What is a Hinterland ?
A hinterland is many things. It is a catchment area beyond the parish boundary, a sphere of influence, an area visited by locals and an area from which visitors and services arrive. The hinterland will mean different things to different people, depending on their business interests and their leisure pursuits.
We can use the hinterland concept to help analyse how well Westerham works as a town and answer questions about how we utilise our surroundings to survive and what draws people to Westerham. Which parts of our hinterland should we nourish and develop?
The marine traders’ use of the word hinterland described the places near a port that goods were delivered once they were got ashore, and the places that other goods arrived from, before the boat set sail. This model, of imports and exports, highlights the importance of “knowing our hinterland”.
Westerham is not by the sea, but is on a busy east-west route and on a substantial north-south route too (Bromley, Biggin Hill, Croydon, Edenbridge, Tonbridge). Good communications are essential. We have no station so all collections and deliveries must be by road. An increase in traffic to Biggin Hill or Edenbridge has an impact on our town which could be both negative and positive.
A hinterland is not static – two hundred years ago it would have been much closer to the parish boundary – maybe the distance you could travel in a day. In the 1960’s we had a railway station. In the 1970’s there were 2 more butchers, a greengrocer, 2 electrical shops, an ironmonger, 3 more schools and 3 more pubs and another garage.
For a town to be economically viable, it has to be either totally self-sufficient or to strategically balance its suppliers and its customers. It must adapt to change. In this century, change will come from “the credit crunch”, the increase in the cost of energy and raw materials, and from climate change. Should we try to grow more local food, do we need more hotels, or better bus services? A city like Dubai that cannot grow food and has little water, survives by the exploitation of cheap energy. Westerham, which has survived “from Doomsday to Motorway” does not work on this model.
Westerham is a safe and pleasant place to live and has a strong community. Although we can no longer buy a packet of screws or a pair of brass hinges, we do not have too far to go (eg Biggin Hill, Oxted) to find other services. And other people find lots of reasons to come to Westerham.
Tourists come from as far as North America and New Zealand. Visitors tend to come from north of the town, from Croydon, Beckenham, Bromley, Hayes, and Orpington and to a much lesser extent from places south of the town, like Tonbridge. Close neighbours come from places like Oxted, Limpsfield, Crockham Hill, Edenbridge, Brasted, Sundridge, Ide Hill and Sevenoaks.
Business people come to work in Westerham from at least as far as Haywards Heath and the Medway. So, we can ask the question, where to you have to go to buy X or to do Y? Westerham is really a wonderful and diverse place. A lot of great facilities are available within walking distance for most residents.