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Forest View

Forest View

by Mike Bartlett

Autumn in Tunbridge Wells

When the kids go back to school at the beginning of September, peace reigns in the countryside! Take a moment or two to plan a weekend break and get some dates in your diary.

There are so many brilliant things going on across the borough this season we bet you’re wondering where to start?

So here are our suggestions of things to do in Tunbridge Wells during the autumn, this is just a small slice though!

September Food Festival

Firstly, we have the very first Royal Tunbridge Wells Food & Drink Month  in September.  Some might say, a long time coming since we are known for our produce and top notch eating and drinking venues.

Aside from a month long list of events, at the beginning of September there will be the annual Food Festival in The Pantiles, then a special Food Festival in Calverley Grounds on 23 and 24 September. The Farmers’ Market  of course will be on 9 and 23 September. It's all free and with live music too. Of which…..

If music be the food of life…..look no further!

Spend a delightful evening listening to talented musicians in the most atmospheric and curious of venues here in Tunbridge Wells!

The Church of King Charles the Martyr has a long-standing tradition as an ideal venue for classical music concerts.

Having formerly hosted Dame Felicity Lott, Sam Stadlen, Matchbox Opera and their own King Charles Singers, come and feel uplifted by exquisitely beautiful performances.

And since it is not any old church but one with grand historical merit, you can be sure it is worth a visit.

The historic grade 1 listed church is in the centre of Tunbridge Wells by the Pantiles and hosts concerts several times a year, with a festival series in the autumn.

With its oak galleries, uniquely decorated plaster ceiling and perfect acoustics, it is the ideal venue for chamber music, and has welcomed international artists as well as supporting local talent.

Photo: Grey Lady Music Lounge on The Pantiles by David Hodgkinson
Photo: Grey Lady Music Lounge on The Pantiles by David Hodgkinson

The Grey Lady, The Forum, The Cross Keys, The Beau Nash, The Bedford, The Royal Oak, The Sussex Arms (to name but a few) are all more intimate venues  which hold live gigs from Indie to Jazz on a regular basis.

Music in the alternative Trinity Theatre in autumn includes ‘Local & Live’ bands, rock, folk, flamenco and, Dave Gilmour Live At Pompeii!

During September and October, Hawkhurst Kino Cinema is transmitting live opera from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. This cinema is an intimate venue in a quaint part of the Weald.

The Lamberhurst Music Festival hosts Ji Liu “The Return of the Piano Genius” this year, in another of our lovely villages in the countryside as part of another acclaimed live music event.

The Frant Music Festival has Duo Dorado and The Dime Notes performing in the lovely St Albans Church in Frant, only a 10 minute drive from Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Duo Dorado consists of a violinist and harpsichordist sensation who have played all around the world.

The Dime Notes are a jazz quartet performing New Orleans Jazz with passion and energy.

The annual RTW International Music Festival starts on 1 October 2017.  And starts it does with a tour de force as Dame Sarah Connolly graces us with her "beguiling" and "dramatic" talent as a world famous mezzo-soprano in the Assembly Hall Theatre.  A number of other equally hypnotising performances cover the festival fortnight until 14 October closing with Verdi's Requiem at Penshurst Church. The four venues during this two week period are enthralling lures chosen for their charismatic essence.

And, not forgetting our nationally iconic music venue in the borough, The Forum. Discovering many new bands, it is an integral part of the music scene here in Tunbridge Wells and has been part of the jumping off point for many famous musicians like Mumford & Sons, Coldplay and Muse.

Feed Your Mind

Six art exhibitions are being presented at Trinity Theatre this autumn. A great place to stop and refresh the spirit as well as the body as the café is a comfortable stop off point.

Wadhurst Arts Festival is in September each year showcasing “skilled and imaginative works”.  2017 sees its 21st birthday so come along and make a fuss of it!

Penshurst Place is a quintessentially stunning stately home which is as popular with Hollywood film producers as with visitors to the area. Oozing Tudor charm it has been the location for The Other Bolyen Girl, The Princess Bride, Merlin, Wolf Hall and now JK Rowling’s The Silkworm.

The Assembly Hall Theatre has a programme of popular entertainment over the cooler months. Russell Brand, Milton Jones, Jimmy Carr, the Tap Factory and Madama Butterfly and other musicals are all appearing soon.

The Trinity Theatre show live transmissions of acclaimed National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Donmar Warehouse, Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House productions, as well as alternative film and drama. 

Plays on include The Crucible, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Growth to mention a few.  Victoria Hislop, with a new book under her belt, is giving an author talk on 12 October.

If discovering new stand up comedy is your hobby, you must go to the popular Comedy Café on once a month at Trinity Theatre.

