JULIA SOYKE IS THE MAYOR OF TUNBRIDGE WELLS. HERE, SHE TELLS US WHY SHE LOVES WHERE SHE LIVES…
Where do you live?
I live in the tiny hamlet of Stone Cross, on the A264, half a mile from Ashurst village.
How long have you lived there and what made you decide to move there?
Four generations of my family has been based there for 62 years in total. My husband and I and our family moved there from Tonbridge after my mother died 32 years ago, as it was so convenient for me when I took over running Manor Court Farm from her, which is right next door. We’re very lucky that our two daughters and their families have settled just minutes away from the family home.
What’s your favourite shop locally?
I’m not fond of shopping, so tend to use whatever’s nearest when I run short of anything – the shops in Groombridge, Langton Green, and the two local organic farm shops, with occasional visits to the supermarket.
Where’s the best place to go for a Sunday stroll?
Walking over the farm is our favourite – the Weald Way Footpath and the Sussex Border Path cross the farm, as well as other footpaths. As the farm is situated on a hill, there are lovely views in all directions towards the Weald and Ashdown Forest.
The best place to get a cup of coffee?
My favourite is a tiny place called Rustic Café, on Crescent Road opposite Hotel du Vin. Very friendly, and with excellent fresh food.
Where do you take people when they come to visit?
It depends on what they’re interested in – we’re spoiled for choice, really. Within easy reach are museums, a wildlife centre, a zoo, lots of heritage attractions, beautiful gardens, and a country walk is a must! If they come from abroad, a frequent occurrence as my husband is German, a trip to London is always on the cards, after they’ve seen the local attractions.
What’s the night life like where you live?
Zilch! Although w’ve lost our village pub, there’s a village bar once a month in the village hall, and the Ashurst and Blackham Sports pavilion (with bar) will be open every Friday evening from April.
Where’s your favourite place to eat locally?
I like best to have home-cooked food, at home or with the extended family, but if I’m feeling lazy, there are lots of local country pubs with excellent food near where we live, such as the Chafford Arms in Fordcombe, and the Toad Rock Retreat in Rusthall.
Are there any nice views nearby?
Yes! In all directions!
If you’re looking to relax and unwind, where’s your favourite place to go?
In front of the wood fire at home, preferably with family and friends, and an animal or two.
Where’s the best place to meet friends and socialise?
Everywhere! Pubs, shops, walks with the dog, and attending various meetings or events, such as the Civic Society, the Twinning Association, the Friends of the Museum and concerts.
What do you do when you spend a weekend or day off in the local area?
I like to go to see a film, play or art exhibition, after doing some probably long-overdue gardening – I love fresh vegetables.
Why do you love where you live?
I love almost everything about Tunbridge Wells and the whole area around it – the history, the arts and crafts, the huge variety of attractions on offer, the interesting and inspiring people, and all aspects of the countryside, which is full of surprises, such as ‘Emily’: A few years ago my husband and I found a fallow deer fawn trying to get to our
pony through the fence.
We guessed it had become separated from the doe for some reason, and was looking for a substitute mother. When it was still there late that evening, we brought it into the stab and reared it on the bottle. We called her Emily, and she grew up roaming the garden with our Rottweiler pup, until she explored the woodlands nearby and joined a herd
of her own kind. She even returned later to encourage the rottie to join her! She came back the following year to our patio, bringing some of her new friends.