“ East Grinstead is located in the South East of England at the meeting point of the four counties of East Sussex, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex. „
Reviewing a home town is like describing your girlfriend to a mate you haven't seen in years. You're going to fudge it a bit, come on.
That said, East Grinstead speaks for itself in a lot of areas. Longest row of tudor houses, copious amounts of greenery and fields, plenty of local history, and bad traffic which always gets on the Southern radio. The most attractive feature of Grinstead is the old high street - the new high street isn't bad either - with a row of old style shops and buildings, and a bit of individuality (like Wickendens, the hundred year old sweet store). In recent years some of these shops have begun closing down in favour of coffee and travel stores, which is a real shame, and a trend that no-one wants to continue.
The town itself could do with some more activities and things to do, though there's the obligatory cinema, swimming pool, skate park, and JD Wetherspoons. Crawley's only 20 minutes away by car so a good shopping mall isn't missed too badly.
Of course the best part of living in East Grinstead is the spacious and green estates and fields it affords. Being close to the countryside means the housing isn't all crammed into small areas, and East Court is a great place right by the town center to sit and soak up some sun. The only issues I'd highlight are some transporty ones, like the train line being fairly annoying for getting anywhere in the south other than London. There's often a fair bit of traffic too, as a lot of people have to go through the town on their journeys.
East Grinstead has been my hometown for the last six years. During those six years I have gone from full time work to part time work to working for myself at home, had two children and got married although not in that order! Im telling you this because those events in my life have made it possible for me to experience things in and around East Grinstead that I perhaps wouldnt have had need nor desire to otherwise.
East Grinstead (EG for the rest of this review) is based about 10-15 minutes drive from Gatwick airport in West Sussex. Close enough to allow for easy travel when going on holiday, (or easy parking for your family when they go!) but far enough away and not under any flight path in particular for it to be a problem with noise.
EG has a population of 26,000 people and although this is a small town and has that feeling of community in a lot its areas it is still a busy business minded place where there are plenty of shops and opportunities to meet friends and make new ones. The High Street is well equipped with plenty of shops and businesses for all aspects of every day needs, for example, there are four banks and more building societies, three supermarkets and an array of clothes shops, from Dorothy Perkins to New Look. There are also beauty salons and coffee shops all along the main High Street.
In addition to the average shops and businesses we also have quite a few pubs and clubs, a theatre (Chequers Mead) a cinema, library and numerous take aways for that essential kebab after the pub, (not that I partake in stuff like that anymore lol).
There are currently two major developments undergoing planning consultation and government talks that include, a major overhaul of the covered shopping area in the town centre. They want to build 120 new homes above the existing shops and an extension to the walkway itself to include 15 new businesses, one of which will be M&S.
The other development is to build 2,500 new homes on the outskirts of EG. There is a lot of opposition to this plan at the moment with valid reasons for and against on both sides. This has not been agreed yet but I can see it happening in the future. After all the government want more housing to go up, Im just not sure if the roads and the car parks and the schools can take the influx of people let alone the doctors surgery, I can never get an appointment as it is!
One of the really good things about EG is the Kings Leisure Centre. It is only 5 minutes walk from my house, through park and footpath so only one road to cross and it has a swimming pool, a soft play area for the kids, loads of sporting facilities like football, tennis and aerobics to name a few. The prices are really good and there is also a café to get food and drink. They have a duck pond in the grounds and we often go down to feed the ducks then have a drink in the Leisure Centre.
Well enough about my ramblings of the local amenities and on to more touristy things:
Bluebell Railway - This currently runs from Sheffield Park, near Lewes to Kingscote just outside of East Grinstead but it is going to be extended right into EG in the near future. The Bluebell Railway is the UKs first preserved standard gauge passenger railway which opened part of its line in 1960, sporting original features like the steam trains and signalling systems. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sussex and they offer special trips at Christmas etc where you can meet Father Christmas aboard or other themes trips at different times of year.
