A unique church, orchards and a country park of historical interest in the Garden of England.
Main Walk: 19¼ km (12.0 miles). Four hours 30 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8½ hours.
Long Walk, extended via Capel: 25¼ km (15.7 miles). Six hours walking time.
Explorers 136 (for Tudeley and Capel) & 147 (for Haysden). Tonbridge, map reference TQ587460, is in Kent, 10 km SE of Sevenoaks.
3 out of 10 (5 for the Long Walk).
This varied walk takes in a low-lying area of parkland, farm fields, paddocks, orchards and a country park of historical interest in the Medway Valley around Tonbridge (pronounced Tunbridge: see Walk Notes). It is not a particularly scenic walk but it does include the chance to visit a unique church.
There is nothing remarkable about the exterior of All Saints, Tudeley: an old guidebook described it as “obscure and unfrequented”. Nowadays the reverse is true, because its twelve stained glass windows were all designed by the great 20thC Russian artist, Marc Chagall. Initially commissioned by Sir Henry and Lady d'Avigdor-Goldsmid to create a single memorial window after the death of their daughter Sarah in 1963, Chagall was inspired to create windows for the entire church (as he had previously done for a synagogue in Jerusalem and a chapel in France). The final group of windows were dedicated in 1985, a few months after his death at the age of 98.
Tudeley's sister church at Capel is on the Long Walk route (see below). For understandable reasons St Thomas à Becket tends to be overlooked but it has a series of 13thC wall paintings. The church is no longer used for regular services but is normally open from 10am-4pm.
After a lunch stop in a country pub the walk loops back to Tonbridge, with the riverside route into the town centre being rather more appealing than the urban stretch at the start of the walk. The remainder of the afternoon is a loop through Haysden Country Park to the west of the town, a popular recreational area alongside the River Medway. Its most obvious features are the large fishing and sailing lakes created after sand and gravel extraction ceased in 1980, but closer inspection will reveal the chequered history of several attempts in the 19thC to improve navigation on the river by altering its course and building canals.
This walk was completely revised in 2019. The original version went via Tudeley and Capel to Hadlow, with the option of extending the walk back to Tonbridge. As Hadlow Tower is no longer regularly open to the public there was little reason to retain the long and relatively featureless approach to it across the Medway valley (it is still the destination of the Hildenborough to Hadlow or Tonbridge walk).
As mentioned above you can extend the walk after Tudeley with a 6 km loop via the original walk's lunch pub in Capel. This Long Walk ventures further into the low hills on the side of the valley but you will need to be prepared for some tricky navigation as there is little or no waymarking in these woods and orchards; the directions attempt to describe the right of way but it is easy to go astray and end up hunting for the stiles and gates on the ‘correct’ route.
The Main Walk has a Figure-of-8 shape and you can easily shorten both it and the Long Walk by cutting out some or all of the afternoon loop through Haysden. Several short cuts are described inside the Country Park but you could omit it altogether, either by looping around the large recreation ground or simply heading directly to the station.
A few other short cuts are mentioned in the directions. In particular you could take a more direct route out of Tonbridge at the start, although the most direct route would be an unappealing stretch along a busy main road.
There are four to six fast trains an hour from Charing Cross to Tonbridge, taking 40-45 minutes. There is no longer an alternative direct service via East Croydon and Redhill, although trains are sometimes diverted onto this route.
If you wish to abandon the walk on its eastern loop there is an infrequent bus service (Mon–Sat) along the B2017, passing Tudeley church and the two crossing points on the Long Walk.
If driving, Tonbridge station car park costs £7.30 Mon–Fri, £4.70 Sat, £1 Sun & BH (2019).
Take the train nearest to 09:45 from Charing Cross to Tonbridge.
The suggested lunch pub on the Main Walk is the Poacher & Partridge in the hamlet of Tudeley Hale, after 8 km. This ‘Country Pub & Dining’ establishment has a large back garden as well as a patio area at the front, and serves good food all day.
This pub would also be a late stop on the Long Walk (after 13-14 km), but this variation passes two others which are more conveniently placed. The George & Dragon (01892-832521) is on the B2017 between Tudeley and Capel churches, after 7¾ km; it has a back garden away from the road and serves traditional pub food. The suggested place, however, is the Dovecote Inn (01892-835966) in the hamlet of Capel, after 9 km. This popular freehouse has an attractive patio area at the back, serves a selection of real ales from casks behind the bar and good freshly-cooked food to 2pm (3pm Sun & BH).
