Houses to buy in Kent: homes for commuters in Charing, Faversham and Wrotham
Modern-day pilgrims seeking an affordable home in beautiful surroundings regularly follow in Chaucer’s footsteps towards Canterbury.
Their journey — happily now by high-speed rail rather than on foot — takes them through the heart of the Kent Downs, the glorious stretch of countryside running all the way from the southern fringes of London to the White Cliffs of Dover.
In this chalk landscape crossed by a trellis of steep-sided, dry valleys you can walk, run or cycle for miles on end, visit the 1,000-acre deer park at Knole, Sevenoaks, or enjoy the spring bluebell display at Perry Wood, near Faversham.
Though most of the towns around its perimeter are modern — think Maidstone and Ashford — there are also some gorgeous, unspoilt towns and villages in and around the Downs that enjoy Kent’s unparalleled school standards and good-value homes.
Buying in Charing, Kent
This picturesque, half-timbered village on the old Pilgrims Way to Canterbury is a bit of a tourist magnet, the upside of that being its ability to support a couple of pubs, a tea room or two and a good parade of shops on the long and narrow high street.
There are football and cricket clubs, and loads of kids’ activities.
Cyclists’ delight: 600-acre Cobham Woods in the Kent Downs is National Trust-run ancient woodland near Rochester (Alamy Stock Photo)
Its looks have even drawn the attention of Hollywood.
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan stopped traffic while filming scenes from their new movie Ammonite, the story of the Victorian fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet) and her lover (Ronan) which is due to be released this year.
Robert Sutton, senior branch manager at Saddlers estate agents, grew up in Charing.
Today around 60 per cent of the properties he sells are to London leavers drawn by the fast commute, house prices and lifestyle.
“I have had people selling a bedsit in London and buying a farmhouse out here,” he said. “You don’t pay the same premium as you do in Surrey or even North Kent, and the commute is about the same as you get if you live in the suburbs. You have got all the beautiful countryside and you can come here and de-stress in a place which is special and peaceful.”
Property ranges from 15th century to nearly new, and you could pick up a four-bedroom timbered semi-detached house for £500,000 to £550,000, a two-bedroom cottage for less than £250,000, or a five-bedroom, detached executive home for £550,000 to £600,000.
Meanwhile, buyers who prefer the convenience of new homes — and need a way to cut the deposit requirement — could look 16 miles south-east of Charing, to the village of Stelling Minnis, where Pentland Homes has just launched Radstone Gate, 21 energy-efficient but traditional-style brick-and-timber houses. Prices start at £430,000 and Help to Buy is available.
Stelling Minnis has the three essentials of village life: pub, shop and school. Ashford International station is a half-hour drive away for fast trains to London.
From £430,000: Radstone Gate, a scheme of 21 energy-efficient traditional-looking homes
The commute: from 51 minutes to St Pancras International. An annual season ticket costs from £4,916.
Schools: Charing CofE Aided Primary School has a “good” report from the Ofsted schools watchdog. Older pupils face a four- to five-mile school run to Ashford or Maidstone, where choices include “outstanding” Highworth Grammar School.
Homes in Faversham, Kent
On the fringes of the Kent Downs is this old-fashioned and lovely market town.
Families flock to Faversham for its great schools and abundance of leisure activities.
At Christmas there are plenty of town centre fairs, and there is a regular antiques and vintage market.
Preston Street is stuffed with pubs and restaurants and there is also a cinema and a lido, live entertainment at the Alexander Centre, a recreation ground, and lots of local sports clubs including for enthusiasts of football, tennis, cricket, swimming or running.
Those who prefer life on the water could keep a boat at Faversham Creek and explore the North Kent Marshes and Thames Estuary.
Faversham is also handy for day trips to the seaside at Whitstable or Canterbury.
Property is a real mash-up of ancient weatherboarded cottages, sturdy Victorian houses which would cost a fortune in London and depressingly identikit new-build homes.
Expect to pay around £500,000 to £550,000 for a four-bedroom Victorian semi — the streets around Newton Road are particularly popular — or in the region of £370,000 for a chocolate box two-bedroom cottage.
“We get a lot of first-time buyers coming out of London and Faversham has a really good rail service, so they can earn a London wage but live in Kent,” says Megan Albrecht, sales negotiator at Wards estate agents. “Faversham retains its old charm, with the market and old buildings, but it’s still close to London and Canterbury for modern facilities.”
The commute: rush-hour trains to St Pancras International take from one hour and eight minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £5,100.
Schools: there’s a choice of six primary schools, two of which have “outstanding” Ofsted reports. The others are all “good”. Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School is also rated “outstanding”.
Buying in Wrotham, Kent
Along with the neighbouring villages of Borough Green and Ightham, there is everything you need for comfortable country life in Wrotham — pronounced “Rootam” — with good schools and a more than decent selection of local shops, restaurants and rural pubs.
Locals keep busy running all sorts of events, including a biennial arts festival, a music festival, fireworks display and Christmas fair.
There is a village cricket team and tennis courts, and the area is well resourced with golf clubs and riding schools.
Homes range from half-timbered cottages to Georgian villas and terrace houses, and traditional two-up two-downs.
A four-bedroom period house in the centre of the village would cost about £650,000 to £750,000, with a three-bedroom terrace house between £300,000 and £350,000 and a two-bedroom cottage coming in at about £250,000.
The commute: trains from Borough Green & Wrotham station to Victoria take 55 minutes. An annual season tickets costs from £4,160.
Schools: the village primary school gets top marks from Ofsted and there is also a senior school, Wrotham School, rated “good”. Older pupils can try for one of the prestigious grammar schools in Sevenoaks.