10 reasons to live in Kent
Our Local editor, Verity, explores the Garden of England - Kent. She highlights the best of everything the county has to offer, from coffee shop and art studio hybrids to coastal parks down in Folkestone.
I moved down from London 13 years ago and have never left - I'm now truly a Maid of Kent (rather than a Kentish Maid, those who live north of the River Medway!). After I had my son, I was keen to meet other mums so I turned to Mumsnet to find others in my local area. I've really enjoyed this new challenge though and I'm looking forward to seeing the site grow and develop.
1. Thing about the area
It has to be the huge variety of things available to do and see - wander around floral gardens, paddle in the sea, soak up the breathtaking views, discover hidden gems down cobbled lanes or shop in one of our many great towns. We've got so much to offer and with our fast links to London and the continent, you can have the best of everything.
2. Child-friendly cafes
Mama Feel Goods at Chalkpit Farm in Bekesbourne is a wonderful child-friendly cafe. Nestled amid the tables is a well-stocked basket of books that my son has loved rummaging through. I often have a book tucked away in my bag, but the excitement of finding a new book keeps him much more entertained. The staff are also incredibly friendly and the food is delicious.
For a child-centred cafe, why not try Espression Interactive Art Studio and Cafe in Canterbury. In this friendly cafe, you and your children can create works of art (pottery, mosaic or glasswares) while you sip your coffee and have a slice of cake. If it's a warm day you can also sit in their courtyard garden.
3. Child-free night out
Why not head out to one of our many theatres? The Marlowe Theatre has recently reopened after undergoing a fantastic redevelopment. But wherever you are in Kent, you can find a local theatre showing fabulous productions, ranging from local shows to big budget shows destined for the West End.
4. Outside space
Kent is awash with beautiful outside spaces with thousands of miles of footpaths which can freely and easily be enjoyed. If you fancy a more structured bit of outside space, head over to Cobtree Manor Park in Maidstone which has a fun, large play area, Maidstone Zoo, which includes towers, tunnel slides and wobbly bridges.
The Lower Leas Coastal Park in Folkestone has a great children's adventure playground where there's a pirate ship, monkey bars, slides, climbing frames and a rope slide. Entry is free to both and they are open all year round.
Average semi-detached house price
Average class size for primary schools
Kent: 27 pupils
UK: 27 pupils
Average class size for secondary schools
Kent: 20 pupils
UK: 20.5 pupils
5. Hidden gem
My hidden gem is the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. This is a real must for train enthusiastics (young and old). We took my two-year-old son on it for his birthday and he loved it (and so did I).
The trains are a third of the size of a normal steam train and are captivating and fun. It's a great way to get to the beach, too.
6. Community venues
Kent has some fantastic community venues, which highlights how people in our county can come together to improve things in our communities. In the recent months two have come to my attention.
The first is the Project Motormouth in Ramsgate -for over two years local residents have been working hard to save the derelict West Cliff Hall and regenerate it into an entertainment venue for the community.
The second is over in Canterbury - local residents were successful in saving the Westgate Hall and it is in the final stages of becoming a cultural community centre. Over in Sevenoaks, the STAG, which operates as a charity, includes a theatre and two digital cinema screens.
7. Free visitor attractions
Kent is full of free visitor attractions so I've chosen three that I really enjoy going to!
The Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate is a brilliant free attraction. As a family, we went to the Curiosity Exhibit and were in awe of the Walrus and Penguin. Over in Canterbury, the Beaney has had an impressive redevelopment and the free entry means we can visit again and again, discovering new things each time.
Travelling a little further into Kent, you can go to the Maidstone Museum for free and can even see some dinosaurs. Gideon Mantell used a fossil slab found in Maidstone to create the first skeletal reconstructions of an Iguanodon, famously making the mistake of placing a horn on the nose which should have been a thumb.
8. Day out
If you're looking for a day out but aren't tempted by the free attractions I've highlighted, then we have some fabulous deals available, like at Howletts, the Port Lympne Animal Park or Leeds Castle where you pay once and can visit all year round. Howletts and Port Lympne Animal Parks are home to some of the world's most endangered animals.
Leeds Castle has so much to offer - visiting the castle, exploring the maze and falconry displays to name a few. If you can't get it all done on your first visit, you can keep coming back for the next 12 months for free.
9. Places to live
With so many wonderful places to live in Kent, I've picked my top three:
Canterbury - there are numerous attractions within the city centre (Heritage museum, Roman museum, The Beaney and the Canterbury Tales to name a few) and a short drive brings you to several wildlife parks and beaches. You can have the compromise of a city life with the countryside on your doorstep.
Royal Tunbridge Wells - did you know that it is the only spa town in the South East of England? The Pantiles, which is full of independent shops, restaurants and cafes, shows off the town's elegant architecture. Also not to be missed are the regular farmers' markets.
Maidstone - Maidstone was recently rated eighth best place to live in the UK in study by the Halifax. The town offers a wide range of activities for all age groups. Great attractions for the family including Kent Life, Cobtree Park Farm and Mote Park.
Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone all offer good schools and you can travel into London from them in less than an hour.
10. Places to shop
Kent has a huge variety of great places to shop ranging from the independent shops in Whitstable and the Pantiles of Tunbridge Wells, to the towns with busy high streets like Canterbury and Maidstone or the shopping centres of Bluewater and Westwood Cross.