On both walk options there are of course many options for a late lunch when you go through the centre of Tonbridge at the end of the eastern loop, with a wide choice of pubs, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops. The three High Street pubs close to the walk route are The Humphrey Bean (01732-773850), a JD Wetherspoon's pub in the old Post Office building; just across the river The Gatehouse (01732-368529) “a smart chain pub…with uncluttered contemporary decor” is directly opposite the more traditional Ye Olde Chequers Inn (01732-358957).
As noted above there are plenty of cafés, coffee shops and pubs in Tonbridge. Two places close to the walk route when you pass through it in mid-afternoon are Beyond the Grounds (01732-667564; closed Mon) in River Walk and The Bakehouse at 124 (01732-360382; closed Sun), next to the Chequers Inn. There is also a conveniently-placed Park Café in Haysden Country Park.
Some places near the end of the walk are Nancy's Tea Rooms (01732-300401; open to 5pm Mon–Sat, closed Sun) in a side street, a Caffè Nero (01732-351356; open to 6.30pm Mon–Sat, 6pm Sun) on the High Street and – the suggested tea place, serving good home-made cakes – the Finch House Café (01732-771775; open to 6pm Mon–Sat, 5pm Sun) at the front of the Pavilion Shopping Centre.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).
Walk Options ( Main | Long )
Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.
- Main Walk (19¼ km)
Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.
- Tonbridge Station to Strawberry Vale (1¾ or ½ km)
- Main route (1¾ km)
- Direct route (½ km)
- Strawberry Vale to Somerhill House (2¼ km)
- Somerhill House to Tudeley Church (2 km)
- Tudeley Church to Tudeley Hale (2 km)
- Tudeley Church to Capel Church (2¼ km)
- Capel Church to Amhurst Bank (1½ or ¾ km)
- Main route (1½ km)
- Direct route (¾ km)
- Amhurst Bank to Half Moon Lane (1¼ km)
- Half Moon Lane to Five Oak Green Road (1¼ km)
- Five Oak Green Road to Tudeley Hale (1¾ or 2 km)
- Detour to the Poacher & Partridge (+¼ km)
- Tudeley Hale to Big Bridge (3½ km)
- Big Bridge to Barden Lake (2½ km)
- Around Haysden Country Park (3 or 1½ or ¾ km)
- Short Cut 1 (¾ km)
- Short Cut 2 (1½ km)
- Barden Lake to Tonbridge Station (2¼ or 2½ km)
- Detour to the Park Café (+¼ km)
- Big Bridge to Tonbridge Station (2½ or ¾ km)
- Main route (2½ km)
- Alternative route (¾ km)
Unless you want to take a direct route along Priory Road (just off to the right), turn left out of the station and go down to the start of the High Street. Turn left into Avebury Avenue and right into River Lawn Road. Cross a branch of the River Medway into the recreation ground and make a loop round to the right: across the other branch of the river, past the swimming pool and around Tonbridge Castle. Go back across the river on Big Bridge, turn left into Botany and go along Sovereign Way and a footpath heading south-east to Vale Road. Go under the railway on Strawberry Vale and turn left onto Priory Road.
There is no good way out of Tonbridge to Somerhill Park. To avoid a long trudge along the A2014 the more scenic main route goes via the recreation ground to the castle and then cuts diagonally across the town on quieter paths and residential streets. If you are trying to catch up an earlier group or simply want to save 1¼ km, take the direct route in §1b.
Arriving from the London train at Tonbridge1 station, go up steps near the front of the platform to emerge on a busy main road. Turn left, go down the slope and past a roundabout into the start of the High Street. Almost immediately turn left into Avebury Avenue, then take the first right into River Lawn Road. Towards the end of this short street, bear left onto a tarmac path cutting across a patch of grass towards a branch of the River Medway.
Cross a footbridge over a water channel (Gas Works Stream) at Buley's Weir and head N alongside the river for a short distance. Opposite the entrance to Tonbridge Memorial Garden2 cross the river on a footbridge into the Racecourse Sportsground3. Take the path going directly away from the river and veer right at a junction in front of the sports pitches, signposted to the Castle and Swimming Pool. In 100m keep ahead across another branch of the river.
If the meadows are flooded you can also reach this footbridge via a path alongside the Medway and an access road.
