Newest Review: ... the centre a little safer, it is definitely confusing for any visitors and any safety benefits were hilariously outweighed by the counci... more
Not a bad place to live but not much to offer for visitors.
Ashford in General
Member Name: Vandersar
Ashford in General
Advantages: Living there is a decent proposition.
Disadvantages: Nothing special about it. No charm.
Ashford - Gateway to Europe? Well I guess that's not a bad tagline as it suggests that the town's main purpose is enabling people to get to somewhere better. Fortunately after 19 years of living there I did manage to get somewhere better; although I do return to Ashford several times a year to visit friends and family.
Ashford is a medium-sized Kentish town on the train line and motorway from London to Dover and the South Coast. It has an international station through which the Eurostar passes to London, France and Belgium. I've never really understood why anyone would want to get off at Ashford; although it is a convenience for those needing to go to the continent and not wanting to travel to London to do so. Transport in and around Ashford is a major issue: there are very limited spaces in the town centre although this is improving gradually. The ring-road around the centre was for a long time a boy-racer's paradise but the council have now stopped this with a two-way system which includes less traffic lights and signs. Although this was aimed at making the centre a little safer, it is definitely confusing for any visitors and any safety benefits were hilariously outweighed by the council's road-sharing system where pedestrians were encouraged to walk out in front of traffic! Apparently this was meant to make drivers more careful.
Shopping in Ashford has definitely improved over the last 10 years but still isn't particularly great. Next to the station is the Mcarthur Glen shopping centre which looks like a huge tent and is full of mostly uninspiring retail outlets. This place is just outside the town centre and much more easily accessible than the town centre. Its highlights include a Gap, M&S and Benetton with a food court and children play-area but most of the shops are not at the top-end of their respective brand categories. Ashford's centre itself is a little better with a Debenhams, HMV, H&M, Waterstones and TopShop as well as branches of most of the big banks. The real problem I have with Ashford shopping is it lacks anything to make it stand out. It doesn't have any really exclusive fashion shops or any quirky craft shops, 2nd hand bookshops, music shops or even alternative fashion shops. I guess what I'm getting at is that you could shop in any number of places with exactly the same choices on offer.
Eating in Ashford is limited to a few decent restaurants, a few bad ones and lots of chains. I've heard that Utopia on the bank street has really good reviews and atmosphere and Wednesday nights are very cheap as the chef tries out new recipes. The Harvester just outside the centre is pretty decent too but the real problem is the lack of variety. A mile outside the town centre is the cinema complex with a few more chains and a night club. For the best eating experience, try the pubs or restaurants in the local villages around Ashford. The New Flying Horse or Devil's kneading trough in nearby Wye are very good.
The nightlife has always been pretty average in Ashford. For years there was only one nightclub and this is still the main venue on Friday and Saturday nights. It is situated in an old mill and now comprises two venues: Liquid and Life Bar. These have done well to shake off their reputation as a haven for chavs and underage drinkers and offer a decent night out to clubbers. The M20 night club which is next to the cinema (and which may have changed its name) has been through various closures and revamps over the years. Both of these clubs offer a limited clubbing experience with a mixture of chart music, dance classics and cheese for the majority of nights. Anyone wanting a different kind of music would need to try Canterbury or hope one of the town's pubs has a decent band on.
If you're thinking of visiting Ashford then I'd really suggest somewhere else first: Canterbury or one of the nearby villages are much more interesting and friendly. Living in Ashford isn't such a bad proposition for adults: it has good links with London and is surrounded by pretty countryside and villages. It's well supplied by supermarkets and shops and has a bowling alley, cinema and is about to open a new and improved sports centre. The schools in the area include a private school as well as two selective grammar schools; although all the comprehensives in the area have been rated as at least good by Ofsted. Ashford has definitely improved over the last 15 years but it's still an unremarkable place with only the basic attractions to offer residents and visitors.
Summary: Better than it was but still not great.
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