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I’ve lived in Somerset (my parents still do), spent many a teenage hour in Bath and now live in Tunbridge Wells….which is a lovely city, small, close to London, the sea, glorious countryside, and very family friendly. There are two theatres, and we may be about to get two new cinemas in town and a new shopping centre development – although STILL no Waitrose…which is a big bone of contention for some ;0). There are hundreds of societies and clubs to get stuck into and it is very sociable – we moved here from London (via a very short stay near Epsom) about 10 years ago and love it (bar the traffic).
Tonbridge would offer better value for money in property terms and has a castle, lovely park, river etc and the commute is better because there are far more trains; it also has a Waitrose – yet TW dwellers are very sniffy about it for some reason. Their high street is no better than the top end of TW, although the ‘Village’ area of TW is lovely with some super independents and more well known brands (Crew Clothing, Joules, Cath Kidston etc).
All that said, I’d move to the West Country in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to be in the South East – somewhere like Bruton or Frome has a very creative/arty vibe and you’d definitely get more house for your money – the commute from Castle Cary is do-able on a two or three times a week basis, although the train is expensive. Is Bristol somewhere you’d consider – my brother lives there in a gorgeous place near the Downs and it’s fabulous – and it’s far better value than Bath – and the traffic/tourist quotient isn’t as high.
Plus, if you do have children in the future, the 11+ in Kent is a hideous system, even if you have children who are unlikely to struggle with the test – it’s very divisive and people here get UBER competitive very early on!
Not sure if any of that helps at all!September 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm in reply to: Any good comprehensives if you live in the villages west of TW? #18888
I am afraid that I really don’t know about the other secondary schools – I think Uplands is well regarded, but I don’t know about the other two at all..hopefully someone else more local to them than me can help you with those.
Most of the schools here are very good though so we are fairly spoiled for choice!
AnnSeptember 15, 2017 at 7:50 am in reply to: Any good comprehensives if you live in the villages west of TW? #18885
We are in TW itself, so my knowledge of catchment areas for schools in outlying villages is very small. However, I’ll try and help! You don’t say how old your children are, but bear in mind that the tutoring process for grammar schools starts very early here! If you are in the outlying villages of TW, you wouldn’t get into TWGGS easily but it is still possible because if they are very bright and score highly then there are ‘governor places’ for girls from certain parishes (it’s on their website which ones). TGS in Tonbridge has an inner and an outer catchment and depending on where you live, you would need to get an inner area or outer area score – if you are in Langton/Speldhurst etc then I think that’s inner, so the scores are relatively lower. Weald of Kent used to have a wider intake, but with the annexe, I think that the catchment has shifted towards Sevenoaks a bit, in order to even up the choice closer to TW. Certainly children I know who applied this year, who in previous years would have got in, were allocated Maidstone rather than Tonbridge or TW grammar schools this year (though it was a high birth year).
Skinners Kent Academy is the only non religious state secondary in Tunbridge Wells, but is going from strength to strength and is over subscribed – I will be honest and don’t know what their catchment extends to, but I would have thought that close to TW would be ok – you could always phone the admissions secretary – they are usually quite helpful. St Gregs takes 40% of non-Catholic children and may be an option, Bennett is much stricter although with the rise in popularity of SKA, anecdotally I’ve been told that they are less strict than they were about the religious criteria – it’s still hard to get into though!
Bear in mind too that the primaries are very oversubscribed so getting into those is enough of a challenge. If your children are very young, it may easier not to have a set school for secondary in your head as your children may suit very different ones – I have four children and am fully prepared for them to be in different schools depending on what suits each one best. Grammar isn’t for everyone – even chidren who pass the test choose to go to non-grammar here because of different sporting or cultural options, and schools change as heads/staff/intakes change, so what may be brilliant for you now, may not be when the time comes…..
Also bear in mind that if you are in the villages and coming in to TW, the traffic is horrendous twice a day and is usually gridlocked along St John’s Road during school/office rush hours.
Not sure if any of that is helpful, but shout if you want any more info!
AnnJanuary 26, 2017 at 8:52 am in reply to: Unsure whether to move back – feel unsettled and homesick #17964
Kate, I totally empathise! I’m happy to chat off forum – drop me an email annhw @ hotmail . com if you’d like to know more.January 25, 2017 at 4:36 pm in reply to: Unsure whether to move back – feel unsettled and homesick #17948
I’m not sure where you are in Surrey – but we moved from SW London to (urban) Surrey and I absolutely hated it and never settled;I spent all my time going back to see friends in London, yet didn’t want to return to live there.