On the other side keep right to go between a large outdoor model railway4 and the entrance to the Swimming Pool. Cross a stream on a footbridge and go straight ahead at a path crossing, signposted to the Castle & Tourist Information. Follow the path uphill and round to the right to come to the Gatehouse entrance of Tonbridge Castle5.
You might like to detour into the Castle Courtyard, either now or in the afternoon when the walk route comes back past it on the riverside path. There are far-reaching views from the top of the tall Motte (mound) which you have just skirted.
To continue the walk carry on past the entrance onto a path curving down to the right outside the castle wall, which brings you back to the High Street in front of the town's Big Bridge. Turn right onto the main road to cross the river, briefly heading back towards the station.
Go past the broad River Walk, cross over at the lights and turn off the High Street into a small pedestrian area (Botany) with a modern glass sculpture6. Continue on a street (Sovereign Way) past a Waitrose store and its car park. At the far end go back across Gas Works Stream and bear left onto a shared cycle/pedestrian path between more car parks, heading SE.
Cross a road (Avenue du Puy) at the lights to continue on the tarmac pathway, which eventually swings right and crosses another water channel (Botany Stream). Go straight across Vale Road onto the right-hand side of the narrow road opposite (Strawberry Vale), in order to pass safely under the low railway bridge. At a T-junction turn left onto Priory Road, joining the direct route.
Turn right onto Quarry Hill Road, cross the road at the lights and turn left into Priory Road. 150m after the street has passed under the Hastings Line, keep ahead where the main route joins from Strawberry Vale on the left.
Go up Priory Road and Goldsmid Road to the A2014 (Pembury Road). Turn left and go down to the Vauxhall roundabout. Cross over the A26 and turn left onto a footpath through the grounds of Somerhill Park, joining the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk (TWCW). Follow it up to the mansion (now a school).
Follow Priory Road round to the right and steadily uphill, where it becomes Goldsmid Road after the junction with Hectorage Road. At the top of this long residential street turn left onto the A2014 (Pembury Road). Go downhill on the left-hand side of this main road to the large Vauxhall roundabout.
You have to get across the A26 on the left, so use the traffic island and cross this busy main road with great care. On the other side continue briefly along Pembury Road, then turn left past North Lodge into the gated driveway to The Schools at Somerhill7, joining the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk8 (TWCW).
This is a public footpath so the side gate should always be open. However, Somerhill Park is not open access so you must follow the right of way through it, as described below.
Follow this driveway through a wooded area and then across a bridge over the edge of a large lake. The drive continues alongside the lake, veering left in front of the attractive Lake Cottage. It curves back to the right and in 250m comes to a large “Private Property” notice. Bear left off the drive onto a broad grassy path through the parkland, dotted with mature trees.
Follow this mown path gently uphill for 500m, with yellow-topped waymarker posts at regular intervals to confirm the right of way. After crossing a small open area go through a wooden side gate onto the school driveway at a hairpin bend. Use the zebra crossing and continue uphill on the left-hand pavement, with the imposing Somerhill House9 up the bank on your right.
Continue along the TWCW to the B2017, then turn left onto a permissive path parallel to the road. In the field corner cross the road and go up the driveway to Tudeley church.
After passing a small hut ignore another zebra crossing and continue down a short slope on the pedestrian walkway to the next crossing point. Cross the driveway here onto a long sunken path between stone walls, soon going under a bridge connecting the schools with their playing fields and continuing through woodland.
At the end of the wood go through a wooden gate and continue across a field, heading E with Tudeley church ahead on your left, 800m away. On the far side go through the tree boundary and keep ahead at a junction of driveways. Follow the drive between fields and briefly round to the right through a belt of trees. On the other side veer left onto a mown path, passing through a line of poplars and continuing along the edge of a meadow.
In the corner follow it round to the right, then in 50m turn left through a gap in the trees, crossing a plank bridge over a ditch. After crossing a wooden footbridge over a stream turn right as indicated, up a narrow path and out into a field. Follow a grassy path across a field towards some houses in the hamlet of Tudeley.
On the far side do not go out onto the B2017 but turn left along the field edge on a permissive path, leaving the TWCW. Go all the way to the field corner, passing a tree-lined pond after 250m. Turn right through a wide gap in the hedge, cross the road carefully and go up a short driveway leading to All Saints church10 with its world-famous windows; its entrance is on the right-hand side.
