Spotlight on: Edenbridge
PUBLISHED: 17:24 31 October 2015 | UPDATED: 17:24 31 October 2015
On the Kent and Surrey border, surrounded by great countryside, Edenbridge is an historic and vibrant town with a thrilling annual bonfire event coming up
There is nothing quite like a peaceful walk along a riverbank and in Edenbridge, as its name suggests, the River Eden runs through the centre of town. A tributary of the Medway, it’s fairly narrow but bursting with wildlife, with several species of fish, water voles, bats and even the odd otter.
In the past this water was used to power several mills and you can still see Honour’s Mill in the middle of town. Built in the 18th century, the water wheel was still being used to work machinery until 1968, when it was broken in a flood.
2 Remember, remember
Every year Edenbridge Bonfire Society lights up the night sky with the biggest event in the town’s calendar. Keeping the tradition alive for many decades, the society puts on its annual Bonfire Night celebration on the nearest Saturday to 5 November with a torchlit procession of around 500 people through the streets.
Led by the group’s traditional effigies, the procession includes visiting Bonfire Societies, carnival floats, costumed walking parties and marching bands.
Arriving at the Recreation Ground, there are a fairground rides, stalls, music and games to entertain the crowds while two 10-metre tall effigies, Guy Fawkes and a mystery ‘celebrity Guy’ go up with a bang. And of course it’s all topped off with a spectacular fireworks display.
Visit www.edenbridgebonfire.co.uk for the details of this year’s event.
3 Romantic castle
Just outside Edenbridge, in the village of Hever, lies one of the most famous castles in the UK. Built in the 13th century, Hever Castle (TN8 7NG) was later the home of the Bullen family, who changed their name to become the rather more famous Boleyns. Forever associated with the romance between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, visitors and tourists now flock to it from all over the world.
Walk in the grounds, take in the views of the Italian garden and the man-made lake (both added by former owner William Waldorf Astor in the early 1900s), visit the Tudor part of the house and see the more modern suite where American millionaire Astor lived with his family. There’s a busy schedule of family events throughout the year, including jousting in the summer, Halloween events and visits with Santa.
4 Antiques shopping
If you’re a fan of antiques shopping, you’re in luck. The Edenbridge Galleries are a ‘one-stop shop’ of showrooms with everything from ceramics and glass to art, furniture and rugs. With several dealers and specialists under the same roof, and that roof belonging to Antiques Roadshow regular Lennox Cato and his wife Susan, there is bound to be something to pique the interest of any serious antiques fan.
Visit the galleries in Church Street (TN8 5BD), call 01732 864163 or go to:
5 Historic treasures
If Hever wasn’t enough, then nearby Chiddingstone Castle (TN8 7AD) also offers a great family day out. On the site of an earlier Tudor dwelling, the Gothic-style ‘castle’ came into the ownership of Denis Eyre Bower in 1955.
An antiques dealer, he quickly filled up the building with his collections of Japanese, Egyptian, Stuart and Jacobite artefacts – which he opened to the public.
Upon his death in 1977, the castle and his collections were left to the nation and a trust was formed to care for it.
Today you can walk the 35 acres of informal grounds, peruse the collections (including a new exhibition space, The Streatfield Room, exploring the history of the building and its inhabitants) and enjoy a bite to eat in its tea room.
6 Play date
Visitors with young children can rest assured that even their energetic offspring are catered for in Edenbridge. The town’s Manic Monsters soft play centre (TN8 6LH) has great restaurant facilities and two huge playing frames, one for older children and one for under fives.
Safe and fun for babies, toddlers and children up to 12, it’s also a popular choice for local children’s parties.
If it’s raining outside, Manic Monsters is also the perfect place for parents to dry off and enjoy and a cup of tea while the youngsters let off some steam.
7 Eat and drink
There is an excellent choice of pubs and restaurants to suit all tastes in and around Edenbridge. Popular restaurants include La Botte wine bar and Italian kitchen (01732 863873, TN8 5AB), Quality Tandoori (01732 865043, TN8 5AR) and the Longhouse Malaysian/Chinese fusion restaurant (01732 868222, TN8 5AD), while top pubs for a bite to eat include The Old Eden (01732 862398, TN8 5AX) and The King and Queen (01732 862500, TN8 5AU).
8 Agricultural show
For more than 165 years the people of Edenbridge and its neighbouring town of Oxted have celebrated each summer with a country show.
The two-day Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show is a traditional event with plenty of livestock to admire, as well as country pursuits such as horse riding, dog shows, a rifle range and a display of vintage tractors and farm machinery.
Held over the August bank holiday weekend at the Ardenrun Showground in nearby Lingfield, it is the main event of the summer each year.
9 Heritage preserved
The town’s Eden Valley Museum (TN8 5AR) is a little gem. A community-based museum run by local volunteers, it’s set in a medieval farmhouse in the centre of the town and focuses on the history of the Eden Valley through the stories of the people who lived there. Innovative and well regarded, the museum includes exhibits from the town’s blacksmiths and tannery industry, as well as new exhibit for this year – the 1822 diary of a local farmer who was involved in the Napoleonic war.
Check the website at www.evmt.org.uk for opening days and times.
10 Green fingers
Drop by at Roger Platts Garden Design and Nurseries (TN8 5NH) and you’ll discover this is no ordinary garden centre. Award-winning horticulturalist and garden designer Roger Platts, Kent Life’s head judge in its annual Garden Awards (see page 118), opened his seven-acre site in Edenbridge in 1996 and its reputation has spread far beyond the town, attracting green-fingered visitors from across Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
Specialising in unusual and larger plants, stock is displayed in informal garden settings with a glasshouse, polytunnels and covered walkways. The nurseries famously supply top-quality plants for exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show. w