“Rejoice, we’re on our way out”; so screamed the banner headline on the front of the Daily (hate) Mail. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to be rejoicing about, but I had a good inkling, so without further ado I inverted and turned round the stack of Little England’s favourite daily, leaving would be purchasers to be greeted with an upside-down sports page, and carried on with my shopping. I doubt many residents of Kings Hill would bother buying Middle England’s finest rag anyway, but there’s nothing like making sure.
I don’t expect many of you will have heard of Kings Hill, so to put you out of your misery, it is one of several new villages built in Kent since the 1950’s. It occupies the site of the former RAF West Malling airfield, which was one of the front-line airfields during the Battle of Britain.
The airfield was decommissioned by the RAF in 1969, but it remained in civilian use until the late 1980’s, when work started to transform the site into a new village community of mixed residential and commercial properties. The latter are mainly fancy-looking office buildings; some of which are corporate headquarters for faceless companies. The development work began in 1989 and seemingly continues to this day.
As its name suggests it is situated on a hill, close to the small market town of West Malling. It is a cold and windy place and I don’t like it at all, but it does have a reasonably-sized ASDA, and that was the attraction, for Mrs PBT’s at least, which led to us making the 20 minute journey over from Tonbridge.
The drive over was the second best part of the morning, with the drive home being the best, but at least this did allow us to appreciate the Kent countryside on a cold winter’s day; even if it was from the warmth of the car.
Now Mrs PBT’s prefers to do supermarket shopping on her own. She is quite insistent on this, so there are no joint moments of indecision in the aisles whilst Thursday evening’s meal choice is debated. This suits me perfectly, but what to do with the time, before I receive my summons to assist her at the checkout?
Shopping locally in Tonbridge, poses no problems as I can head off into the town on errands such as banking, man-shopping or just generally having a look around. With Fuggles now open I can also pop in for a swift half depending, of course, on the time of day.
The other food-shopping destination are the Tunbridge Wells retail parks at North Farm; a destination which is now much easier to reach following completion of the upgrade to the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury. Whilst Mrs PBT’s is in ASDA, I normally head over to Gregg’s where I can pick up a half-decent cup of coffee and take advantage of their free Wi-Fi.
Kings Hill is a different proposition altogether. Cold and draughty, even during the height of summer, there is nowhere to sit out and watch the world go by. The only other shops are an opticians, a Chinese restaurant and a Costa Coffee. I have resorted to the latter before, out of desperation, but it is pricey and full of “yummy mummies” and their “charming” children. Perhaps they make up the bulk of the Daily Fail’s target audience in Kings Hill, in which case they may have had to look a bit harder on Saturday for their fake-news fix.
After disposing of our household’s collected re-cycleable items in the correct bins, I popped into ASDA, to pick up some cheap beer and sort out their newspaper display. I took my purchases back to the car, and then wandered around aimlessly, not relishing the prospect of handing over my money for an over-sized cup of frothy coffee; but also not keen on returning to the supermarket.
My wanderings took me past Kings Hill’s only pub and it was here that an “A” board caught my eye. Fresh coffee and tea available inside at prices a lot more amenable than Costa’s. The pub in question is called the Spitfire, which is highly appropriate in view of the role played by the aircraft and also RAF West Malling in the nation’s history. The name is doubly appropriate as the pub belongs to Shepherd Neame, and Spitfire is their top-selling ale-brand.
This would be the first time I’ve set foot inside the Spitfire, but given my known aversion to Shepherd Neame beers this is hardly surprising. A decent cup of coffee was a different proposition though, so I decided to bite the bullet and step inside.
As the photo’s show, the Spitfire is a monument to brutalist modernism. This means it does not look out of place amongst the rest of King’s Hill’s buildings. The modernist look extended through to the interior as well, but the pub seemed well patronised, and after ordering my coffee I had difficulty in finding an empty seat and a spare table.
I was happy to hand over my £2.00 for what was a very reasonable cup of coffee. I much prefer to give my money to a “local” brewery such as Shepherd Neame, rather than a multi-national chain like Costa Coffee. The only thing was it seemed as though some of the “yummy mummies” thought the same too. Perhaps it was my fault for choosing to sit in the raised area with the comfy sofas, but there really wasn’t anywhere else free.
Fortunately, the group with the noisiest and worst behaved child departed, not long after I’d sat down, leaving me free to people-watch and skim through the emails accumulated on my phone. I didn’t see much cask being served; Spitfire (obviously), plus Whitstable Bay Pale were the beers on offer, but I didn’t witness that much lager being poured either. Most of the customers were either like me and having a quick coffee or were larger groups who had called in for lunch.
To end, I can think of far more enjoyable and productive ways to spend a few hours on a Saturday, but needs must and all that. I will remember the Spitfire though as a place to retreat to, the next time Mrs PBT’s decides to shop at Kings Hill.