If you are doing the Long Walk (with the Capel extension), go to §5.
Take the footpath from the back of the churchyard heading east across a field and a small meadow. Go past farm buildings and turn left onto Sherenden Road, passing Bank Farm. Follow the lane downhill, round to the left and under the railway line. Where it turns sharply right keep ahead on a footpath across a fruit farm to Hartlake Road. To visit the pub in Tudeley Hale go along the road to the right and return the same way.
Turn left out of the church and follow a grassy path to the back of the churchyard. Go out through a gate and continue in the same direction across a large field. On the far side go through a metal gate, across a small meadow and through another metal gate.
Keep ahead along the bottom of a grassy slope and through a parking area to the right of farm buildings. You are going out onto the lane ahead (Sherenden Road), but you are expected to take a short fenced path to the right of the driveway to bypass a locked fieldgate across it. Turn left onto the lane and follow it round a left-hand bend, passing an attractive farmhouse (Bank Farm).
Carry on along the country lane for 500m, passing under a railway bridge and following it round a left-hand bend. Where the lane turns sharply right keep ahead through a gap in a tall hedge onto a signposted footpath.
Continue in this direction through a large fruit farm for 300m, with fruit trees and bushes on both sides. On the far side go through a gap in the hedge and keep ahead along the right-hand edge of a field for a further 300m, eventually coming out onto a lane (Hartlake Road).
If you are not stopping for refreshments here the route back to Tonbridge continues on the footpath opposite, slightly to the right.
To visit the pub turn right onto this (fairly busy) road, passing the half-timbered Tudeley Hall11 and a few other houses in the hamlet of Tudeley Hale. The Poacher & Partridge is on the right-hand side. Return the same way and turn right opposite Tudeley Hall onto the continuation of the footpath.
Continue the directions at §10.
Opposite the farm entrance turn right onto a footpath heading east and later south-east across fields to the B2017. Continue on a footpath to the left of the George & Dragon pub heading south-east to Capel church.
For the extension turn right onto the track opposite the farm entrance (with a half-hidden footpath signpost confirming that this is a right of way). Follow this track for 400m, heading E and going through a couple of side gates along the way. Where the hedge on the right ends keep ahead across the field towards a gap in the line of trees 100m away, now heading ESE.
On the other side of the gap turn right and follow the field edge round to the left, alongside a wood. At the corner of the wood keep ahead again across the field, towards the left-hand end of another clump of trees. Follow the field edge around its corner to head S for 125m, with the trees on your right.
At the end of the trees turn half-left to go down across the field towards an isolated building on Five Oak Green Road. Cross the road carefully in front of the George & Dragon pub; the continuation of the walk is indicated by a footpath signpost into the belt of trees to its left.
This is the first of two possible lunch pubs in this area; the Dovecote Inn is 1¼ km further on.
To continue the walk, take the indicated footpath and follow the woodland path through the belt of trees. At the end of the wood go over a stile and turn left to go around two sides of a field. At the end of the hedge on your left turn half-left to head SE on a faint path across the field. Go over a stile into the churchyard of St Thomas à Becket12, another old church which is worth visiting.
From the bottom of the churchyard go out onto Alders Road. To visit the Dovecote Inn turn left onto this road (coming to the pub in 600m), then take a footpath on the right heading south-west across a field, along the edge of a wood and uphill through an orchard to Amhurst Bank Road. For a shorter route cross Alders Road and take the farm drive heading south, then turn left and go along Amhurst Bank Road for 500m.
If you have been visiting the church, return to the footpath you arrived on. This slopes down the bank in front of the church, leaves the churchyard via a stile in a low fence and cuts diagonally across a small field to its bottom corner. Go over another stile to come out onto Alders Road at its junction with Church Lane, with a farm drive opposite signposted as a bridleway.
If you are not planning to stop for refreshments at the Dovecote Inn you can take the direct route in §10b.
Turn left onto Alders Road, ignoring Church Lane and later Sychem Lane on the left. The road curves round to the right and eventually comes to the Dovecote Inn on the right-hand side.
On leaving the pub, turn right to continue along Alders Road for 75m, then go over a stile on the right into a field. Follow a faint grassy path near its right-hand edge, gradually curving left to leave in the far left-hand corner. Continue along a grassy track near the edge of a wood.
