The spotlight for ‘Say Hi! to your High Street’ moves to Cranbrook this weekend. Known as the ‘Capital of the Weald’, Cranbrook is the ideal destination for exploring British heritage and rolling countryside views.
Buildings date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, Cranbrook is a window into the history of Kentish textiles and market town culture. However, it has since developed a thriving community of independent and artisanal business that is sure to keep creative shoppers satisfied.
Set against a backdrop of glorious, pastoral countryside and its famous Union Mill – one of the UK’s tallest, working smock mills – visitors can plan a sight-seeing trip through Cranbrook’s medieval streets, exploring the area’s cloth-weaving heritage in Cranbrook Museum and the prototype clock for Big Ben in St Dunstan’s, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Weald’, or venture further into the Weald for an invigorating walk.
For those looking for a long lunch or artisanal brunch, Cranbrook offers a refreshing range of local cafés and pubs to relax and watch the world go by – or perhaps a visit to their monthly farmer’s market for a fresh supply of local, seasonal produce inside and outside the octagonal Vestry Hall.
Curious shoppers can further explore over 60 independent shops for gifts, jewellery, kitchenware, home boutiques and vintage designer clothing, including renowned Bell House Fabrics, independent cook shop County Cookshops and Bentleys Antiques & Fine Art Auctioneers – where you might even spot TV presenter Raj Bisram.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is also only a short distance away, hosting a collection of Tudor houses and its world-famous White Garden grounds, which attract thousands of visitors every year.
Located just off the A229, Cranbrook is easily accessible, with free parking in the town centre and its surrounding streets.
Say Hi! Cranbrook prize draw
Across this weekend, local loyalty card Be Local is running a competition in Cranbrook in support of ‘Say Hi! to Your High Street’. Every £10 spent by a Be Local card member with a participating independent will qualify for an entry into a prize draw, with prizes including a Meze meal for two with wine. If you’re not already a member, you can join the scheme in person in The Hive, Stone Street, Cranbrook, where the prizes will also be on display.
Meet the traders
The traders of Cranbrook are looking forward to saying ‘Hi!’ to you, this weekend. Here are a few who are keen on welcoming you to their town.
Kate Tompsett set up colourful, creative gift store, Happy and Glorious in 2012 – the year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics. With previous experience in the retail and marketing industry, Kate was confident that she had the skills and experience necessary to open her own business to channel the positivity of the time.
“There was a real surge of celebration and happiness in the air, so I felt there was no better opportunity to celebrate what Britain had to offer,” she explains. “I was inspired by Mary Portas and her challenge to re-ignite British manufacturing, so I was passionate about stocking locally created products. I have my own range of gifts in the shop, as well as items sourced from talented artists all over the UK. These items are carefully handpicked by me as I am passionate about selling products that I believe in.”
Emma and Stuart Smith, The Hive
The Hive is an open hub for anyone to work, collaborate and socialise. Established in 2019, owners Emma and Stuart Smith wanted to provide a space that could help support small businesses, offering services such as advertising, workshops, one-to-one mentoring and start-up loans. Located in the heart of the Cranbrook community, Emma was enthusiastic in creating a hub in an area where she was brought up: “When I was younger, I remembered Cranbrook being a really bustling and vibrant town, so this was my way of trying to re-ignite the High Street again!”
Odyl was founded seven years ago by QVC presenter and fashion expert, Gemma Holmes. Despite lockdown restrictions, Gemma made the most out of social media to keep sales high and her customers in touch with a wide range of body-inclusive fashion, using their online ‘Shop by Shape’ filter. “It was massively important in lockdown for us to keep in touch with our customers. I would try on all the new pieces and post videos of myself on our social media talking through how to style the pieces and what body shape that item would be best for,” Gemma explains. “I always wanted to work in fashion and, when I opened my boutique, I wanted to make sure there was something for everybody – all shapes and sizes. It was important for me that everyone who enters the shop feels comfortable that there is something for their body shape. Some ladies can find shopping daunting, so my job is to help them find an outfit that they feel fantastic in. Watching a customer leave confident is what I love most about my job."
Why not come and visit to explore these fabulous boutiques and more for yourself?