We moved to Tunbridge Wells after 2 years of Surrey and have never looked back; we’ve been here ten years this year and it’s been brilliant for the children’s education (I have two in superselective grammars, two in an excellent primary), we are within 10 minutes of the station, 10 minutes from town, close to the sports centre, have countryside on the doorstep, London 50 minutes away, the sea 50 minutes away, 2 theatres, good shopping, lovely friends and neighbours….the only downsides are that the traffic is diabolical (which is mostly fine because everything is within walking distance so I barely use the car during the week) and so many Londoners move here that house prices keep shooting up ;-). Which is fine but makes the jump from our four bed semi to a detached five bed increasingly hard to achieve…..
Anyway, if you don’t love where you are and you’ve tried meeting people and either haven’t or just haven’t gelled with those that you have met, then I would say move. I was so unhappy where we were, but love it here.
I am a bit out of the loop this year because I have taken a step back from TWFS now it’s up and running, but I have a couple of friends who got Claremont this year and didn’t think that they would, along with other people who didn’t think they would get their first choices and did, so don’t panic! First off, there is no such thing as school catchments in TW, other than for St James’ which publish the roads that they accept children from. It purely comes down to distance (usually once looked after children, education needs and siblings are dealt with). My best advice is to look at the KCC published data on the last admitted child for each of your chosen schools for this year (it should be published in the booklet that KCC put out for parents who are applying for school) and see what your options are. I would certainly put Claremont down if it is genuinely your first choice and you think it’s the right fit for your child (a friend of mine thought that’s where she wanted her children to go until she visited and decided that it wasn’t the right place for her particular child – who is now very happily settled at another TW primary). I would also talk to KCC beforehand and ask which schools people living near you have been allocated in the past couple of years – that should give you a good idea of where you may end up if you don’t get your first two choices. And if you don’t get your choice of school, don’t panic – you may find that actually, the school you have been allocated is great too.(That is my experience – my son got the ‘wrong’ school, which actually turned out to be brilliant for him). We are very lucky here to have excellent schools – don’t let idle chit chat from parents who have no actual experience of a school put you off. And there are always waiting lists – and there is a fair amount of movement as parents will hold state and private school options so there are chances, even fairly late into August/early September.
Hope that helps!
How about Tunbridge Wells – we have a dedicated cafe for cyclists called The Velo House – which runs lots of social events/sportives/cycle rides, and the Kent Velo Girls is a friendly cycling club with weekly rides for varying abilities. For serious runners there is the Harriers, or for more friendly, new runners – Sarah’s Runners which meet twice a week for runs of varying lengths….
We have the sea around 40 minutes away, London is 50 minutes on the train, beautiful countryside on the doorstep and every sort of club/activity going, along with two theatres, cinema, live music events, local markets, great independent shops in the High Street, supper clubs, book groups, wine societies etc etc
Gatwick is only 40 minutes away, LHR a bit further, but the proximity of the Channel Tunnel makes popping across to France for the day a real possibility.
Best of luck with the decision – and happy to answer any further questions…April 22, 2015 at 2:42 pm in reply to: Moving from London… but to where? Suggestions please. #14088
It’s quite a big county so will depend what you are after really! We are in West Kent, having moved out of London 8 years ago. We are in Tunbridge Wells which is fabulous for schools, families, commuters – but it sounds as though that isn’t quite what you are looking for! I confess that I don’t know Maidstone that well but it isn’t somewhere that I’d necessarily choose to live – there are some lovely villages outside of the town however.
Have you thought of the north Kent coast – I’m unsure whether when you talk about a studio – do you mean to live, or as an artist’s studio – because if you’re artistic then the light on the north Kent coast is beautiful, and places like Whitstable and surrounding villages are lovely.
My MIL lives in Sandwich which is also a lovely town with train links to London – I don’t know what jobs are like around there but I guess there are opportunities in Dover and/or Canterbury.
And then there are some beautiful rural villages – Tenderden, Goudhurst, Cranbrook – the Wealden villages around Sevenoaks…..I guess it probably depends on the sort of life you are looking for really.
I honestly can’t say that you would have a guaranteed space, because I have no idea of how many children will apply in the year you are looking at from the development, but I would have thought that you will be in a strong position if you apply from Royal Wells Park. This year there were 5x as many applications as spaces for TWFS, but children came from further afield; as Founders we were trying to plug part of the schools ‘black hole’ which exists around that area, but we realise that the children from the RWP development will probably end up taking the lion’s share of the spaces. So if I were in your shoes, I would be fairly confident, but not 100% so.
In terms of where else you would be likely to get in to – I think that the odds are fairly small/nonexistent for Bishops Down from there, you may possibly get St Paul’s in Rusthall or Langton Green (at a very big push), but this is the problem with TW – too many new houses and not enough school places/infrastructre being provided. I know someone from the vicinity of RWP who put one of the village schools as their third choice a couple of years ago, and got given it – but that would be rare now I think.
