Community Spirit Makes a Comeback

October 8, 20207 Minutes

With the Office for National Statistics having recorded a surge in community spirit across the UK since the coronavirus outbreak*, it is not surprising, that the local community is now becoming a more prominent factor for those thinking about moving.

Paul and Beverley Lincoln (69 and 64) moved to Fernham Homes’ Ellesmere development, which is situated in the tight knit village community of Hollingbourne, near Maidstone in Kent, just before lockdown in early March, and immediately felt the benefit of living in an area where people looked out for each other and did things together.

Paul, a consultant for a construction design company, comments: “If we have to go back into lockdown again, then I couldn’t think of a better place to be than Hollingbourne. At the height of the lockdown in April and May, the pub in the village was serving takeaway meals, and Woods, the village shop took on its role as lynchpin of the community and stayed open all the time. They were superb and even operated a local delivery service to elderly people. Union Jack bunting to mark VE Day still adorns the main street and you can see rainbows in most windows.

Paul continues: “Another attraction of the village is that it is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is surrounded by a network of public footpaths, which lead right onto the North Downs, which meant we could spend most days wandering around the local countryside.

The exclusive Ellesmere development of 12 family homes is situated in the small hamlet of Hollingbourne at the foot of the North Downs. The area is renowned for the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and offers residents numerous walking and cycling routes, forming part of the National Cycle Network and historic Leeds Castle is also just a stone’s throw away. The village is home to three pubs, including ‘The Dirty Habit’, which dates to the 11th century. The village store, Woods of Hollingbourne, prides itself on only selling locally sourced Kentish produce where it can, and is still offering a local delivery service for those who are self-isolating or are unable to leave their home.

Paul continues: “We quickly got friendly with our neighbours after moving in and we started having a takeaway evening meal from The Dirty Habit every fortnight with them; sitting on tables located at opposite ends of the green in front of our homes! Fernham inevitably had to stay off site during lockdown, so the residents took it upon themselves to look after the common areas, water the plants and cut the grass where we could. That is the kind of community we’re living in; everyone wants their home to look nice.”

The development at Ellesmere comprises four two-bedroom, three four-bedroom homes and five larger, five-bedroom houses, all with landscaped gardens and with the four and five-bedroom homes benefitting from large garages. The exteriors, designed by DHA Architecture, have been detailed to reflect the historic homes in and around Hollingbourne, featuring two colours of red bricks, brown and red roof tiles and white render, as well as gable-ended roofs typical of the area. Great care has been taken to preserve the country feel of the development, with many of the existing trees and hedges being retained.

Paul, who moved from Hempstead in Gillingham where Beverley and he had lived for the last 25 years, wanted to downsize and find a property that required less maintenance, continues: “Working in the building profession, I like the traditional build methods and design elements that Fernham has used. The quality of the finishes are also second to none. The house itself is exactly what we wanted, it’s smaller than our previous home, easier to maintain and with lower running costs, but still has the space for family to come and visit when we get back in more normal times.”

Paul Rosbrook, Operations Director at Fernham Homes, comments: “The lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter, with open green space and countryside walks on the doorstep and a strong local community, was an attraction for buyers like Paul and Beverley before lockdown. But since lockdown, people are looking for this in greater numbers with rural Kentish villages like Hollingbourne now appealing to those who have the flexibility to commute less often.”

The homes at Ellesmere are located less than half a mile from the railway station which offers direct services to London Victoria in as little as one hour and 12 minutes. The area also offers a good selection of schools, including Hollingbourne Primary School in the village and Grammar schools in Maidstone. Nearby Bearsted and Maidstone offer more extensive facilities, and the M20 provides easy access to the motorway network.

In addition to the pubs and village store, there is also a church and village hall within easy walking distance from Ellesmere. For a village of its size, there are numerous local groups and clubs to get involved with, including a Cricket Club, Breton Dancing, Golf Society, Football Club, Art Group, Garden Society, Pantomime Group, Pilates, Bowls and the Women’s Institute. A mobile library also normally runs in the village hall car park each week.

*https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritain/14may2020