insideKENT Magazine Issue 49 - April 2016 - Page 14

NEWS NEW GENERAL MANAGER FOR SPA VALLEY RAILWAY Jonnie Wesson has recently been appointed new general manager at the Spa Valley Railway visitor attraction in Royal Tunbridge Wells. Jonnie joined the railway as a volunteer aged 13 and now, at just 23, even owns part of one of the railway’s diesel engines. As general manager, one of Jonnie’s primary aims will be to focus on increasing revenue and visitor numbers at the attraction. Jonnie said: “It’s a privilege to be offered the position of general manager at such a young age and I’m very proud to have the opportunity to lead the railway into the future. The railway has a passionate team of volunteers and together we will work towards significantly increasing our visitor numbers to provide a secure future for the Spa Valley Railway. I would like to see the railway appeal to all ages and plan to encourage more onboard dining experiences and continue with our full events programme.” The railway benefits from being accessible from the Southern rail network and on days when the Spa Valley Railway is open, visitors travelling on the Southern network can alight at Eridge station and cross over to the heritage railway to experience a steam train journey. When travelling on the Spa Valley Railway passengers can choose to explore the High Weald by alighting at any of the stations including West Station in Tunbridge Wells, High Rocks, Groombridge and Eridge. Discounts are offered for train travel combined with tickets to view the High Rocks ancient sandstone outcrops opposite the High Rocks Inn or Groombridge Place visitor attraction in the village of Groombridge. NATIONAL ACCOLADE FOR SHEPHERD NEAME’S VISITOR CENTRE Shepherd Neame’s Visitor Centre has been awarded a VisitEngland Best Told Story Accolade. The Faversham-based company has received the award in recognition of its innovative and effective tour, telling the brewery story in a way that captures the visitor’s imagination. Shepherd Neame’s Visitor Centre is set in a beautifully restored medieval hall house on the historic brewery site. From there, visitors join an 80minute guided tour through the busy working brewery, to learn about the ancient art of brewing. They see the traditional oak mash tuns, taste natural mineral water from the brewery’s well, try some malted barley and smell locally grown Kentish hops. The tour also includes a visit to the Old Brewery Store, housed in the old wines and spirits store, which features impressive displays of historic delivery vehicles, a recreated cooper’s workshop, bygone pub signs and a collection of hop picking memorabilia. It ends back in the Visitor Centre with a tutored tasting of Shepherd Neame’s Kentish ales and speciality lagers, before visitors have the chance to visit the Brewery Shop and pick up a souvenir, gift or some of their favourite beer. This is the latest in a string of awards in recent months for the Visitor Centre and its staff, which include a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme, Unsung Hero Award for Customer Service in the Beautiful South Tourism Awards, and a third Certificate of Excellence in a row from travel website TripAdvisor. Visitor Centre manager Graham Hukins said: “We are delighted to receive this accolade. As Britain’s oldest brewer, we have a great story to tell, and this is fantastic recognition for the dedication and passion of our Visitor Centre team in ensuring that our visitors enjoy their experience with us.” 14