New twins for town proposed after success of European riding contest

Tunbridge Wells could be set to be twinned with more European neighbours, following the continued success of the town’s annual riding contest that is forging new international links for the town.

This year’s Twin Towns Riding Competition took place over four days during the bank holiday weekend, with foreign teams being welcomed by the Mayor and the Mayoress in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall.

The Twin Towns Riding Competition was first held in 1984, even before Tunbridge Wells signed its formal twinning agreement with Wiesbaden in 1989, and the 33rd equestrian event took place at Chelwood Gate Equestrian Training Centre on the edge of the Ashdown Forest.

Four towns take part in the competition – Tunbridge Wells, Wiesbaden, Chemnitz in Germany and Ljubljana in Slovenia – who take turns hosting the event, with the equestrian community of the host town providing the horses for the visiting competitors.

Chemnitz and Ljubljana are twinned with Wiesbaden, as is Ghent, which used to take part in the equestrian competition, and it is connections like these that the Tunbridge Wells participants now want to harness.

“The four of us are going to write to get other towns and cities involved,” Jan Carmichael, chair of the organising committee, told the Times. “Tunbridge Wells is only twinned with Wiesbaden, which is very sad. Meanwhile, Wiesbaden has about a dozen twins, and Chemnitz and Ljubljana many others.

“We are hoping to set up formal links with other countries.”

The annual four-day event sees visitors arriving in the host town and choosing the local horses they will ride, competing in dressage and jumping, both in teams and as individuals.

At this year’s event, the Ljubljana team were unable to attend but Tunbridge Wells formed a replacement team to compete on behalf of the Slovenian side, who won on combined points, while the official Tunbridge Wells team came second.

Local rider Laura Jones was awarded the ‘HSBC Cup’ for best individual competitor.

Mike McGeary, vice-chairman of the Tunbridge Wells Twinning and Friendship Association, thanked the organisers for their hospitality and financing.

He said: “Funding for this year’s competition came from a wide variety of sources, including the Tunbridge Wells Twinning & Friendship Association, Kent County Councillor Paul Barrington-King, Ghyll Park Equestrian, and from a number of ‘snail race’ evenings conducted by the organising committee, tack sales and many small local businesses, who had placed adverts in the competition programme.

“Finally, the competition could only have taken place through the kindness of local horse-owners, who loaned their horses for the day of competition; their contribution was huge,” he added.


A new Slovenian twin?

Among Wiesbaden’s twin towns and ‘sister cities’, there are three obvious candidates for Tunbridge Wells to twin with.

When Ljubljana, Slovenia, was unable to send a team to this year’s event, Tunbridge Wells not only provided a scratch team to compete as ‘Ljubljana’, but the locals won on the Slovenian capital’s behalf.

Ljubljana is twinned with Wiesbaden and Chemnitz in East Germany.

Meanwhile, Ghent in Belgium used to be part of the horse-riding competition, and is twinned with the other three cities.

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