Visit Groombridge Place which has connections with the famous writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Arthur frequently visited the house in the early 1900s and it was the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes novel “The Valley of Fear”.

History & Heritage

Discover the history on our doorstep. Many places have the most fascinating stories to tell. Explore our varied sights and attractions!

For instance, Winnie the Pooh used to go to church in Royal Tunbridge Wells!  The Corn Exchange used to host famous Shakespearean actors. And one of the smallest villages in the borough used to be one of the most important internationally in the 1600s thanks to guns!

Search out more curiosities like the ‘Cold Bath’, medieval woodlands and ‘pan tiles’! The best way to find out the regions secrets is to take a guided tour of the town with one of our excellent storytelling Blue Badge Guides.

Exhibitions at Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery and Cranbrook Museum also elaborate on the extraordinary heritage of this region.

A self led walking tour can open up this glorious world to you even more. Download The Heritage Walking Trail here.

A further delight is the Heritage Open Days on 7-10 September. 35 historical buildings will open their doors to visitors for tours free of charge, including a former public convenience, a town hall, a masonic lodge and an iconic local retailer. Some booking may be required but not all.

Our hop heritage can be enjoyed at the 7th CAMRA Real Ale & Diesel Gala at the Spa Valley Railway on 20-22 October.

Can you believe there will be more than 125 Real Ales?! There is much more, so do check the event listing for all the exciting things happening.

Photo: Bedgebury Pinetum by David HodgkinsonPhoto: Bedgebury Pinetum by David Hodgkinson

Call Of The Wild

Now that the summer sun is giving way to a softer glow, saunter out and enjoy the refreshing coolness that is in the air.

Be dazzled by the riot of colour, for long walks through the stunning countryside are breath-taking at this time of year. The trees are turning from green to glorious yellow, fiery red and burnished gold.

Scotney Castle is one of the ultimate places to admire the best of Mother Nature in autumn.

Explore the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk in the rolling Wealden landscape. Visit Birchden Wood near Groombridge for an easy access walk of 1.5km.

What will you discover on the 16km of the Forest Way? This disused railway line is an important habitat for wildlife as a ‘green corridor’.

It’s great for wildlife spotting, some is easy to see and some not so easy!

Ashdown Forest offers the visitor wide open spaces and far-reaching views. There are thirteen guides of walks ranging from 1km to around 6km in the Forest.

The countryside is waiting to be discovered so get your boots and raincoat on and get out there!

Create your own adventure in Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest where there are miles of trails for walkers of all abilities.

The traffic free cycle tracks provide a great way to see and enjoy the beauty of the woods in their spectacular autumn colours.

Cycling is also welcomed at Bewl Water Country Park round the 20 kilometre reservoir.

Another more soothing outdoor activity at this time of year is fishing.  See our Fishing page for where to go for the best bites!

Not wild but definitely a bursting enthusiastic bloom, the dahlias at Pashley Manor Gardens can be admired in the outdoors. Dahlia Days is one of the most richly colourful displays of the year, don’t miss this one!

Villages Of Character

Discover more by staying longer. Explore our numerous charming Wealden villages scattered among a rustic undulating countryside.

The pretty villages of Brenchley, Horsmonden, Goudhurst, and Matfield are just a few of the many endearing places to visit.

Why not stop and sample some Kentish hospitality in one of the numerous country pubs which serve a varied menu made from fresh locally sourced ingredients?

Top tip: try a ‘Ploughman’s’ lunch!

Follow the scenic country car tour to visit our villages, maybe take elevenses in one, lunch in another and tea in a different spot and choose your favourite?

Photo: Tudeley Church by David Hodgkinson
Photo: Tudeley Church by David Hodgkinson

There is more information on our Towns and Villages page but you an also download the brochure Visit Cranbrook and Beyond to take with you.

Our churches are absolutely fascinating and a great excuse to look around and then get a drop of afternoon tea.

On the Wealden Church Trail leaflet, there is a tour and information about the history of the village churches.

If you want to stay longer and explore further our accommodation pages have a wide range to choose from.

Bookmark What’s On for all the details and more events which are added to all the time.

The hardest part of planning your time will be deciding what to do first!

What's On Highlights

Collectors' Fair at King Charles Church Hall

Collectors' Fair at King Charles Church Hall

Monthly Tunbridge Wells Collectors' Fair - a wide range of antiques and collectibles.

Tom Allen: Absolutely at Trinity Theatre

Tom Allen: Absolutely at Trinity Theatre

The sharply dressed, well-spoken, disparagingly camp son of working class Bromley,...

Pantiles Market

Pantiles Market

The Pantiles Market is held on the first and third weekend of each month - combining...

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