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Weald: Winners from Tunbridge Wells and Weald outnumber other winners in Muddy Stilettos Kent Awards

By Natalie Tipping

Business owners in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area have plenty to be happy about this week.

The Muddy Stilettos blog held its first Kent awards recently, with members of the public voting online for their favourite businesses in various categories.

There were 800 Kent businesses nominated for the awards, with 150 finalists, and 30 overall winners. Nineteen of these winners were from the Weald area.

Morgan Hodges Hair won Best Hair Salon

Over 16,000 voters decided the overall result, which was announced live on the Muddy Stilettos blog on Tuesday, June 14. Winners drinks were held at the Hush Heath Winery in Staplehurst on Thursday, June 16.

Andrew Fairfax Scrutton, who is the Director of Fairfax Gallery in Tunbridge Wells, described the gallery’s Best Art Gallery win as “a pleasant surprise in a tough category with respected galleries including the Turner Contemporary”.

Another Tunbridge Wells winner was The Bicycle Bakery on Camden Road, which has been running since early 2014 and currently employs two full-time and two part-time members of staff.

Winner of Best Bar was Fuggles Beer Cafe in Tunbridge Wells, which has been running since 2013. The owner, Alex Grieg, said: "It’s great for the team to have some recognition for all the hard work everyone puts in to make Fuggles what it is."

Nikki Dorkings, manager of Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells was proud to have won Best Large Hotel

Tunbridge Wells is in fact home to 10 winners in the awards. Other winners include Kitch Clothing, which won the Best Women’s Boutique award, Hotel du Vin, which won the Best Large Hotel award, and Morgan Hodges Hair, which won for Best Hair Salon.

The salon was set up in February 2015, and currently has eight members of staff at its The Pantiles address, with hopes of future expansion.

Astilbe and Sorrel, a florist situated in Water Lane, Hawkhurst, won the award for Best Florist. Sophie Hill, the owner, said: “It’s a great pleasure to have won the Muddy Stilettos Best Florist in Kent award - it’s a great boost and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

The 800-year-old George and Dragon pub in Speldhurst won Best Destination Pub. The pub currently employs 20 people, who the general manager, Lucy Shilling, puts the win down to.

Sophie Hill was delighted that her florist, Astilbe and Sorrel, won Best Florist in the Muddy Stilettos Kent Awards

The winner of Best Deli was Tunbridge Wells favourite Fromage and French, which is enjoying great success despite being only five months old. The high street deli was co-founded by Belinda Raitt and Gaelle Coyle in January 2016.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have won, particularly as this is an award where you are nominated and voted for by the public - so we must be doing something right! It’s been great fun so far, but it’s hard work too, so to know that we have been voted Best Deli in Kent in our first year of trading is very encouraging,” they said.

More winners from Weald include Laura Ansell from TriSwim in Tunbridge Wells, who was voted as the Best Fitness Instructor, Maya Shoes in Brenchley, which was named the Best Children’s Business, and the winner of the Best Gift Shop was Cranbrook’s Spice.

Cranbrook had another winner in the awards, with Stone Street's Cocolicious being named Best Cafe. Cocolicious won with 36.9% of the vote.

Fromage and French in Tunbridge Wells won Best Deli

Horsmonden's You, Me, and the Dream won Best Local Producer. The company, set up by Kelly Randolph and Jo Killick, said: "We feel incredibly proud. With only launching a year ago we have worked extremely hard to establish our product in the marketplace.

"There have been many highs and lows along the way, but the local community support makes it all worth it."

No.6 Clinic, which is celebrating 10 years in business in Tunbridge Wells this year, were delighted to win the award for Best Beauty Salon. Samantha Clarke, the salon’s director, said: “I’m so grateful that our clients really got behind this and took the time to vote online for us, we’re thrilled to win.”

Staff at No.6 Clinic, which won Best Beauty Salon

The winner of Best Emporium was The Edenbridge Galleries, which has been at its Church Street address for almost 10 years. Sue Cato, one of the partners at the galleries, said she was “absolutely delighted to have received to many votes”.

Sandrine's Pilates, another Tunbridge Wells winner with their award for Best Yoga/Pilates Studio, has been running for 15 years. Sandrine Gasnier, the studio's owner, said: "We are delighted to hear that we have won Best Pilates studio in Kent. We love being on top of the trends and our fantastic team is determined to always work to the best of their abilities."

A full list of the Kent winners can be found on the Muddy Stilettos blog.

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