More For Your Money: Tenterden

It's a charming village in the home counties - so why is Tenterden so affordable?
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The Independent Online

In 1449, Tenterden joined the Cinque Ports, the select group of towns that supplied ships and men to protect the nation, which then had no standing navy.

So far so good, but Tenterden is some 10 miles from the sea. Yet in the Middle Ages, much of what is now Romney Marsh was under water, and ships docked at Smallhythe just south of Tenterden.

Another major change to the town's landscape occurred nearly 50 years ago when, after the publication of the Beeching Report (1963), Tenterden and hundreds of other locations lost their railway lines.

Not everyone laments that loss today. "Tenterden is quite a sought-after area, because it is so peaceful and attractive," says Muriel Jacques, secretary of the local historical society.

"Beeching axed the train station, so we don't get so many commuters. We moved here 40 years ago from London because of my husband's job. Most of the buildings in the town centre are from the 15th to 18th century and are in a conservation area. There has been a great deal of building mostly on the outskirts, and infilling, although it is still a pleasant little town. We strive hard to keep it that way."

Julien Hunt of estate agents Humberts says: "Just over half of our prospective buyers are from outside of the area, mostly London. There are very few apartments in Tenterden and planning approval can be difficult, so new development is limited. Most properties are period houses dating from the 1700s. City workers regard Tenterden properties as great value for money, especially as a second home. Travel time to London is under two hours,"

What is available for first-time buyers?

One- and two-bed flats start at about £135,000, one-bed starter homes at £165,000, and two-bed cottages at £170,000. If you don't mind living above a shop, you can get a two-bed flat for roughly the same price as a one-bed conversion in a large period home. The most expensive flats cost more than £300,000, and a two-bed flat can cost more than a larger four-bed house.

What about family and country homes?

Three- and four-bed houses start at about £250,000 and include modern townhouses as well as listed 400-year-old cottages near the town centre. Four-bed country homes and new luxury apartments start at about £400,000, and large detached houses on several acres sell for between £700,000 and £1.5m.

How good are the transport links?

Tenterden's nearest station is Headcorn (seven miles), with service to Tonbridge and London Bridge. Ashford (12 miles) is a Eurostar station that also has frequent fast service to the capital. The M20 at Ashford provides access to the M25, Folkestone and Dover.

What are the local attractions?

The National Trust's 16th-century Smallhythe Place between Tenterden and Smallhythe was the home of actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928) and has a collection of costumes and personal mementoes. The Kent and East Sussex Railway runs steam trains along a seven-mile stretch of track between Tenterden and Northiam.

And the shopping?

Local shops started disappearing 20 years ago when Waitrose opened, and the coup de grâce was applied three years ago by Tesco. But the town still has numerous ethnic restaurants and antique shops.

Do the local schools pass muster?

Tenterden Church of England Junior School is slightly below the national average in English, maths and science and St Michael's is above. Homewood has steadily been getting better grades in recent years and is now 10 points above the national average for GCSEs. Princess Anne's alma mater Benenden is in Headcorn.

And one for the pub quiz

Name the original five Cinque Ports.

Answer: Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich. Rye and Winchelsea were among later additions Ð Tenterden was a "limb" of Rye.