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When you think of Dartford in Kent, it’s the Dartford Tunnel that immediately comes to mind. This famous crossing spans the River Thames between Dartford to the south and Thurrock to the north. It consists of two bored tunnels and the cable-stayed Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, and is the busiest estuarial crossing in the whole of the UK, with an average daily use of over 130,000 vehicles. Dartford itself is located about 18 miles from central London in a valley through with the River Darent flows. It became a market town in medieval times, and although it is now largely a commuter town, it has a long history of religious, industrial and cultural significance.
The Orchard Theatre is located in the town centre, a fully professional theatre providing audiences with a large range of drama, dance, music and entertainment. Named after The Rolling Stones’ frontman, The Mick Jagger Centre provides state-of-the-art facilities for community arts across the wider region, while the town’s Central Park is used for various events throughout the year. Theatre aside, Dartford has a strong sporting tradition. Dartford Football Club play at Princes Park Stadium, with three other senior clubs based in the town. Dartford Harriers Athletic Club was formed almost 100 years ago, based at Central Park, along with Dartford and White Oak Triathlon Club, one of the oldest British Triathlon Federation clubs in the UK. (The club trains at The Bridge Estate in town.) What’s more, the Becket Sports Centre is also home to several sports groups, so if you like to keep active, you’re sure to find a local club you can join.
Some of Dartford’s key industries, including brewing, paper-making, flour milling and the manufacture of cement, suffered extreme decline in the 20th century, causing redundancies and unemployment. The former Swanscombe Cement Works has since been redeveloped into Bluewater Shopping Centre, a luxury designer outlet for discerning shoppers. Its opening initially had a negative effect on the economy of Dartford, but the town has since enjoyed a growth in cheaper brands which have taken over some of the empty premises. In the 1990s, the local economy was boosted by the establishment of a number of business parks in the area, the biggest being Crossways Business Park at the foot of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. The Mazda motor manufacturer has its UK head office here.
The A2 motorway passes close to the town, along with the A226, which is the main road through the town, together with the A225, A206 and A282. Dartford Railway Station is located in the town centre and connected to the capital via three National Rail routes, the first being the North Kent Line via Woolwich Arsenal, which was established in 1849. The two more recent lines to be built include the Dartford Loop Line through Sidcup, which opened in 1866, and the Bexleyheath Line, opening in 1895. There are many bus services that operate in Dartford, namely Transport for London, Arriva Kent, Thameside and Go Coach Buses, connecting the town with Bexleyheath, Crayford, Erith, Gravesend, Greenhithe, Orpington, Sidcup, Swanley, Welling and Woolwich.
There are countless state-funded primary schools in the area, along with non-selected secondary schools, grammar schools, special and alternative schools and independent schools providing secondary education. When it comes to further education, there are 10 colleges in the town. These include Canterbury College, Dorton College of Further Education, East Kent College, Hadlow College, K College, University for the Creative Arts, Kent Institute of Art & Design, MidKent College, North West Kent College and South Kent College.
The average house price for Dartford is a whopping £307,287, largely due to its enviable position serving commuters, as well as lovers of the nearby Kent countryside, known as the Garden of England.