Something in the sea air
I think I may smell something fresh and exciting in Hythe. Let’s not get silly, but could it be the heady scent of hip wafting in from cooler climes nearby?
Whitstable, Margate, Ramsgate and Rye have been rocking the creative, vintage and boho vibe for some years now, attracting dudes who settle and spread their cool. Even Hastings and Folkestone are doing away with their faded tacky seaside personas and getting seriously with it, thanks to regeneration projects and cultural tourism. But these things take time.
Hythe has always been a bit different to its coastal neighbours: smaller, slightly more upmarket, more conservative and resistant to change. For many, it’s too quiet, full of charity shops and hairdressers, and a lot of mobility scooters. A bit rubbish if you’re looking for more from life, to be honest.
The Good Life
Yet, if you have actually chosen to live in Hythe, or return after many years away as I did, you can appreciate much more of the good stuff. The pretty seafront and beach; that invigorating, chilly, choppy sea; green spaces like South Rd, Oaklands, the Green and Brockhill Country Park; a fantastically eclectic high street; handy proximity to both London and Europe; and the relaxed family life you can enjoy here. Surely Hythe has the potential to match the best of Cornwall or Suffolk’s classy coastal towns?
The downside has always been the general fustiness, the reluctance to embrace the here and now, and a lack of culture and entertainment for anyone not drawing their pension. But maybe things are changing? Nobody wants the town’s historic charm to be dented, but steady, responsible, creative change has got to be good, hasn’t it?
A Breath of Fresh Air
As creative types and more families finally notice the rather nice life available on the Kent coast and decamp from London, new businesses pop up in Hythe and existing ones reinvent themselves, broadening their appeal and evolving with the times. This is decidedly cool!
High Street shops like Elysian Treasures, the Flower Shop, the Sewing Space, Shoreline Vintage, the Dolls’ House and WOW have been adding style, creativity and vintage appeal to the traditional high street for a few years now. We even had a pop-up restaurant for a while! Big Boys Fine Burger Co has opened permanently on Folkestone’s Old High Street after a popular evening stint at the Nutmeg Cafe. Successful designer and illustrator Andy Tuohy, often inspired by the Kent coast, is also based in Hythe. And below you’ll find other local businesses boosting Hythe’s cool-factor, making it more fun to live in and attracting visitors to the town.
Hythe Businesses Doing it Right
Griggs of Hythe
Long-time residents of the Fisherman’s Beach, now serving up fresh and delicious fishy snacks at benches right on the pebbles.
Saltwood on the Green
Stylish eatery on Saltwood’s picturesque village green, delivering local produce in simple seasonal dishes and a very fine atmosphere. Established by renowned American chef, Jeff Kipp.
Shepherd Hut Studios
Artist Andrea Stoneman’s dinky gallery/store on Marine Walk Street, showcasing her distinctive beach-inspired prints.
118 The High Street
Richard Amos’ beautifully curated collection of antiques and architectural salvage, in a gorgeous building at the west end of the High Street.
Innovative green microbrewery in West Hythe set up by two young university buddies, Daryl Stanford and Martyn Playford. They promise that at least one of their 25 or so beers will tickle your fancy.
Debonair Tea Company
Purveyors of quality loose leaf tea online, also regulars at farmers’ markets and food festivals around the county.
Romney Marsh Brewery
Alright, not strictly Hythe, but very local! And found in the White Hart on the High Street. Another extremely on-trend craft brewery based out on the marsh, set up by London media exile, Matt Calais (yes, he has a beard). Branding provided by Dungeness artist Paddy Hamilton.
Maybe the Daily Mail is right for once and Hythe is an up-and-coming property hotspot. One day perhaps there will be more hipsters than hip replacements on the seafront. Whatever happens, let’s make the most of all this creative enterprise and enjoy our lovely town.
Do you think Hythe is becoming more cool and creative? Which Hythe businesses do you admire? Let me know below or via Twitter!