury to Sandwich road is the village of Bekesbourne. Bekesbourne railway station offers direct services to London Victoria in 1hr 40mins, making it a popular commuter village. Surrounded by farming land, with many hops and sunflowers being grown locally, the village is home to Howletts Wild Animal Park, owned by the Aspinal Foundation and famous for its work rearing gorillas and other endangered species. Among the oasts and farm cottage found in the narrow lanes around the village, the village hall maintains a full programme of activities and clubs and a range of little shops can be found at Chalkpit Farm Rural Shopping in School Lane.
The pretty village of Chartham, on the Great Stour river in the Kent Downs area of outstanding natural beauty, is four miles west of Canterbury on the A28 road. Surrounded by open farmland and orchards, the village has been a centre for paper making for over 600 years and this tradition continues today. The Church of St Mary, built in the 13th century, is situated next to the village green where traditional cottages sit alongside timber-framed Tudor properties and sympathetic modern houses. The village post office, primary school and newsagents are in Shalmsford Street, a more modern area of 20th century homes to the south. Commuter trains from Chartham station take 65 minutes to London St Pancras or 95 minutes to Charing Cross, while Ashford International station, with connections to Paris and Brussels, is 17 minutes away by High Speed train.