BEARSTED, insulated from Maidstone by a belt of green, is a very popular village, though in recent decades it has become rather bloated with new development. The older part, to the north of the A20, has a core of 17th-century houses around a large green on which is one of the earliest cricket pitches in the county. The poet Edward Thomas lived by the green, close to where the shops now stand – there is a butcher, baker and chemist, a newsagent and three pubs. The infant and junior schools in the area are thought to be excellent. The novelist Baroness Orczy also lived here which is why the Scout troup is known as The Scarlet Pimpernels after her swashbuckling hero. A three-bedroom cottage near the station could cost £165,000. A family-sized house would reach £350,000 or more.
A disadvantage of Bearsted is that the old and the new sides of the village are rather split, each having its own village hall. Some villagers on the Madginford side, to the south of the Ashford road, feel that the north side grabs the limelight. The new estates to the south have their own supermarket and parade of shops. A modern two-bedroom house is priced at around £165,000.
The first pocket of rural life on Maidstone’s eastern flank, but closer to Bearsted, is Otham. There is a 900-year-old church, a few ancient half-timbered houses, and a tradition of parish life, which is maintained. A four-bedroom family house might cost you £420,000. The WI hall also does duty as a village hall and nursery school. There are some pretty walks up the valley around the River Len, where you could keep in training for the egg-and-spoon race at the annual fête. In the Len valley is Downswood, an area of high-density modern housing estates set in farmland, with four shops, where you might buy a three-bedroom semi for £180,000 or a four-bedroom detached for £250,000.