Time Travel

Warning: there is a certain amount of ‘twee’ in this post.

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I am not one who harks back to a perfect past, but I do have a fondness for pretty little towns.  Tenterden is a pretty little town.  This is the Town Hall, with the twelfth century St Mildred’s Church tower behind.

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Tenterden was once one of the Cinque Ports, used for trading wool in the thirteenth century.  Romney Marshes were subsequently drained, taking the sea much further away (now it’s about a half-hour’s drive to Rye or Camber Sands).

The sea-trading past accounts for Tenterden’s prosperity.  And for this handy anchor propped up on the High Street.

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I lived in Tenterden for five years, and am very fond of the place.  I came here when I was a newly-fledged single mother.  I was able to part-buy a two-bedroom house here, thanks to the affordable homes scheme.  Otherwise it would have been camping out at my mum and dad’s for the rest of my life, or living in a caravan.  When I took my daughters to view the house, my youngest announced that it had ‘a very strong roof’.  It did.  I was very proud of that house.

This photo is taken from the time we lived in Tenterden.  That’s not our road, but my favourite lane in Tenterden.  The girls and I had a little fantasy that when they were grown up we would each live in a cottage in Bell’s Lane.  We would have secret doors between the cottages, so that we could still have hot chocolate together.

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Everywhere I go in Tenterden, there are sweet little memories from our time living there.  We’re only half an hour’s drive away now, but it is a car journey, rather than a short walk.

Saturday mornings were swimming lessons at the leisure centre, then a little walk past the allotments and up to Café Rouge for a Latte and Pan au Raisin.

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We’d have a little browse in Waterstone’s, which the girls called ‘The Library’.  We spent as much time there as the actual library.  Book Shop staff are universally lovely and never move you on.

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My youngest once threw up in the Lemon Tree Café.  We had to give the Lemon Tree a wide berth for several months.  Until my daughter lost her teeth and looked different enough for us to return.

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The weight of the hanging baskets has caused the Tudor beams of this building to buckle and bend.

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They are lovely timbers.

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The High Street is a hotchpotch of architectural eras and false fronts.  There is a difference in ceiling heights, as if different-sized humans inhabited them.  Monsoon (far left) is for particularly small people.

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One of the pubs in Tenterden is the William Caxton, named after the person who introduced the printing press to Britain in 1476.

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But my favourite pub is The Vine.  The first year after I returned from Australia my mum and I did our Christmas shopping on Tenterden High Street in the snow.  There were carol singers and Christmas lights and we came in here to sit by the roaring fire.  We were snug as a bug in a rug.

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Tenterden is hollyhocks.  They grow everywhere.  I love it when there are a few different colours all mingled together: cherry, burgundy, pink and apricot.

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And lavender.  Lavender is another Tenterden favourite.

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Because it was a market town, the high street is wide, and lined with London Plane trees.  They provide lovely shade in the summer.

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I like being a little bit nosy and peeping into the gardens of the rows of cottages along the street.

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I would love to get my hands on one of these gardens.

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Tenterden has its fair share of Antiques shops.  And a wool shop.  And a chocolate shop.  All the essentials.

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Railway enthusiasts are catered for.  One of the sounds I really miss from my garden in Tenterden is the sound of steam trains chuffing.  Yes, really.

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One final blast from the past (and future).  There is a time-travelling resident of Tenterden.  My mum plucked up the courage to ask for an autograph this week.  We have two Dr Who nuts in our house. One of them is miffed that her Nana chose Stevie as the recipient of this!

Do you have a favourite pretty little town?  

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40 Comments Add yours

  1. pommepal says:

    That was a lovely stroll through past and present with you Ali and, of course, I just loved the flowering baskets, hollyhocks and lavender a delightful town with so much history. Where did you live in Australia?

    1. Ali says:

      In Sydney – quite a contrast!

      1. pommepal says:

        Sure is. Jack was born in Sydney

      2. Ali says:

        Remind me where you are, Pauline?

      3. pommepal says:

        We live on the Gold Coast in Queensland. “Beautiful one day, perfect the next” as the promotional ads tell us….

      4. Ali says:

        I loved Queensland when we visited. I’ve been to Byron Bay twice; we went whale-watching and it was incredible.

      5. pommepal says:

        Lots to love here. Thousands of whales pass through twice a year. Saw them in North Queensland many years ago, but not been out here yet

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    What an absolutely adorable place! Wow and autograph from Tom Baker, that’s brilliant.

  3. Absolutely beautiful; glowing photographs and prose. I can’t think of anywhere that rivals that

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Derrick.

  4. Lee says:

    Beautiful looking town! Shame that in these days of ‘quick and cheap’ building, the character and variety of modern towns will never have the same charm.

