Things to Do in West Malling

on March 28, 2022

West Malling, a historic market town in Kent, with a population of around 2,500 people, is packed with lovely shops and restaurants and benefits from great road and rail connections to London.

Here are our top recommendations for things to in West Malling:

 

Manor Park

Previously the grounds of Douces Manor, these 52 acres contain fields with picnic tables and benches, historical sites such as the Ice House, a children’s park and trails. A vehicle parking area provides access, or visitors can walk from town, and The Green Cafe offers refreshments.
This Green Flag accredited Site of Nature Conservation Interest has native trees, a picturesque stream, plenty of wildlife, plus a scenic man-made lake from the 1800s. Visitors often see ducks, coots, moorhens and swans roaming the site.

 

St. Leonard’s Tower

This English Heritage site neighbouring Manor Park was presumably built between 1077 and 1108, though the exact purpose and founder are disputed. Hops were stored there in the 1800s and more recently the structure was placed under custody as an exemplary Norman keep as well as a structure deliberately damaged to prevent use by others during wartime. Anyone can wander the exterior, while the interior is closed to the public without an appointment.

 

St. Leonard’s Restaurant

A short walk or ride from the heritage tower of the same name, this modern British restaurant celebrates both seasonal dishes and elegant contemporary meals. The focus is on local produce from this bustling market town, with European and more distant influences. They recommend the local game, gin and wines.

 

Shopping

There is much to browse and buy in West Malling, including interior design at Found, gifts from Down Swan Street, old-fashioned sweets at Chocolate Umbrella, and independent stalls at the Abbey Arcade on High Street. Fashion comes from jewellery store Andrew Smith, boutiques Fragolina and Eves of West Malling, menswear Monks & Co, Coco and Bloom for flowers and children’s shoe store Soles With Heart.

 

St. Leonard’s to stay

Four beautiful bed and breakfast rooms at St. Leonard’s Restaurant provide a home base on business trips or when leisure travellers want a comfortable stay. The rooms contain a mix of new and timeless features, from the modern mattresses and linens to the botanical bath products, or the Wi-Fi and flatscreen TVs to the dressing gowns and slippers.

 

St. Mary’s Church

Some areas of this parish church, belonging to the Church of England and dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, are almost one thousand years old. They hold regular services and have furniture with a coat of arms monogrammed for King James II and restored several times, an organ built in 1879, and a war memorial for those of the town who died. The church is linked to the West Malling CE Primary School and has much of Kings Hill as its land.

 

Leybourne Lakes Park

Previously part of the local quarries and reopened to the public in 2004, these 93 hectares contain flower-filled grasslands, freshwater lakes, marshes and meadows. The park is a short drive from town with parking or public transport options, toilets and dog waste bins, and remains dedicated to protecting the local wildlife.
This Green Flag award-winning site provides for visitors with physical disabilities and has surfaced paths, a 2.5 km Ocean Circular Walk, scenic viewpoints and rest spots. A water sports facility helps with canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing, as well as open water swimming and scuba diving. There are lovely picnic spots and a children’s park, plus the area is great for cycling and geocaching. Special days to visit include Wildlife Activity days, Easter festivities, or dragonfly and damselfly season.

 

Kent Life

Also known as the Museum of Kent Life, this working heritage farm grows and harvests hops using traditional methods. The 28 acre attraction, started between the Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council, opened in 1985. They continued to renovate the farms and gardens, as well as bringing other historic buildings piece-by-piece from around the county.

 

Malling Abbey Cascade

This small but beautiful man-made waterfall on Swan Street is possibly the most photographed spot in West Malling. The nearby West Malling Abbey, originally St. Mary’s Abbey, was built around 1090 for local Benedictine nuns. Rubble from the buildings are presumed to have been used in constructing the Malling Abbey Cascade. JMW Turner sketched the waterfall around 1791 and the resulting watercolour was recognised in 2005 by a visitor at the Tate Britain gallery, upsetting historians who believed the waterfall was made in 1810 only to find they were over a hundred years off.

 

Twitch Heritage Centre

Named for the nervous twitches by wartime officers flying out of RAF West Malling, an area now called Kings Hill, this well known Georgian wine cellar bar sits beneath the old Douces Manor which served as their headquarters. The preserved bar is now managed as a heritage site by The Malling Society, opening only around 10 days every year to display artefacts and photos. Many of the original cartoons and signatures created by those officers with carving and candle smoke remain on the walls and ceiling, telling stories of their battles.

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