Tenterden – nice shops on a damp day

Tenterden is excellent for a Saturday morning browse, with a good selection of shops and eateries, and of course, not forgetting Waitrose.  The High Street is just the right length for a leisurely up-and-back, with a few short diversions…
     Last Saturday was nasty, varying from torrential rain to dank drizzle to just bleakly damp. Just the day for a little retail therapy.
    As usual, we started with a coffee in Caffe Nero. Oh no – it was infested with a Yummy Mummy Nest. You often see these in Tenterden. A group of middle-class mothers gathered round several tables pushed together, with oversized 4×4 baby buggies parked around them like pioneer wagons in a Western. Toys everywhere, and small children making mayhem while their mothers sip their chai lattes, soy macchiatos or whatever, apparently oblivious to the racket.
    There was a large no-go zone of empty tables round this nest, and if we hadn’t luckily bagged the best people-watching table right at the front of the shop, we would either have had to leave or go and sit upstairs. Yummy Mummy Nests rank high in Battleaxe’s list of pet hates. In the eyes of the Mummies, the rights of mothers and their children are paramount. Any complaint, or effort by the venue to restrict access, would be met with total outrage.

Good people-watching spot at Caffe Nero

     Then, we hit the shops. I can’t list all of them, but clothes shops include White Stuff, Monsoon, East, Phase Eight, Fat Face, Viyella, Crew Clothing and Laura Ashley, together with a few up-market independent shops. Some of these Battleaxe would go in… and some not. This day, I actually bought a skirt in White Stuff.

I always like this tiled staircase, by the door of White Stuff

     There is a lovely jewellery shop on the High Street, Bill Skinner – but only for big presents. Some of the stuff is really blingin’, but some quite delicate – foxes, hares etc.

Bill Skinner jewellery

     There are a  couple of independent shoe shops, and Moshulu, which sells bright, comfy footwear.
     Philosopher likes to look in the two men’s shops pretty much opposite Cafe Nero. There is Swaines, which sells women’s country stuff and shoes as well as very reasonably priced men’s stuff, and County Clothes, which is lovely for a browse, but, eer – not so reasonably priced.
     If you have ever wondered where men buy those red cord trousers – worn, of course, with Church’s brogues and mis-matched stripy socks, and a Barbour slung over the top, then look no further. They are all in this shop.  Up the other end of town is Orvis, which is more of the same, but also think tweed shooting jackets, waistcoats with lots of pockets, and breeks. Breeks? They are sort of like old-fashioned plus-fours, designed to be tucked into boots

Orvis man… Breeks tucked into boots.

     There are lots of nicky-nacky shops, and of course the excellent Webb’s. Their main shop sadly burned down a few years ago but has now been rebuilt. Ironmongery and hardware is in another building nearby.

      Tenterden has some very classy home and furnishing shops. Probably the best for browsing is Tenterden House Interiors – much sumptuous swag and drapery, but plenty to look at.
      Finally, there are some nice antique shops, all bunched together on the church side of the High Street. Interesting stock and reasonable prices.
      As I said, this list is not remotely exhaustive. There is a good Tenterden town website that lists all the shops, and all the pubs and eateries.
      Although there are plenty of pubs on the High Street, we tend to favour the White Lion. Food in there is good, but on occasions we have had to wait quite a long time for our food…. and suffer wasps outside in the front… we should try some different places, really. On Saturday, the White Lion was gearing up for a wedding, so we ended up at the Cafe Rouge down the road – it was fine. Lots of tea shops and assorted restaurants, too.

White Lion
Cafe Rouge – surprisingly empty

      What else is there besides shops, pubs and eateries? The medieval parish church, St Mildred’s, is a fine building – its massive tower dominates the town. The size of the church gives a clue to Tenterden’s former importance as a centre for the wool trade.

Imposing church….

     It is hard to believe now, but in medieval times Tenterden was linked to the sea, and ships were built at nearby Smallhythe. The town was actually a cinque port, designated a ‘limb’ of Rye. Battleaxe has written about Smallhythe – see this post. Then, we visited with our friends John and Jan – John was brought up at Morghew Farm, on the Smallhythe Road out of Tenterden. We drove up there and had a snoop round – John even looked round his old house.
      Tenterden is also the home of the Kent and East Sussex Railway. Battleaxe loves railways…. I want to learn to drive a steam engine before I get too old. The KESR does this, but the engines are quite small – I want a full-size fire-belching monster.
       As usual, we ended our Tenterden trip with a cruise round Waitrose. After months- nay years – when we suffered extreme Waitrose deprivation, there is now nothing we really miss. What does this signify?  I think they’d better open one in Hastings before it is finally too late and we lose interest altogether…..


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