Ice on Dunorlan

It seems that most of my memories of Tunbridge Wells, and they are numerous, involve walking somewhere. Walking to my piano lesson in St. James’s Road, or school in Kingswood Road, going up to St. John’s to get to the grammar school or walking into town on a Saturday to go to the library.

The library is one of my most vivid memories. I can recall the position of the alphabetical order of the wooden book shelves, where the little chests of drawers stood that housed the catalogue, the glass door into the room where newspapers were, and those little cardboard tickets that slotted into a sleeve on the book.

It was a 1950-60s upbringing and Tunbridge Wells was just the town to do it in. Safe, gentile but with just that hint of the ‘hippy seventies’ that were soon to arrive. Camden Road was the rough end of town, with secondhand furniture and fish and chip shops. The Duke of York pub in the Pantiles was where all the young crowd met, many from the wild environs of West Kent College. Some of those students used to get on the bus from the St John’s and I dreaded Wednesdays when we had Domestic Science in the afternoon and I had to negotiate the spiral stairs to the top deck, desperately clutching a shepherd’s pie in a too-hot dish, not yet sufficiently cooled from the oven.

And of course that was the time of the great freeze in 1963 when our rose bushes disappeared under the snow and, best of all, Dunorlan Park lake froze solid and we were allowed to ice skate on it. Nowadays, you would never get it past the risk assessments and COSHH forms but then it was a carnival atmosphere, with everyone trying out their skates and tobogganing into the lake. Amazingly, I only seem to remember one boy getting wet! There must have been music of some sort because the Beatles had just arrived and I always associate the lake with Love me Do played on some tinny transistor. Pure decadence.

I go back occasionally and get quite disorientated with some of the changes but it still seems to be a good place to live and bring up children in. I think ‘Mr and Mrs Disgusted-of-Tunbridge Wells’ have to be thanked for that - long may they continue to express their opinions and keep that air of gentility alive and well.

Gillian Harcourt
Ickford, Bucks
Elderly research scientist, mother and aunt!