Leisure & Travel
by Aspect County

HAWKHURST

THE CROSSROADS OF THE WEALD

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Looking at the pretty village of Hawkhurst it’s hard to imagine that it was once home to a notorious gang of Kent smugglers who ruled the Weald, controlling much of the illicit trade from Deal to Poole in Dorset. Hatching plans for smuggling tea, brandy, rum and coffee, the mob went on wild escapades until gang leader Arthur Gray was captured, tried at the Old Bailey and executed in 1748. Following new leadership by Thomas Kingsmill, the gang were later defeated by the Goudhurst Band of Militia and their dominance dwindled. 

Hawkhurst lies around 12 miles south-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells and sits within the High Weald, an area of outstanding natural beauty. It has over 1,000 years of recorded history, the oldest known settlement being the Saxon manor of Conghurst.

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The name Hawkhurst is derived from the Old English heafoc hyrst, meaning a wooded hill frequented by hawks – Hawk Wood’. Hurst (Hyrst) in a place name refers to a wood or wooded area – there are several in West Kent and East Sussex. The 11th Century Domesday Monachorum refers to it as Hawkashyrst, belonging to Battle Abbey. 

Village of two halves
Today the historic and infamous village of Hawkhurst is a picturesque place of two halves – one a tranquil area in the oldest part, consisting mainly of cottages and the 13th century St Laurence church clustered around a large triangular green, known to locals as The Moor, and the other, a quaint shopping parade with olde-worlde charm called Highgate. 

Shopping
Hawkhurst has an abundance of independent shops including boutiques; Cordelia James, Mollie Leigh Bridal who have recently celebrated their first birthday, Park Farm Butchers, Ooh How Lovely the brightly coloured shop on the crossroads’ for beautiful homeware and gifts, IN Design kitchen, bedroom and bathrooms specialists, as well as an artisan florist Daisies in Bloom and The Salon, home to a drop-in well-being clinic and beauty and skincare treatments. 

Things to do
The Kino Cinema, is the first digital cinema in the UK, here you can enjoy a varied selection of films, from blockbusters and classics to live opera, ballet and art. The Kino Hawkhurst is housed within a converted Victorian lecture hall, opposite the Colonnade, where you can also enjoy a range of food and drinks in the stylish licensed café-bar, with veranda.

Nearby is Hawkhurst Fish Farm a carp fishery on the Kent and Sussex border, featuring seven lakes suitable for all anglers. The scenic complex has a large Waterside Café serving fresh homemade food, All Things Aquatic and Slap N Dash where you can paint your own pottery, crafts and gifts, amongst other businesses.

Hawkhurst is also within easy reach of the sea and surrounding towns and villages like Rye, Tunbridge Wells, Battle and Hastings with many National Trust properties, including Bodium Castle, near Robertsbridge and Bateman’s in Burwash. The Forestry Commission acquired Bedgebury National Pinetum in 1919, the 320-acre Pinetum with over 12,000 trees is a beautiful place to walk, with breathtaking views and natural and man-made waterways. If you’re looking for somewhere for the kids to let off steam then Bewl Water is the place to go, with an aqua park on the reservoir and miles of cycling and walking tracks. Fitness is key in Hawkhurst where you’ll find Serida Fitness personal training studio along with an active bowls club, golf, and squash club in addition to lawn tennis just on the outskirts of the village. 

If at the end of your day of shopping and exploring the area, you want to relax over a glass Kentish wine, or a pint of ale, and sample some excellent local food, then Hawkhurst is the place to stay. You’ll be spoilt for choice with traditional English country pubs such as The Eight Bells, Queens Inn hotel restaurant and pub, The Great House, and Water Lane walled garden and restaurant – all oozing character, a wealth of history and charm. 

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