Original article from Kent Live
Having lived in a number of places, I don't think I'd yet come across a single High Street stone mason.
That was until I went to Faversham, where I walked past two within a few yards of each other.
It's one of many curious features in this oldest of old-world towns, where time appears to have stood still not just for the historic buildings, but even the businesses operating from them.
And for all the antique shops and bookstores and wine dealers and independent butchers, bakers and sweetshops – all of which didn't seem to be particularly busy – there was hardly a vacant unit in sight.
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It seems that if the modern economy is a weather system, Faversham exists in its own micro-climate.
Which is probably one of the reasons it was ranked as the best town in our county.
Property experts Garringtons carry out a comprehensive survey every year, rating every major settlement in the UK according to quality of life, natural beauty, architectural merit and house prices.
Canterbury was number one in Kent.
But of course the more pedantic among us will note how the cathedral makes it a city, not a town.
Intrigued, this reporter set off for a day trip to see what all the fuss was about.
Driving in for the first time, the thing that stands out are the buildings.
And not just the obviously incredible ones like the dozens of red-brick and timber-beamed pubs and high street units and the vast, ornate stone churches.
Even the Georgian and Victorian terraced housing you get in so many other parts of Kent appeared to be incredibly well preserved here.
Then there are the finer details – the tiny, ancient signs everywhere.
The traditional bunting that criss-crosses overhead.
The flowers that seem to hang in baskets or burst from beds dotted around.
The cobbled streets. The colourful cladding.
Even the new buildings in Faversham seem to have been designed in a very particular style, with frames and beams and roofs to match what is already there.
The word 'strict' must not do justice to the stringency of planning laws in these parts.
And clearly it works.
Something is attracting visitors and homeowners to continue to flock to the town, despite the decline of its major industries.
Shepherd Neame continues to be a significant regional brewer, and it remains awash with pubs emblazoned with the famous local brand.
But the town's main employment came from the explosives industry between the 17th and early 20th century, before a decline following an accident in 1916 which killed more than 100 workers.
This coincided with a revival of the shipping industry.
A shipyard was established in Faversham by James Pollock & Sons (Shipbuilders) in 1916 for manufacturing barges for landing craft
Faversham already had a tradition of shipbuilding and over 1200 ships were built and launched from the town between 1916 and 1969.
These days you can still find maintenance and repair shops by the creek, another bustling old-world quarter crammed with curiosities.
In fact, after spending most of the morning in the town centre area, I wasn't sure a place could seem any more historic.
Then you walk to the creek, where a seemingly even older array of large barn-like shops, restaurants, tearooms and warehouses await.
I've been to a few historic towns in Kent before, but Faversham was something else.
But would I call it the best town in Kent?
It depends what you're looking for, I guess, but I'm not sure that I would.
For me it lacked the family activities and the vibrancy and the mixture of age groups that you get in places like Folkestone and Deal.
Or if you want excellent hospitality and proximity to London, you might go to west Kent towns instead like Westerham, Edenbridge, Sevenoaks,Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
Comparisons like this though should be left to the property experts – because there really aren't true comparisons to be made when you visit a place like Faversham.
The town has been preserved to an extent that is very rare, if not unique.
There are plenty of shops and pubs to visit, and parks and bodies of water to walk around, all dotted between buildings unrivalled in both quaintness and quantity of quaintness.
It makes it more special than any other town in Kent I can think of.
And this is something well worth bearing in mind when you're planning your next day trip.