The town centre in Ashford Kent
Steadily improving, but needs more customers
Once you've been able to find a car parking space in Ashford Town Centre, it can be quite a nice experience to walk around the shops.
The only downside about it is that being an 'island' as in surrounded by the ring-road, it has developed into a place with little space for escape.
The only quiet place for a sit down for a while is the Memorial Garden opposite the Library. The gardens are well set out and whoever the Chief Gardener is, he or she has made a fine effort to keep it presentable in Summer and Winter alike.
This is a hard call at time of writing, because in a few month's time, an enormous new Shopping Centre will be opening. With a large Debenhams taking pride of place, Ashford will at last have a major Store with sufficient space to sell just about anything.
There is a Marks and Spencers, but this is small and 'tired' to say the least.
Most major town centre Retailers have a position with the usual in-town Argos, Woolworths, Lidl, Boots,
W.H. Smith, Wilkinsons, Virgin, Peacocks etc., so a selection of price is good.
Charity Shops are abundant and a good rummage around will find you some good bargains. With the coming of the Ashford Designer Outlet (only half a mile from the town centre), clothes are almost cheaper to buy brand new than second hand!
Like many other towns, smaller privately owned shops opened by hopeful investors come and go, usually being beaten for price and value for money by the bigger chain stores.
Needless to say, the mandatory McDonalds has a High Street position, so expect to trip over the usual cardboard containers as you walk around.
For the fast food Artiste there's also Starbrucks and the many Pizza 'stores'.
Witherspoons PH is franchised to the County Hotel at the lower end of the High Street.
Ashford High Street also hosts a number of 'market stalls' almost daily. Although giving a fairly nice visual effect, it makes navigating very tight and slow!
Chilham Castle near Ashford
The Church is in the middle of the town and set in a rather nice scenic Square. Right next to the main door is Ashford Museum. It's quite interesting, but way too small for what it could be. There's loads of history around and about, so hopefully, after spending millions on a pointless two way ring-road, the Council may consider a smaller amount to re-site somewhere with more room.
The Library is also similar and too small for the size of the town. The Staff are all very helpful there and because of the railway history, Train Enthusiasts can have a field day going through the Railway and Model Railway selection of Books and old records.
Just off the ring-road are the Council Offices in the Stour Centre Complex. This is shared with the Leisure Centre (see Sport page).
There's a popular Ten-Pin Bowling Alley, a few Fitness Centres (usually staffed by extremely unhealthy looking part-time Students!!)
All in all, Ashford Town Centre is struggling to meet the demands of the shopper.There are too many out of town distractions and places for better bargains.
Retailers and the Council are doing their best, I'll give them that, but at the end of the day, it's a nice town to 'look around the shops', but unless you go there early or late in the day, it's not relaxing.
Maybe though, that's what a town centre should be?
It's usually quite packed to be fair.