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Spa or far, time to take the Plunge

Plunge v Spa. News that the home of The Pantiles, Toad Rock and sulphurous waters could be twinned with a Lithuanian town called Plunge has prompted reporter Trisha Fermor to compare the delights of the two towns.

Unfortunately, the name, Plunge, does not imply spa-like waters, for which Tunbridge Wells is famous, although there is a park containing the Babrungas stream, seven ponds and the Perkunas oak, the site of unusual practices by the pagan Samogitian tribes.

The town, not far from the Baltic coast and boasting 24,300 inhabitants, does have a vast main square, but no market, where visiting dignitaries and their accompanying entourage could be received – maybe in the winter when the temperature hovers at -20C or in the summer when the mosquitos from nearby waterways make merry.

The standard guide produced by Bradt draws attention to the lack of accommodation befitting the intrepid travellers after journeying 1,500 miles from Tunbridge Wells.

It is likely they will have had to drive 140 miles from the nearest international airport which happens to be in another country, Latvia.

Another feature, the neo-classical Palace, built in 1873, is described as an eclectic mix of Italian Renaissance and English Tudor. It's art collection disappeared during the First World War and its interior pillaged.

Tunbridge Wells has about 56,500 souls and can keep visitors amused for hours if not days. The Pantiles – which once housed Dust’s at one end and Bin’s at the other – is one of the most photographed views in England.

Tunbridge Wells became a spa town in Georgian times, the waters originally called Queen’s Wells because of an earlier royal visitor.

People, believing taking a swig would cure a variety of ailments from gout to halitosis, sipped away, despite the taste. But “taking the waters” became less fashionable than sea bathing and visitors decamped to Hastings.

In 1960, the town twinned with the nearer Wiesbaden, also a spa town.

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