11-17 MAY 2009


Uncle Brian’s sister Auntie Joyce lives in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It had been two years since he had last seen her and Uncle Barry, so a week’s holiday had been planned. A contingent of our Hug went along too. Some to visit friends who live with Auntie Joyce, others hoping for days out especially the "Railway Bears".



Monday morning dawned, and Dad and Uncle Brian were busy with last minute packing and getting the luggage in the car.

Our chief Hug Bears, Fred and Glad were going of course, and were in charge of organising us.

"Nearly time to go" said Glad.

Come on lads, get yourselves in the back of the car and settled down", called out Fred.

"OK" we all called out as we ran out of the door.

So finally Dad backed the car out of the drive and the journey began. Soon through Lancaster we joined the M6 motorway heading south. We heard Dad remark that the roads were quite quiet, perhaps due to the recession. Whatever, this meant that there were no hold ups. To avoid Birmingham, Dad used the M6 Toll Road, which was almost deserted – seems people do not like the idea of tolls. Eventually we reached the M25. Although most of us had seen it before we marvelled at the huge bridge that carries the road over the River Thames at Dartford. Some of us felt a bit dizzy looking down. After leaving the motorway it was then just a few miles to reach Tunbridge Wells and the Royal Wells Hotel where we were staying.

It owes its regal title to Queen Victoria, who made frequent visits as a young princess in the early nineteenth century. Later she granted the use of her Coat of Arms, which you can see are proudly displayed at the top of the building. Prior to this it was called the Mount Ephraim Hotel, from the road it is situated on.


After the long drive down yesterday Uncle Brian said that Dad deserved a rest so they only went into the town today.

"Come on", said Elmer to Mario and Elmo. "Time we were getting down to the car".

Uncle Brian and Dad first went to a shop called Hoopers for coffee and shopping, so we went to the nice park behind to look at the lovely flowers. We kept an eye out and as soon as we spotted Dad rushed back to the car. Dad now drove up to the Victoria Centre, as Uncle Brian wanted to do some shopping. We waited patiently sitting on a seat and Dad kindly took our picture.

I am in the middle with Mario on the left and Elmo on the right. By now it was lunchtime and they have a favourite café here called The Nutmeg Tree. It is an old fashioned café where the waitresses wear black and white uniforms. Just the sort of establishment Dad likes.

Then we went with them to Auntie Joyce’s and Uncle Barry’s. Our polar bears Polo and Ranulph with puffins Percy and Peter were staying here visiting their friends Snowy and Scott, and here we all are.



Hi, I am Scooter, and I will be telling the story today. I went with my other railway pals Chuffer, Dale, Dunstan and Higson, to the Bluebell Railway.

I am a member of this railway but my other pals are members of other railways, so we all had our membership cards with us to display.

We began our journey from Sheffield Park Station.

The train was in the station so we hopped on and found a seat. We were all excited and could not wait for the whistle to sound.

l-r Higson, me, Dunstan, Dale and Chuffer

For the record my pals are members of other heritage railways as follows –

Higson – North Yorkshire Moors, Yorkshire

Dunstan – Aln Valley Railway, Northumberland

Dale – Wensleydale Railway, Yorkshire

Chuffer – Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, Yorkshire

Soon the whistle blew, and off we went on the journey via Horsted Keynes to Kingscote. The line gets its name from the bluebells by the track and we saw quite a few as we went along. The train waited a while at Kingscote and we watched the engine being run round for the return journey.

Props are used to create the ambience of the station, like these cycles and luggage.

This station is currently the northern limit of the line but efforts are being made to extend to East Grinstead, and so link with the main railway network. The biggest obstacle to this is Imberhorne Cutting that was some years ago filled with household waste. A large amount of money needs to be raised to remove this. Dad is helping by buying shares. A gentleman was selling certificates for £10. This pays to remove a quarter of a ton of waste. Uncle Brian bought one, and my pals and I too.

The train was busy so there was a lot of activity on the platform.

Soon it was time to depart for the return trip, so we scampered on board. Not surprisingly Dad was hungry so at Sheffield Park, he and Uncle Brian went for lunch at the Bessemer Arms. We had brought sandwiches, and ate them while we looked out of the window watching what was going on.

Later we all went to view the newly restored locomotive "Sir Archibald Sinclair". It is a Battle of Britain class Bulleid Light Pacific. Withdrawn by British Rail in 1966 it was rescued from the Barry scrap yard. After many years it was finally restored and returned to traffic in April 2009.

I am sure you will agree that it is a magnificent sight!

Great efforts are made to give the stations true authenticity, even down to the gas lighting.

Well our day was nearly over, but not before we watched the train arrive again from Kingscote.

We all had had a great day out and maybe next time we visit we will be able to ride all the way to East Grinstead. We were still reflecting on our day out the next morning.



Hi, I am Winston, and will be telling the story today. I was adopted in Tunbridge Wells, from a shop on The Pantiles, which we were visiting today. My pal Jasper came with me, as did Fred and Gladly our chief hug bears.

Dad found a car park very close, so this saved Uncle Brian from having to walk too far. To get to The Pantiles we had to walk through the Corn Exchange. The first thing we noticed was this huge mural at one end.

Gladly said, "what is all that about".

