Paddock Wood is my hometown. It’s a small town of about 10,000 people, 35 miles south of London, located on the main train line to the capital, and completely devoid of any kind of distinguishing feature that might separate it from any other town of the same size. It’s anonymous; the kind of place you’d expect from a settlement that only developed because a train station was built there.
So on the off-chance that you may misguidedly choose to ignore this advice and pay a visit to the town, here are some of the highlights of what the locals affectionately dub ‘P-Dubz’:
PADDOCK WOOD STATION.
Our journey begins at the town’s founding father. The new station bridge is infinitely nicer to look at than the old battered shiteheap bridge and improves the aesthetics of the whole station complex – not to mention makes it infinitely more useable for disabled passengers – but the rest of the station is bleaker than a cold Tuesday night in Aberdeen. Until the train arrives, that is, to whisk you away to places where something’s actually going on.
BARSLEYS DEPARTMENT STORE.
The flagship independent store on Paddock Wood high street, established in 1903, has pretty much everything you could want in a homely rural-ish village. A million different colours of wool and a variety of buttons, a showroom of moderately priced sofas, a cafe for the locals to relax in and enjoy local produce, and uniforms for students at P Dubz’s only secondary education unit, Mascalls School. The clothes are mostly old lady gear, but unless you want to go further afield or resign yourself to charity shop cast-offs, this is your only hope for clothing. To its credit, it at least has an excellent range of tights.
There are a number of acceptable takeaways and restaurants in the town, but arguably the most essential is the Simla, located close to the station and opposite Waitrose. Regulars receive Christmas cards (it may say a lot about our patronage of the place that one year we received two) and are on first-name terms with Abdul, the Bangladeshi native who set up and owns the business, and his staff. It’s a cosy place that’s always buzzing on a Friday night and serves pretty good food. If you’ve been to Paddock Wood and not given it your custom, you haven’t really been to Paddock Wood.
This is the real social hub of the town, because the people of PW love nothing more than buying deeply overpriced middle class wares. If you’re on a budget, there’s a tiny Tesco Express down the high street, but that’s all we offer on the supermarket front.
THE JOHN BRUNT VC
One of only 2 pubs to service the town, it’s small, cramped and hectic. Unless you actively enjoy being crowbarred into a corner by people you went to primary school with, you’re better off getting the train to Tonbridge and enjoying their range of establishments.
PADDOCK WOOD PRIMARY SCHOOL
The second largest primary school in the county has around 700 pupils and is where your fine author was schooled in her childhood. Considering the scale of the school, I think it did a pretty good job for me, although I can’t comment about it now. Your child will also learn a lot more here about life than it will at one of the teeny-tiny 90-pupil jobs that everyone else goes to, not to mention be a hell of a lot more prepared for the size of secondary school.
THE RANDOM GIANT SUNDIAL THING NEAR THE PETROL STATION
It may look like some random bits of stone in the grass here, but it’s actually a sundial. I think you’re meant to stand in the middle and see which ‘hour’ your shadow lands on to tell what time it is, but that could be complete misinformation. It’s not much to look at, but it’s a notable quirk in the particularly soulless mouth of the high street.
ST ANDREW’S CHURCH
Easily the largest, most visible and the most well-known of the many churches in the area (there’s also the Baptist Church, held at the primary school, and the Catholic Church, as well as a few others that I can’t remember), it was originally located where Waitrose is now until it was obliterated in World War II. So they rebuilt it in the 50s nearer the police station and the cricket pitch, before adding an extension with a kitchen, a number of halls that could be let out to local groups and clubs, and an office where yours truly’s mother now spends her weekdays gossiping, playing Spider Solitaire and – if she’s feeling really adventurous – actually doing her job. It’s an alright church, with an alright congregation, but I once worked out I’ve spent around 3,500 hours of my whole life in that bloody building thanks to enforced churchgoing until the age of 15 and it being the primary location for local extracurricular activities. So, y’know, I can take it or leave it.
The prime (and only) public sports facility in the area runs a number of classes for different sports, has a gym, has a mini skatepark, and best of all has a huge field that some moron decided was better having a chunk taken out of it for a running track that was never finished due to the company building it going bust. What more could you want?! (Other than a swimming pool where the unfinished running track is, because people actually wanted a swimming pool.)
THE HOP FARM
And if you’re equipped with a car, you can sample the pleasures of the Hop Farm, our primary attraction, which hosts events all year round, including the Hop Farm Festival. Unless it gets cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales, as it did when My Bloody Valentine were meant to be headlining in 2013 ( 😦 ). Happily it wasn’t in 2012, and Suede were able to play a barnstorming headline set practically in my backyard 😍
Although really if you’re equipped with a car, you should drive to a different town/city, because this literally is everything Paddock Wood has to offer.