The Kent and Sussex Weald lies between the North and South Downs, and contains some of the prettiest, most unsploit countryside in England. Its close proximity to London, Gatwick airport and major centres such as Tunbridge Wells, East Grinstead and Sevenoaks, make Wealdon villages such as Mayfield, Penshurst, Herstmonceux, Cranbrook, Uckfield, Dunton Green, Biddenden and Hartfield favourites with those looking to escape city life in search of a slower, more relaxed lifestyle.
Mayfield – once reputed to be the ‘sweetest village in England’
Mayfield was once described by poet Coventry Patmore as ‘the sweetest village in England’. With a history dating back to the 9th century, Mayfield nestles in the wooded slopes of the Sussex Weald, Mayfield has grown to population of around 3,500 served by a range of shops, pubs and restaurants, primary schools, 40 miles from London and just six miles to the busy town of Crowborough with its supermarkets, leisure facilities and frequent rail services to the capital taking around 65 minutes. Ashdown Forest is just one of the many nearby attractions.
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Penshurst – on the doorstep of numerous historical sites
Penshurst village, Kent, is best known for the elegant Penshurst Place built in 1341, home to Viscount De L’Isle and formally a favourite haunt of Henry VIII. The village, which spans the River Medway, boasts a range of timber-framed buildings and oast houses, and Penshurst village cricket green is one of the oldest in England. Nearby attractions include High Rocks, Hever Castle and The Spa Valley Steam Railway. Direct commuter services to London Victoria take a little over an hour, while The Royal Victoria and The Pantiles shopping areas of Royal Tunbridge Wells are half an hour by train or six miles by road. Penshurst has an excellent primary school, with good links to the high-performing grammar schools in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.
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Herstmonceux – home to a castle and observatory
Midway between Bexhill and Heathfield lies the Sussex Weald village of Herstmonceux. Home to an annual Medieval Festival, Elizabethan Gardens and the famous Astronomic Observatory, village life in Herstmonceux is typical of the Sussex Weald, centred around the village school, shops, pub and village hall offering a range of clubs and societies and a village green with cricket, tennis and other facilities. Herstmonceux sits on the A271, four miles from the market town of Hailsham and eight miles from Bexhill-on-Sea.
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Cranbrook – nationally recognised as one of our best villages
Cranbrook, Kent, lies on the A229 between Maidstone (14 miles) and Hastings (18 miles) and is often described as the ‘Capital of the Weald’. Recently voted number three in The Times’ Best Villages to Live in England, Cranbrook offers a fantastic environment for those wanting to get away from the city or larger towns. Famous for its great schools, its iconic working windmill and the white weather-boarded narrow streets of shops and houses, Cranbrook is surrounded by farmlands and orchards and boasts the Michelin-starred restaurant Apicus in Stone Street. Cranbrook was granted its market charter in 1290, and remains home to a farmers’ market each month. The nearest mainline station at Staplehurst lies five miles to the north, with commuter services to both Charing Cross and Cannon Street taking between 61 and 66 minutes, and Ashford International Station with services to London, Paris and Brussels is ten miles from Cranbrook.
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Biddenden – quintessential village with an award-winning vineyard
A short distance away lies the quintessential Kent village of Biddenden. Typified by latticed windows and wood-framed Tudor houses, the village benefits from a central green, nearby championship golf course and a vibrant social and events calendar. Biddenden Vineyard produces some of the best wine – and cider – in the country, with its sparking vintages winning awards across the world. The nearby Kent and East Sussex Railway offers ten miles of restored steam railway lines, with engines and stations renovated to their former glory.
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Dunton Green – its own station and some new-build housing
Dunton Green sits in the west of Kent on the Sussex border in the area known as the Sevenoaks Weald, and is one of the few Wealdon villages where new home developments are coming onto the market. The village lies 26 miles from London with commuter rail services from Dunton Green Station taking between 25 and 40 minutes. Sitting in the valley of the River Darent, three miles from bustling Sevenoaks, Dunton Green was a long-time centre of the region’s brick-making industry. Local hostelries include the Donnington Manor Hotel, The Rose and Crown, The Dukes Head, the busy Dunton Green Social Club, and the village boasts a number of sports clubs and an excellent primary school.
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Hartfield – pretty, with a famous literary connection
Across the county border and next to the beautiful Ashdown Forest lies Hartfield, East Sussex, famous for being the home of Winnie the Pooh author A A Milne. Poohsticks Bridge is popular with tourists who enjoy floating small sticks under the bridge, as are the other ‘enchanted places’ in Ashdown Forest where Milne’s son Christopher Robin played as a child. This small and pretty village, like many of its kind, centres around a village hall, church, school and green, with a range of clubs, societies and youth groups. Bus services connect Hartfield to Crawley (17 miles), East Grinstead (seven miles) and Tunbridge Wells (eight miles), each with good rail connections to London and the Sussex coast, shopping areas, commercial centres and secondary schools.
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by Mike Whiting