Here's what it's like to live in Crowborough
PUBLISHED: 18:00 13 May 2019
With a bustling community and boundless natural beauty, Crowborough is one of East Sussex's hidden gems
Sat at the edge of Ashdown Forest and in the High Weald Area of Outstanding National Beauty, Crowborough has a pretty unbeatable natural location. The town is situated on the A26, which makes it extremely accessible to Brighton to the south and nearby Tunbridge Wells to the north. London can be reached in around an hour-and-a-half via the A21.
Crowborough railway station is located in Jarvis Brook on Crowborough Hill. Southern trains run on the Oxted line directly into London Bridge in approximately one hour, with additional services to East Croydon, Edenbridge and Uckfield.
There are also regular bus services operated by Brighton and Hove Buses, Compass Travel and Wealdlink through the town, linking it with Brighton, Tunbridge Wells and nearby towns.
While Ashdown Forest used to be densely forested, the area surrounding the town has history tracing back to prehistoric times with traces of Mesolithic and Neolithic tools found in surrounding parishes. There is also some evidence of Iron Age ruins and an important Roman Road, the London-Lewes way, crosses the forest.
Crowborough itself was part of the parish of Rotherfield until 1905 but its history goes well before that. It was given an injection of money to form a church and charity school in 1734 by a local benefactor Sir Henry Fermor, which helped set the foundations for the town that exists today.
The town expanded when railways were introduced in 1868, leading to another interesting moment in its history when it developed as a health resort. It attracted a number of visitors as it was believed that the high elevation of the town helped respiratory organs as well as eased depression. After this development of the community, it was in 1905, the Civil Parish of Crowborough was officially formed.
During World War I the town was host to thousands of soldiers who were based at the Crowborough Army Training Camp which stretched across the Ashdown Forest. During World War II, soldiers were again brought back to the town.
A reminder of this history can be seen in the memorial on the golf course to the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives when a flying bomb fell near their camp while they were preparing for D-Day.
In more recent history, there has been a great deal of housing and business development in the town, which now has a population of more than 20,000 people.
Annual festival and events
There are plenty of community-run events throughout the year in Crowborough, including the Summer Fete which takes place in July at Goldsmiths Recreation Ground as well as a Farmers' Market on the last Saturday of every month.
The annual Community Festival takes place in the autumn. Last year's event had a World War I theme featuring live music, art and theatre.
September sees the town's carnival night on the second Saturday of the month, with a fair in the day and a torchlight parade in the evening, culminating in a bonfire.
Another major bonfire in the town calendar is Guy Fawkes Night on 5 November, which sees around 5,000 people descend upon Goldsmiths Recreation Ground.
Known for being the highest point of the High Weald, Crowborough has plenty to attract people to the local area. One of the overwhelming benefits is its proximity to nature with Crowborough Common covering 220 acres, Walshes Park covering 70 acres and Crowborough Country Park over 16 acres in the town. This is as well as being on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, which is most famous as the setting for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories written by AA Milne.
As you might expect from somewhere so naturally beautiful, there are plenty of sports clubs, including tennis, golf and rugby as well as Crowborough Leisure Centre which has a swimming pool. There is also a boating lake and a lovely miniature railway run by Crowborough Locomotive Society.
The local Community Centre has state-of-the-art sound and lighting and can accommodate more than 250 in its main hall. It hosts activities and events throughout the year including cinema screenings, exhibitions and comedy shows.
The town is not short of local shops and supermarkets including Morrisons, Lidl, Tesco and Waitrose. It's also constantly being improved with a new Business Enterprise Hub being opened later this year, as well as new openings on the High Street including a new Turkish restaurant and an artisan butcher and deli specialising in locally sourced produce.
Meet the neighbours
The most famous former resident was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who lived at Windlesham Manor in Crowborough for the last 23 years of his life. It was here that he continued to write the Sherlock Holmes stories as well as his novel The Lost World. There is a statue of him in the town as well as streets named in tribute like Watson Way and Sherlock Shaw.
Other notable former residents include Tom Baker who played the role of the fourth Doctor in Doctor Who and David Jason who played Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses who used to live in Lye Green.
Hollywood actor and Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett also lives in Crowborough with her family. Known for her roles in Elizabeth, The Aviator and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, she moved into the area in 2016.
Crowborough Town Council is comprised of 16 councillors with one of these being elected as mayor each year. The full council meets six times a year as well as holding numerous committee meetings which focus on specific details or projects. Situated in the constituency of Wealden, Crowborough is represented by Conservative MP Nus Ghani in the House of Commons. She currently sits as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport and assistant government whip.
"What's great about Crowborough is the mix of both worlds," town mayor Greg Rose tells me. "You've got this town with everything going on, the supermarkets and independent shops but also on the flipside you are right in the middle of the countryside."
Indeed you'll often find him walking his dogs around the town's newest park, Walshes Park, which opened last summer or out in the Ashdown Forest going to see the deer.
Greg moved into the town in 2011 from Croydon after deciding to get away from city life and settle down. "It's quite an affordable place to live if you're looking at moving to the countryside," he explains. "You can get a reasonable sized house in Crowborough with two or three bedrooms for not a huge amount of money."
And one of the best aspects of the town for Greg is that there's always something going on that you can get involved in. "We've got a fantastic community centre that has all kinds various activities going on and there's a whole host of halls and venues across the town, which are always fully booked," he enthuses. "There's always something going on, whether you're 80 or 18, if you want to get involved in something then there's something you can do." These are put together by a number of local groups, including Crowborough Arts and the Chamber of Commerce who put on annual fun days in the town. "There's a real community spirit," Greg adds. "There's lots going on in the town."
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