In about 200m ignore a footpath waymarker pointing left. The path ahead seems to peter out at this point and you need to bear right across some rough grassland to find a small metal gate, which you go through into the bottom corner of an orchard. The exit is in its top left-hand corner, but there is no obvious route through the trees.
The suggested route is to start along its right-hand side, gently uphill on the broad grassy margin alongside a wire fence. In 125m, where the orchard opens out to the right, make your way past a few fruit trees to continue in the same direction up a broad grassy track. At the top of the orchard turn left in front of a hedge and go through some scrubland to find the exit, a small metal gate in the corner.
Go through the gate and past some trees into a field. Keep right to find another gate about 50m away in the hedge at the top of the field. Go through this onto a lane (Amhurst Bank Road), with two tracks opposite and a large house on the bank on your right.
To bypass the pub cross Alders Road carefully and go along the farm drive, heading S. This soon climbs gently – with a view back to the church from the top – and comes out onto a lane (Amhurst Bank Road). Turn left and go along this narrow lane for 500m, initially down a slope and then climbing again. After passing a large house on the right there are a couple of tracks off to the right, opposite a metal gate with two footpath signposts (the main route).
Take the footpath heading north-west through an orchard and along a field edge to a footpath junction. Ignore the footpath towards Bouncers Bank and carry on through more orchards. At the next footpath junction turn right to head north past Dislingbury Farm to Half Moon Lane.
There is little or no waymarking through the orchards in this section and it is not easy to find the stiles and gates leading from one orchard to the next.
Take the right-hand of the two tracks, up a slope to the left of the house and into an orchard. Bear slightly right to go along a broad grassy path for a short distance, with rows of fruit trees on both sides. The next turning is easy to miss. At the end of the fruit trees on the right veer right to find a footpath waymarker directing you onto a path through a copse, with a large pond below on your right.
At the end turn left as indicated to go along the edge of a field, with the orchard behind a hedge on your left. In the field corner ignore a footpath down to the right and go through a small metal gate into another orchard.
The exit is about 200m away, slightly to the right. Start by going along the left-hand side, with a tall hedge on your left. At the corner veer right for a short distance, then bear left on a faint grassy path through the fruit trees to find the exit, a stile in the wire fence on the boundary.
Go over the stile and carry on through another orchard for 125m, staying near its right-hand side. Again you might have to search for the exit, a stile in a wire fence. Maintain direction for a further 125m along the right-hand side of a third orchard. At the end go through a small metal gate into a field.
Turn right to go along its edge. As you go round the field corner veer right into the tree boundary, going over a stile and across a plank bridge into a meadow. As indicated by a waymarker on the stile, the right of way is to turn left along its edge; in about 60m you would meet another path coming out of the trees and turn sharp right at a three-way footpath signpost to head N across the meadow.
On entering the meadow a faint grassy path going straight ahead implies that some walkers cut off this corner.
Both routes lead to the exit in about 150m, a gap in the tree boundary where it projects into the meadow. Go past a redundant stile into the corner of an L-shaped orchard, with two paths ahead.
The exit from this orchard is in a corner 200m away, in a direction somewhere between these two paths. The suggested route is to start along the right-hand path, then in 100m bear left to head N along a broad gap between the rows of trees (be careful not to stray into the ‘wrong’ part of the orchard on the right). In the top right-hand corner of the ‘right’ part a stile in the wire fence leads into the final orchard.
Make your way past a few trees and carry on along its right-hand edge, alongside a row of tall poplars. At the end follow a path down through undergrowth and over a stile onto a lane.
Take the footpath just off to the right through a wood, zig-zagging left and right after crossing a stream to stay on the right of way. Continue through a meadow and then go down across a field to the B2017 (Five Oak Green Road).
Turn right briefly onto the lane, then in 30m turn left through an easily-missed narrow gap in the trees, with only an inconspicuous concrete footpath marker. Follow this woodland path downhill for 125m, across a stream on a plank bridge and up the bank to a path T-junction. Turn left as indicated, heading SW with the stream in a gully on your left.
In 60m the path swings right and comes to another path junction (with no waymarker) where you turn right. Follow this potentially muddy path gently downhill for 100m. At the bottom go straight across a path junction as indicated by a footpath waymarker, where a short path through some undergrowth soon becomes a much easier broad woodland path.
Follow this clear path through the wood for 300m, merging with another path from the right just before the end of the wood. Go over a stile into a meadow and continue on a broad grassy path, gradually approaching the tree boundary on the right. In 150m the path swings right and you go over a stile in the trees into a large farm field.