With regards to preschools, my children all went to The Alphabet Train on St John’s Road and I rate it really highly – they are brilliant with the children, it’s fairly traditional and they are really well prepared by the time they go to school, but the only thing that it doesn’t have is outside space – they take the children to the park on sunny days – but for that reason I think it puts parents off and I think that’s such a shame. St George’s on Queen’s/Chilston Road is also highly regarded, and Little Cottage on Culverden Down – which is a super little nursery, very small but also highly sought after. I know that there are other options closer to the station now (Little Rascals possibly?) but as the other three were in walking distance those were the ones most people I know, used.
I hope that’s helpful – happy to answer any more questions as you have them!
Be careful if you need broadband – my parents are in one of the smaller hamlets mentioned above, not a million miles away from South Petherton – and it’s almost non-existent! South Petherton was rated as one of the best villages to live in the country not so long ago – it’s got lots of amenities (butcher, greengrocer, nice deli etc) and I believe the schools are very good. I’d move back to Somerset in a heartbeat if my husband’s job wasn’t so London-centric!
When we left London, we looked in an arc from West Kent all the way around to Winchester and beyond, trying to find the three things we wanted – good commute, good schools, good people! We spent a long time looking around Guildford, Haslemere, Chiddingfold, Dorking, Horsham, Winchester and surrounding areas and then eventually moved to Tunbridge Wells – 8 years ago this December, and haven’t regretted it for a second.
The commute is costly and the service hasn’t been amazing lately, and the traffic in the town can be a total pain, but the A21 is being dualled over the next couple of years and the MP is putting considerable pressure on the train company to sort themselves out, so things should improve on the transport front.
Schools here are good; you don’t say what ages your children are, but you need to be very careful with your (state) primary schools here – agents will tell you that you are in catchment (there aren’t any, aside from St James’) it purely comes down to distance, so do your homework carefully! I was a founder member of The Wells Free School and am a surveyor and have been a buying agent (in London) so know what tricks are used to sell houses. Obviously there are the grammar schools which gives us the 11+, which isn’t for everyone but there are very good alternative options, both state and private in the town, and people do switch between them.
There are a lot of London ‘expats’ in TW and surrounding areas so it is a well trodden path – people are very open and welcoming and there are SO many things to get stuck into. We have fantastic parks, great countryside on the doorstep, London a short hop away so if there’s nothing you fancy on at the two theatres in town, you can get to the West End easily, great sports facilities, active rugby, football, tennis clubs, leisure centre, the seaside, National Trust stuff, etc etc – it’s a great location for families.
Sevenoaks is another great option, with a shorter commute to London, but you’ll get less bang for your buck there. There are a myriad of beautiful villages around the area if you fancy something more rural, but obviously you then spend more time ferrying children around and sitting in the traffic…..
It’s a huge area to be looking in and I know how daunting it is, but happy to answer any more questions if needed.
As Kate says, you can access Dorset via the M3 or M27, but if you look at a map of the bits of the seaside you’d want to be beside, the communications are A roads only, and they are very congested in summer months…..it’s a gorgeous part of the world though!
Cornwall is a LOOOONG drive from West London – my parents used to drive from SW London (Putney) to Somerset every week and they did that for 10 years – it was a drive that got increasingly hideous with increasing traffic – and took 2-2.5 hours. Depending on how far into Cornwall you go, your journey could be 5 hours+ every week….and in the summer, it would be considerably more. It’s very seasonal and in the summer is gorgeous and busy, but fairly quiet in the winter. I personally would think very hard before doing that journey on a weekly basis – and my heart is totally in the West Country! The Dorset coast is stunning, but without any motorways/fast train links it would be a hard commute for you I think.
How about places like Rye or places towards Brighton, or Hastings; or going further west we have friends who have just moved out of London to West Wittering/Chichester and still commute back to London for work every day…..they are raving about how fabulous it is and why they hadn’t done it before….
Best of luck with the search – how fun to have that freedom to choose!
The only caveat I would have with it is that from thing friends have told me, it is set up more for leavers at 11+ than 13, so may be worth considering if you are looking at CE, and not Kent Test and into the grammars……
Ah, the holy grail! I think that it will be hard to tick all of those boxes and stay within shooting distance of TWGGS, which is your only grammar choice for girls in TW. I have no idea what your budget will stretch to, but this house is in one of the most sought after parks in TW, looks out over farmland, but is within striking distance of the station. It’s been on for a while so may be a deal to be done….it will be hard to find a good state primary school with spaces on your doorstep though – most go private from here.
If you want to talk on the phone or email off forum, am happy to help further.