    My 6-year-old daughter refers to Waterstones as ‘The Library’ too – costs me a small fortune every time she wants to ‘borrow’ a book from there!

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, that is why we did visit the actual library too. Having said that, I would rather spend my money on books than almost anything else, and both of my daughters love reading, so it was worth the investment!

      1. Lee says:

        Absolutely…. both myself and my wife made a conscious effort to be seen reading since the children were born, and my daughter in particular has inherited a love of books as a result. I’m more than happy to fuel her ‘hobby’!

  5. Lovely collection of photos and memories. Makes me want to visit.
    My favorite town (although not little) is downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The essence of southern beauty, history, and charm. A must see if you are ever in America.

    1. Ali says:

      That does sound tempting!

  6. susurrus says:

    I’d never heard of Tenterden but it looks lovely – and has one of my favourite incarnations of Doctor Who too!

    1. Ali says:

      We have an agreement in the house that Tom Baker is the best old doctor and David Tennant is the best new doctor. Now my mum needs to track down the Waitrose he frequents!

      1. susurrus says:

        He’s firmly in my top three, together with Christopher Eccleston and Jon Pertwee.

  7. shazza says:

    So gorgeous! I don’t really know many towns down south ( I always seem to travel North) but we did go to Norfolk last year and I loved the seaside places there. The prettiest place in the North? I love the sea…so maybe Staithes on the North Yorks Coast , with its orange tiled roofs and higgledy piggeldy streets. X

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds lovely. There are so many nice places around the UK.

  8. Heyjude says:

    We liked Tenterden too when we were down that way a few years ago. We even considered that part of Kent to relocate to, but housing stock is not cheap. I recognise most of your photos. Another town we thought was very cute is Cranbrook with the windmill. In fact the whole of the High Weald is very lovely. And so many gorgeous gardens in the region to visit too! Even I was practically ‘flowered-out’ by the time we left.

    Is this close to where you live then? And where did you live in Oz? Now that’s a place I wanted to live in.

    1. Ali says:

      We’re half an hour away from Tenterden and fifteen minutes from Cranbrook. Whilst Cranbrook is pretty, Tenterden feels like more of a useful sort of place; Cranbrook may have tipped into ridiculously twee!!
      We were in Sydney. It is a beautiful city, but I did miss ‘old’!

  9. bcparkison says:

    What and a lovely place.The flowers are beautiful and I have always liked the idea of secret passageways.

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Classic! We don’t have the history the UK has, but New England has many quaint colonial towns. My favorites are the rural ones that have a green, a steepled church and a cluster of homes.

  11. Rupali says:

    You have captured and presented the essentials of this town beautifully. I like the positive tone of your voice Alison.

    1. Ali says:

      That is very nice of you to say so, thank you Rupali.

  12. Claudette says:

    Looks really lovely. It’s good to have happy memories of places you have lived.

  13. Oh my goodness you’ve just covered all my favourite things in one post! My boys and I also loves our local bookshop and my oldest would in fact just end up being left there as he was so keen. The lovely lady who ran it used to chatter with him each week. This looks like one of the prettiest places … my ex mother in law which I might have mentioned, lives in Wye but it’s nowhere as pretty as this. Lovely post and may you have endless hot chocolates with the girls! Katie x

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Katie! I look forward to your next instalment!

      1. Constantly low on battery as am using both proper maps and phone as well for when I get truly lost! Had a monumental storm last night but survived! Katie x

      2. Ali says:

        Wow! Hope you didn’t get wet! I love storms, but I’m guessing it’s a little bit scary in a tent!!

      3. Drenched!! All dry now though. X

      4. Ali says:

        Oh no!! Well done for surviving!

  14. What a beautiful town! My favorite small towns are Mendocino, California and Ashland, Oregon. Mendocino has a spectacular setting up on cliffs on the Pacific Ocean and Ashland is famous for its incredible Shakespeare Festival.

  15. Beautiful old world charm – lovely photos!

  16. I loved this autobiographical post and the tour through this charming town! I have always wanted to visit England, Ali, and your blog makes me more and more determined to do so with every post.

    1. Ali says:

      When you do we should have a coffee! I think we could chat for hours!

  17. Cathy says:

    Looks like a very pretty little town indeed, Ali, and it’s interesting to think about how the fortunes of places change with different circumstances, whether natural or manmade. Our local town had its fair share of history but sadly 1960s thinking swept away much of the historic core, to the eternal regret of later borough councillors and residents 😐

    1. Ali says:

      It’s really sad, isn’t it? I would love to time-travel.

      1. Cathy says:

        Not sad at all!

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