Let's move to Tunbridge Wells
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Great housing stock in a range of prices, highly regarded schools in both the private and state sectors, several lovely parks and a leisurely cafe culture - all this, yet only a 50-minute commute into London's Charing Cross. Who wouldn't want to move to Tunbridge Wells?
A bit of history
For centuries the chosen bolt-hole of the well-to-do, who came to take the health-giving waters of its Chalybeate spring, Royal Tunbridge Wells was at the peak of fashion in the mid 17th century. Then, luminaires such as the Prince Regent himself and his pal Beau Brummel would have promenaded, perhaps along the pathways following the town's many sandstone rocks, and certainly through the colonnaded Pantiles area, still home to independent shops, a hotel and cafes today. It's here that one of the wells from which the town takes its name is located - and if you're feeling strong enough you can still slurp it today - though be warned it's a rusty brown, thanks to its high iron carbonate content.
As sea-bathing overtook spas in popularity, Tunbridge Wells' status as a tourist resort declined, and it was in the early 20th century that 'disgusted of...' first raised his head - he was a prolific letter-writer to The Times, apparently. Today's residents enjoy such a high quality of life there's little for them to be disgusted about - and rather than the dusty old colonels one might once have expected to find populating the town, you're far more likely to encounter young families - especially down-from-Londoners - attracted by the quality of schooling and proximity to their old home town.
What are the schools like in Tunbridge Wells?
It's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the town's primary schools, with several - Claremont and St Peter's for example - rated as Outstanding by Ofsted and many 'good'. Places are in high demand, so if you're moving to the area do check out catchment areas very carefully. In the private sector, coeducational Holmewood is regarded as a 'feeder' into secondary-level public schools, with Rosehill another option.
In the state sector, this is one of the few areas of the country that still follows the selective system at secondary level. Pass your 11plus exam here and girls can head for Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar (OFSTED rating outstanding), boys to either The Skinners School (ditto) or The Boy's Grammar (OFSTED rating good). Away from the pressure of exams, Skinners Kent Academy, the church school Bennett Memorial and St Gregory's Catholic school are all well regarded. For private secondary education, girls can head to Kent College in Pembury, while it's Tonbridge, with its ancient public school, for uber-academic boys.
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What to do in Tunbridge Wells
Under development is the £13million Amelia Scott Cultural Centre - named for a notable suffragette from Tunbridge Wells - which will house the town's art gallery, library and museum. It's due for completion in 2022. Trinity Arts centre plays host to visiting small-scale productions, concerts and independent cinema, with the larger Assembly Hall attracting touring shows and the occasional big name. Mainstream cinema can be found at the Odeon complex near the A21. Every summer, residents can bask in the laid-back atmosphere that surrounds the Jazz on the Pantiles concerts. On a weekly basis, the area transforms into an alfresco music venue, with live bands and outdoor eating. The Forum is a much-lauded centre for up and coming bands (Oasis performed here on their run-up to global success) - with its Unfest weekend of music taking place annually.
Places to eat in Tunbridge Wells
You can enjoy every sort of cuisine in Tunny, from bistro French at cosy Rendezvous in Camden Road, to Iranian at Persian Lounge on Mount Ephraim. Juliet's is adored by cake lovers - its freshly baked delights (try the orange-blossom sunshine cake) never fail to appeal. Basil and a new branch of London bakery chain Gail's are also extremely popular.
Parks in Tunbridge Wells
Gaze across the boating lake as you enter the town's beautifully landscaped Dunorlan Park and all you'll see is countryside - it's an extraordinarily rural vista at the heart of town. Once you've finished your stint with a pedalo on the lake itself, you can easily spend a couple more hours exploring here, with an imaginative wooden play area for young children plus a cafe selling ice cream and the best chicken soup. Hilbert Recreation Ground in the Grosvernor Road area, near High Brooms station, is equally lovely with its water-features and unmanicured woods, and there are other great children's play areas here and in St John's Park, The Grove and Calverley Gardens.
How expensive is it to live in Tunbridge Wells?
At entry level, you'll find everything here from large-roomed flats in converted period buildings to spanking new apartments, with prices starting from around £160,000 for a one-bedroom flat. Families might want to check out new developments such as Hollyfields near the Hawkenbury area, where you'll pay around £650K for a three or four bedroomed house. At the top of the scale, a very des-res is one of the period mansions in the private Hungershall or Nevill parks is likely to set you back a cool £3million or so. See right move for details.
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