Love Where You Live: Julian Leefe-Griffiths

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

Where do you live?

We used to live right in the middle of Tunbridge Wells, just off the Common, but we have recently moved to a lovely spot in the countryside just outside Rotherfield. I loved living in town because it was so easy to get to work and to all of the amenities that Tunbridge Wells has to offer. But now, I do enjoy the peace and quiet of an empty field and a view of the South Downs.


How long did you live in Tunbridge Wells for and what made you move there?

We were in town for about 12 years and moved out just over two years ago. Hungershall Park was an incredible place to live because it felt like you were in the country, but a short walk down Cabbage Stalk Lane and you were right in The Pantiles, so it was a fab place. We eventually moved because we really wanted a larger garden and space to kick back in…. So now a farm in the country is where we call home.


What’s your favourite shop locally?

Now that’s a tricky question… without upsetting half the town! I go to Sankey’s for fresh fish and the Bicycle Bakery for bread and pastries and Fuller’s farm shop is on my way home!  They are all excellent. I still do have a liking for the men’s department in both Hoopers and Fenwick. I also think Walsh Brothers jewellers are an excellent asset to the town. If you need a watch strap repaired they are fantastic! I know it’s not an everyday thing but it’s a great service.


Where’s the best place to go for a Sunday stroll?

Why The Pantiles of course!


And the best place to get a cup of coffee?

Well  I’m biased so as proprietor of The Tunbridge Wells Hotel I’d have to say there. There’s also a great full English to enjoy too.



Where do you take people when they come to visit?

We start at The Pantiles, then head on to the High Street and finish on The Commons.


What’s the night life like where you live?

I now live in a dark field but in Tunbridge Wells The Forum is a fantastic venue. I might be 60 but I still go – it’s a town gem.

I also, as you can guess, like Jazz on The Pantiles, which runs from the first week of May to the end of September. It really is the number one spot to be on a Thursday night.

Where’s your favourite place to eat locally?

Apart from the Tunbridge Wells Hotel, I enjoy eating at Sankey’s Fishmarket as is The Ram at Firle. It’s a bit of a drive but very worth it. I also hear The George and Dragon in Speldhurst, which is one of my old sites is now good again. I’d quite like to go, but it might be weird after 15 years there!


Are there any nice views nearby?

My back garden has a great view of the south downs. It’s particularly special when my wife is in it.


If you’re looking to relax and unwind, where’s your favourite place to go?

I actually ride a 350cc Husqvarna dirtbike for relaxation! I usually go to Action Trax in Tunbridge Wells and Dessert Rose in Battle. I love it! And it’s bizarrely so relaxing because you can’t think about anything else when you’re riding a bike at that speed.


What do you do when you spend a weekend or day off in the local area?

If I’m not at work then I love a game of tennis at The Nevill. It’s a brilliant club with great facilities and courts.


Why do you love where you live?

It’s a combination of things. It’s not only the town itself that is lovely but the people who live here too. Although hospitality is quite competitive, you might be surprised to know that many of us are extremely good friends outside of work. Antony Scragg (The Spa), Nick Moore (Salomons), Matt Sankey (Sankey’s) and Brian Whiting (WH Pubs) are all fantastic people. This also might sound mental but I have two families: my work family are incredible. We’ve been together through thick and thin (especially Covid) for over 10 years. I work with some incredible and committed people and I also try to be a good and supportive boss. Family is also super important. I have two lovely daughters and a smart, supportive wife. Without that, for me, the game would not be worth playing.


And apart from running the hotel you’re also involved in a number of other events too aren’t you….

As many people know, I run Jazz on The Pantiles and also two food festivals and two gin festivals. Without sponsorship and help from local companies this would be an impossible job, so I do think we are lucky, not only in having a great town to live in, but also being surrounded by some great companies and the people who run them. Yes, things are sometimes difficult, but with a lot of lovely co-operation from people, you can sometimes create something magic and worthwhile.

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