Bethersden lies in the rolling wooded country of the Weald of Kent, and is about 6 miles south west of Ashford on the A 28 road. Bethersden Parish is part of the Borough of Ashford, in eastern Kent.
The character of Bethersden today is based on more than 1000 years of farming. First formally recorded in 1070, the settlement was known as Baedericedaenne, the end of the name meaning it was a cleared pasture in the Wealden woodland. By 1640, the population had grown to 400, rose to over 1120 by the 1850s, and is now around 1700. The 1908 Ordnance Survey map shows the village in two parts, the larger part along The Street, linked by a well-used footpath across open fields (now the George Field) to a smaller group of buildings including the Forge, at the point where Forge Hill meets the A 28 at Forge Corner.
The Street was mainly residential but included shops, St. Margaret’s church and the pub. Forge Corner was more commercial in character, with the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshops, ideally placed on the main road from Ashford to Tenterden. Forge Corner is now mainly residential but The Street has changed only slightly in recent years.
The George Field, which historically separated the two areas of the village, is still there today, and apart from a small number of houses on its western boundary, is now a landscaped recreation area in the centre of the village, and is owned by the Parish Council, which also owns the Recreation Ground in Mill Road, which provides a wide range of sports and playground facilities.
A thriving and viable village has to strike a balance between its traditional character and the demands of modern life and all that that implies. Agricultural employment has declined since the middle of the last century, but a surprising diversity of other businesses have evolved, covering retail, manufacturing and service industries based in and around the village, often in converted agricultural buildings. However, the centre of the village is mainly residential in character and mostly built before the 1900s, although there has been significant development of both Council and private properties from the 1930s through the 1970s, with two smaller developments in the 1990s. The current problem of high house prices, particularly for young local families, is being met by a new development including both Local Needs houses (mainly for rent to those with a link to the village) and also general demand houses of various sizes.
The need to provide a framework for the future development of Bethersden, while retaining the essential elements of its character, led to the production of the Bethersden Parish Plan in 2003. The success of the Parish Plan has led to the current work on The Bethersden Neighbourhood Plan which extends the principles of the Parish Plan but will provide for considerably greater influence on future developments in the parish.