Ashdown Forest This is 25 square miles of heath land with some gorgeous walks and natural areas for picnicking or just relaxing with the kids. They also have a Llama Park here, which the kids love. Catering for 14+ years you can take a llama for a walk around the private grounds although this is quite pricey at £25 for one person per llama. There is a coffee shop and gift shop here as well.
Standen House This was built in 1892 for a London solicitor and is now owned by the National Trust. If Arts & Crafts are your thing then this will be right up your street. It has contemporary paintings, tapestries and furniture and is decorated with fabrics and wallpapers of the time. The gardens are massive and are well stocked with some beautiful plants and shrubs, attracting lots of wildlife. There are also picnicking areas here for you to eat. Standen House is open from April to October each year.
Pooh Corner In Hartfield, East Sussex, which is very close to EG you can visit the shop where Christopher Robin and his nanny used to buy their favourite sweets. It is home to the worlds largest collection of Winnie The Pooh memorabilia. You can play pooh sticks from the famous bridge and wander round the unspoilt woodland.
Groombridge Place Tunbridge Wells hides this fantastic place, where scenes in the new Pride & Prejudice film were set. The best part of this is the Enchanted Forest. If you go here you have to be prepared to spend the whole day, as there is so much to find and do here it is amazing. They have strange animals like giant rabbits roaming freely and the Zeedonk, a cross between a donkey and a zebra. It is one of only 2 in the whole country and is very strange to look at. It looks like a donkey on the top but has black and white stripy legs!! There are tonnes of other attractions to find in The Enchanted Forest and a small appetiser for you is the Canal Boat Ride. For only £1 you can take a ride down the canal while the boatmen relate history about the estate and the forest. Also the Birds of Prey display takes place three times a day based in the Raptor Centre. Other features are Mossy Bottom, which is in the forest and is a collection of miniature houses for the kids to let their imaginations run riot about and Dinosaur and Dragon Valley, complete with huge dinosaurs and nests. I love this place on a summers day with a picnic and a lot of time to wander.
These are just a small teaser of the attractions and places to visit close to EG and for the sake of the length of the review I wont go on but suffice to say for a small town there is plenty to do if you stay here.
The town was referred to as Grenestede as early back as the Doomsday book. Grenestede means, green clearing and as woods were cut down the area became bigger and eventually became East Grinstead and was mentioned as a borough in 1235. The top end of the High Street still has a row of unbroken listed buildings. The sort of timber framed ones, where the timber beams on the outside are painted black against the white walls. It is classified as an area of outstanding conservation. The buildings are over 650 years old and many are the open-hall type, and we have more than anywhere else in the UK.
In 1943, in the midst of World War 2, a bomb was dropped on East Grinstead and hit the roof of the Whitehall Cinema. The innocents watching the film inside had ignored the air raid warnings, as there had been so many false alarms. The bomb split the roof in two and killed everyone inside, adults and children, instantly. Bombs fell on the High Street too causing paraffin stored in an ironmongers to ignite and cause massive explosions. On this day 108 people died and a further 235 people were seriously injured. This was the largest loss of life in any air raid in Sussex during the war.
As a side note, although its not really history as such I guess, there is a tobacconist shop that opened in 1907 C.R.Wickendens and it is still pulling in the customers today. I dont think they have redecorated since they opened and it is very much like stepping back in time when you go in there.
##LASTLY _ WHERE TO STAY##
There are plenty of bed and breakfasts around here, which as I live in the town, I have not experienced and cannot therefore pass judgment.
In addition though I have stayed in the Felbridge Hotel, 5 minutes from my house, on my wedding night. It is a very luxurious and comfortable hotel with all good hotel amenities. Pricey though at around £100 per night for a nice double room but worth it if you like comfort.
Just across the road is a Travel Lodge as well, which is probably just as comfortable, and half the price!
I could have gone on far ages more telling you about restaurants and other hotels and especially other areas of interest to visit but you would have got bored and not read anymore. I will leave it in your capable hands to experience the best of EG if you ever visit. I will be spending the rest of my days in or around this area as I love it so much and I hope you enjoyed the read and will visit. (Not me personally though ha ha!)