We are all probably guilty of rushing around our local town without giving a second thought to some of the hidden gems stashed away. So, this summer, why not be a tourist in your own town?
With a history dating back to the early 17th century, Tunbridge Wells has always boasted a rich, vibrant offering for residents and visitors. But while household names and regular events are well-documented throughout the town and beyond, there are a great number of lesser-known sites, attractions and landmarks for locals to explore.
“In Tunbridge Wells, we’re extremely fortunate to live in an area rich in culture and heritage, but it’s very easy to forget what we have, or just take it for granted,” says Councillor Jane March, Portfolio Holder for Tourism, Leisure And Economic Development at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. “Whether it’s a gem in the centre of town, or one of the nature reserves in our rural areas, there’s something for everyone.”
You may be a lifelong resident or new to the area, but be it green spaces, alternative events, historic monuments or heritage outings, you can rest assured that there’s always something new to fall in love with, or simply rediscover all over again. Read on for some top tips on how to become a tourist in your own town…
From Calverley Grounds and The Grove, to Dunorlan Park and The Commons, the town’s open spaces aren’t to be missed. One hidden gem is Grosvenor & Hilbert Park, boasting a kids’ playground, skate park, bowling green, pond, cafe and ‘Hub’, as well as an abundance of greenery, ancient woodland and free events throughout the year. Elsewhere, Calverley Adventure Grounds is transforming the park’s unused bowling green into a unique children’s play area.
• Visit www.fogh.org.uk
There’s plenty on offer for families too. My Tunbridge Wells’ Clare Lush-Mansell recommends Langton Pavilion Cafe, where parents can relax and savour delicious food and coffee, while a large play area and playing fields are ideal for kids. Alternatively, Freckles & Fire offers workshops and parties, whereas Mum’s the Word runs #Wild_Child parties for parents with babies, toddlers and young children, complete with a DJ, photo booths, bubbles, balloons and face painting.
• Visit mytunbridgewells.com
For culture vultures, a wealth of communal occasions take place locally all year round. Highlights from Dave Barnett of Tunbridge Wells Events include the Puppetry Festival in October, the Winter Lantern Parade in February and the Mela in July. The Royal Tunbridge Wells Decorative & Fine Arts Society hosts insightful lectures, outings, tours and study days, plus there’s classical music readily available from the Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra.
• Visit www.tunbridgewellsevents.co.uk
The Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society’s Heritage Open Days celebrate the borough’s culture and architecture, allowing visitors free access to interesting properties. Dozens of events take place over a September weekend each year, spanning building openings, exhibitions, guided walks, tours and talks, alongside displays of arts and crafts, music and traditional skills.
Additionally, Woodbury Park Cemetery is an original Victorian mortuary garden featuring exotic planting and memorials of the town’s various pioneers.
• Visit tunbridgewellsheritageopendays.org
Local historian Richard Snow cites the Victoria Cross Grove in Dunorlan Park as a must-see landmark, remembering the 10 Victoria Cross holders associated with the borough. Equally fascinating are the Civic Society’s 40 commemorative plaques, honouring notable former residents on associated buildings, such as Queen Victoria, courtesan Madame Caballero and anarchist Henry Seymour. More details of the town’s colourful figures can be found in the society’s booklet, The Writing on the Wall.
• Visit www.thecivicsociety.org