Fred replied, " we had better go and read those information boards as we came in."

This is what we found out –

The painting was done by Miss Julia Manning in 1990, and depicts the history of the Corn Exchange building until its conversion to its present use in the late 1980’s. The two figures at the top of the picture are Belle Causey and Beau Nash. Belle Causey was the originator of the Social events that made Tunbridge Wells famous as a spa during the 18th Century. It was after her death that Beau Nash made the town the fashionable resort it eventually became. They are depicted behind a balustrade echoing the one that exists on the same wall on the outside of the building.

In 1802 a theatre was built on the site under the management of Sarah Baker, who was a celebrated acrobatic dancer of the time. This was a period when Harlequin and Pierrot entertainment was popular. The costumes and the arrangement of the characters are taken from an illustration of that period. The theatre was built astride the river, which formed the boundary between Kent and Sussex, so that the audience was in one county while the actors were in another. The course of the river, now in conduit, still runs below the basement of the present building. The front of the theatre and the facade to The Pantiles remains to this day but the auditorium was demolished in Victorian times, and replaced by The Corn Exchange much as it is today. Farmers would seal bargains by slapping wrists in the manner shown in the bottom right. Use as a Corn Exchange declined and the First World War saw the building used as a drill hall by the West Kent Yeomanry, and it was here that they paraded before marching through the town on their way to fight in France. In more recent times the hall was used as an orchestral rehearsal room and as an auction hall for antiques and furniture.

"Phew" cried Jasper, "that was a lot to remember".

Now we exited to The Pantiles and we asked Dad to take a picture of the outside.

The figure standing above the building is Ceres, the Goddess of the Harvest.

We crossed the square and climbed the steps to The Pantiles.

The colonnade was originally constructed in 1687 and became known as "The Walks". In 1698 Princess Anne donated £100 for The Walks to be paved after her young son, The Duke of Gloucester, fell over on the slippery ground near the spring. When she returned the following year to find the work not done, she vowed never to visit Tunbridge Wells again.

Belatedly paving was laid, using square ceramic tiles known as ‘pantiles’. These gave the colonnade its current name, although stone flags replaced them in 1793.

We strolled along, and then sat on a convenient seat to have our photo taken. Left to right – Jasper, Gladly, Fred and me, Winston.

Close by is the Chalybeate Spring (pronounced Kali-be-ate). The name is the generic name for a spring with a high iron content and is derived from the Greek word for iron. The water also contains many other minerals among them magnesium, manganese, sodium and calcium. Many claims have been made for the properties of the water and various conditions are indeed eased by the absorption of these minerals, including arthritis, anaemia and hangovers!

It was the chance discovery of this in 1606 by the young aristocrat Dudley Lord North, to which Tunbridge Wells owes it existence. He felt so rejuvenated from drinking the cool, iron rich water, that he declared it to be health-giving and soon spread the word amongst his aristocratic friends. Visitors from London and elsewhere flocked to the small settlement that developed alongside the spring, and which later became known as Tunbridge Wells. Among those who became regular visitors to "The Wells", were Princess (later Queen Victoria), Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe.

The Bath House was built over the spring about 1804 to a design by J.T. Groves. It originally contained vapour, shower and hot and cold baths using the spring waters but fell into disuse by the 1850’s. "Dippers" served the water for drinking from the basin over the spring.

See how red the basin is from all the iron in the water. Dad bought a glass and we tried it. Fred said it had helped to ease his aching back.

This is the lady "dipper" who was serving the water.

Well that was the end of our visit to The Pantiles, but not the end of our day out. It was to the cinemas now. Jasper and I went to see "Angels and Demons" on the first day of its release. Fred and Glad were not bothered instead opting to go Ten Pin Bowling.



Hi, Winston here again. This was the last day of our holiday, and Dad and Uncle Brian decided to go for a drive in the morning, to visit the town of Tenterden, so I went along with my pals Jasper and Mario. The countryside was beautiful. We marvelled at the huge trees that lined the roads in many places. On arrival Uncle Brian saw that there was a Waitrose store, so he and Dad and did some shopping, and then went to a nice café called Mr Bean’s Coffee House, for a drink and snack.

Uncle Brian then decided to rest in the car, while Dad went for a short walk taking us along too.

The church has a huge tower, here viewed along a side street.

Dad took our photo, sitting by the west door.

There are some old buildings, including the Town Hall,

and this currently the Lemon Tree Restaurant.

Well that was the last outing. At teatime Dad and Uncle Brian went to Aunt Julie’s for a lovely meal. They had a lot of fun and many laughs too. They took Auntie Joyce and Uncle Barry home, and collected Polo, Ranulph, Percy and Peter, who all said their goodbyes to their pals Scott and Snowy, and thanked Auntie Joyce for having them to stay.

All that remained was for Dad to take the usual end of holiday group photo. Here we are sitting on the bed in our room.

back row – Peter, Percy, Elmo, Dale, Mario
middle row – Jasper, Fred, Elmer, Gladly, Winston
front row – Polo, Dunstan, Scooter, Higson, Chuffer, Ranulph

Sunday dawned and we headed home. We felt very sorry for Dad, as the weather was atrocious, with torrential rain for a large part of the journey.

Thanks Dad, from us all for a super holiday!


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