THE ORIGINAL source of wealth for Crowborough was its location in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), lying to the west of Ashdown Forest, which A.A. Milne used as the setting for his Winnie the Pooh stories in the 1920s.
Traditionally, it has been promoted as the ‘Scotland of Sussex’, for its hills and healthful breezes, and even a golf course from 1895.
By the time the travel writer E.V. Lucas came to write his Highways and Byways in Sussex in 1903, there was so much demand for housing in the area that the lovely location was all ‘be-villa’d’ with the Edwardian equivalents of newbuilds, with scaffolding and heaps of bricks indicating more new houses to come.
There was plenty for existing and future residents to do, too, with touring entertainers advertised all over the town’s hoardings, and ‘shops that would not disgrace Croydon’!
This growth saw Crowborough become a civil parish in 1905, and the parish council became a town council in 1988.
Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, moved here in 1907, and lived with his second wife until his death in 1930. The couple’s three children were born and brought up in Crowborough.
More recently, the ‘Fourth Doctor’, Tom Baker, also lived here, followed many years later by actress Cate Blanchett. Atomic Kitten singer and Big Brother personality Kerry Katona also lived here for many years before downsizing during the lockdown.
And with a number of great schools including the Beacon Academy, Jarvis Brook Primary, Ashdown Primary and Grove Park School, if you have a family, there is really no reason for you to ever leave.
Crowborough is not just a dormitory town for commuter living, either.
There is no shortage of supermarkets, banks and services to manage your financial and personal affairs, and a major cluster of independent shops. There is even flexible and co-working office space at Pine Grove (Regus/ Base Point) and Stone’s Throw.
Sport is a big deal for the town, too, with the golf club, two football clubs, a tennis and squash club, netball club and a rugby club.
One former local rugby player, Matt Weston, has even been selected to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics this month, in the skeleton bobsleigh event. Good luck, Matt!
Beyond the town’s leisure, shopping and services, it is the events and traditions which truly set Crowborough apart.
The town’s bonfire tradition is a very special event, with carnival night in September featuring the eeriness of marching masked figures lit by flames. There’s also a torch-lit Remembrance service in November and a bonfire carol service at Christmas time.
Like other Sussex bonfire societies, the Crowborough Bonfire and Carnival Society collects money for local charities. The town council puts on separate summer and Christmas fairs, while the Chamber of Commerce organises a summer fun day and Crowborough Hospital holds an August Bank Holiday fête.
Can you see yourself here yet? Come with us as we chat to some of the local businesses which have planted their beacons on the High Weald…
It’s working out for fitness fans
TOM BURGESS has been running SweatIT gym near the town centre for nearly six years.
Mr Burgess says that the Crowborough’s biggest strength is the number of independent businesses in Crowborough, which makes it a great town to both shop and trade in.
“For anyone who hasn’t visited Crowborough, we’d say come and visit us and others businesses on show,” he told the Times.
“We’re a little smaller than other towns but still have some great independent businesses on offer.”
From humble beginnings in a school hall, SweatIT transitioned a wonderfully appealing farmhouse, ‘the cow shed’, into a facility that housed premium equipment and supported many in their pursuit of a better quality of life.
SweatIT evolved into a personal training gym with the intent to only strive for greatness.
The gym has proved successful in the area because of the personalised service they can offer clients.
“We provide personal Training to Crowborough and Tunbridge Wells residents in small groups of up to six,” said Tom Burgess.
“This still enables us to keep things personalised and structured for everyone while adding in a social aspect. If you’ve never tried the gym, feel like you’ve failed in the gym or are looking for a little more in terms of the direction we have an approach for you.”
Drop anchor at a scenic spots
THANKS to its location in the High Weald, Crowborough has no shortage of pubs and great places to eat.
TUCKED away on the A26, near the Ashdown Forest in the High Weald lies The Blue Anchor, which has been providing beers, wines and good food to both the people of Crowborough and those just visiting the area for several years.
Director Amy Glenie, says it is the variety of people that come through the doors that makes it such a joy to work in Crowborough.
She told the Times: “The pub is full of character and charm for a relaxed or intimate visit or celebration which is why we see such a diverse range of people including local families, friends and couples looking for a romantic evening out.
“Our team are here to provide a relaxing environment in which customers can unwind and chat to our friendly and knowledgeable staff who bring a wealth of experience with them.
“A home-from-home feeling, our pub is cosy with two roaring fires inside to keep everyone warm in the winter months.”
She added that the pub also benefits from a large, secluded garden, equipped with an outside kitchen for the warmer months for alfresco dining and a play area to keep little ones entertained.
Not board in the lockdown
PETER Randall originally set up Ashdown Gaming to buy and sell second hand mini gaming figures on online websites such as Ebay.
The Covid lockdown in 2020 gave him the time he needed to build a devoted webstore of his own.
Since then, he has have moved away from the second-hand market, and opened his own web store based in Crowbrough, which has proved a hit with gaming fans across the UK.
The online store now lists over 2000 products.
In explaining his business, Mr Randall told the Times: “We stock a huge range of products from all the big names in the industry like Games Workshop, Star Wars Legion, Marvel Crisis Protocol, and Infinity. We also stock a large range of board games from quick games to entertain the kids to some truly epic games that need a full day.
“If board games aren’t your thing we also stock Pokemon and Magic the Gathering trading cards, and if you are more about the painting side we also print our own miniatures, from designers like Cast ‘n’ Play and TytanTroll.
“We are all hobby fans so if people have any questions feel free to get in touch, we love to get to know our customers, and can often order in bits we don’t currently stock.”
You can find Peter’s gaming store at ashdowngaming.co.uk
WHERE TO GET YOUR COPY OF THE TIMES IN CROWBOROUGH
If you are unable to find yours, copies are available at town centre newsagent CV Fieldbuss at 5 London Road.
Pop in and ask about their delivery service…