Tuesday 22 April 2014

Tonbridge Town, Kent

Have you ever heard of Tonbridge in Kent? No, not Tunbridge Wells, TONBRIDGE!

This conversation is all too familiar when someone asks where you're from when you grew up in a little place like this.

RIP Dorothy Perkins
It is certainly a town of contradictions and it is very different to Tunbridge Wells. For a start, Tunbridge Wells boasts a decent shopping precinct, the historic Pantiles, and a decent enough night life; Tonbridge, on the other hand, has few of the pluses of its sister-town. Having lived in Hampshire for over ten years, when I return to the 'bridge, I am able to see what has changed a lot more clearly. One disappointing feature (and a sign of the times) is the state of the High Street shops. There wasn't much in the way of a shopping experience growing up, but it is a sad sight to see so many shops closed that have been a staple part of the town for years.

The businesses that do seen to thrive are eateries, hairdressers and discount shops, so if you're after a meal or a bargain-spree, you'll love it!

The main contrast lies in the fine tudor buildings that line part of the High Street, as well as the prestigious, Hogwarts-style, Boys' school and the castle. For such a run-down place in parts, visitors may be surprised by the charming sights that Tonbridge offers; one minute you're faced with a white-washed, shattered window, the next you feel like you're seeing part of history in all its glory! It is a real shame that the council decided not to go through with plans to upgrade part of the town with a cinema complex, because the town needs something like that to re-awaken people's interest and make them want to spend time and money there, rather than venturing elsewhere.

Being away from where you grow up does however make you nostalgic after a long enough time. If this sounds like a cynical post, it isn't meant to be. The town has its charms, that's for sure, and I only really realised that after leaving. This historic market town is still a place of beauty, with the river Medway passing through and lots of green open space. When parts of the town were badly flooded over Christmas, I couldn't believe the pictures on the news and the net. What struck me most though, was the way people pulled together on Facebook and other online forums, offering accommodation and help in this awful situation. Many people had their Christmas ruined as they had to evacuate their houses; to see the compassion of the community was heart-warming and a reminder that people do still look out for each other when times get tougher than usual. 

I wanted to post about our little town because I think it should be recognised within its own right.
The High Street may be in decline and Tonbridge may disappear into the shadows when it comes to being an exciting place to be, but on my recent visit home, I tried to capture some parts of the town that are actually quite beautiful and nostalgic to me. Enjoy!
Tonbridge Castle grounds: so many memories feeding squirrels as a child

The castle walls: a bird lady used to feed the pigeons here, years ago (like the lady from Mary Poppins!)

My Nan used to be a member- I can remember eating 'Salt n' Shake' crisps and apples here at the yearly pantomine!

The castle lawn, overlooking the Medway

Your icecream needs are met here, rain or shine
I used to frequent these a lot as a child

The Castle

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