Go straight ahead across the field, heading NNE with a fine view ahead across the Medway valley (you might be able to see Hadlow Tower13 slightly to the left, 5 km away). As the ground drops away you should be heading just to the right of a house in some trees. At the bottom of the field a footpath waymarker directs you onto a narrow path past the house and along its driveway to the B2017 (Five Oak Green Road).
Turn left briefly onto the B2017, then turn right into Sherenden Road. Follow this lane downhill for 1 km, crossing over the outward route at Bank Farm.
Turn left onto the narrow grass verge in front of the house. After passing the house cross the busy road with great care and go down the quiet country lane opposite (Sherenden Road). In 400m it turns half-right and goes past a few cottages.
In a further 150m you come to some farm buildings on the left, with the footpath from Tudeley church joining from a driveway. Repeat a short section of your outward route down the lane, passing Bank Farm on the left.
Unless you want to break for refreshments at the pub in this hamlet, cross the lane onto the continuation of the footpath, slightly to the right.
Take the footpath heading west from Hartlake Road. In 500m go straight ahead at a path crossing to continue on a long straight grassy path along the edge of orchards and meadows. In 750m go through a stile in the hedge on the left and follow a short fenced path out to a lane. Turn left, then turn right at a T-junction. Follow Postern Lane for over 1 km to the A26 at Cannon Bridge. Cross the main road and take the riverside path opposite, joining the Wealdway (WW) and the final 750m of the Medway Valley Walk (MVW). At Tonbridge Moorings bear left onto Medway Wharf Road to reach the High Street.
The footpath briefly heads N alongside the road and then swings left in front of a house. Carry on along the right-hand edge of several fields, going over stiles in the hedges between them. After a short path across another field a gap in the hedge takes you onto a broad grassy strip, with a field on your right and later an orchard on your left. At the field corner keep ahead at a path crossing.
Cross a ditch on a wide plank bridge and continue along a broad grassy strip for 750m, heading W with a tall hedge on your left and a mix of orchards and meadows on the right. About 100m before the end of this path the right of way is to veer left through an easily-missed gap in the hedge. Go through a small wooden gate and continue along a fenced path on the other side of the hedge.
If you miss this gap, another one near the end of the hedge implies that other walkers have had to manufacture an alternative way out.
At the end of the fenced path go through another wooden gate and turn left onto a lane. This soon comes to a T-junction with Postern Lane14 where you turn right. Simply follow this lane for over 1 km, passing some fine Georgian-style houses (including “The Postern”) along the way. After the lane crosses a mill-stream on Postern Bridge there are factory units off to the left. The lane eventually leads out onto the A26 next to its crossing of the River Medway on Cannon Bridge.
Cross over this busy main road carefully (using a traffic island off to the right if necessary) and take the riverside path opposite, joining both the Wealdway15 (WW) and the end of the Medway Valley Walk16 (MVW). Follow the path into the centre of Tonbridge, with modern apartment blocks on both sides of the river. As you pass Tonbridge Town Lock you can see the High Street going over the town's Big Bridge ahead.
The right of way does not extend to the High Street on the riverside path, so to reach it you need to veer left onto the adjacent street (Medway Wharf Road) at or soon after Tonbridge Moorings, where the riverside area has been enhanced as part of the Medway Wharf17 redevelopment.
If you are doing the shorter ending (omitting the Country Park), go to §14.
Cross the river and take the riverside path below the castle wall, joining the Eden Valley Walk (EVW). After passing the motte cross a stream and continue alongside it, gradually curving round to the left to head west. Follow the path under the railway, then turn left at a path junction to enter Haysden Country Park. Cross the river on Lucifer Bridge (leaving the WW and EVW) and turn right onto a short path through the trees to Barden Lake. Continue along its north side and keep left at the far end.
Cross the High Street carefully (towards The Humphrey Bean pub) and turn right to cross the River Medway on Big Bridge. Some more refreshment places directly ahead are Ye Olde Chequers Inn and The Bakehouse at 124 on the left, and The Gatehouse pub on the right.
Unless you are detouring to one of these places, turn left onto the riverside path; you are still on the Wealdway (described on a large information panel nearby) but the MVW gives way to the Eden Valley Walk18 (EVW). Follow the path below the Curtain Wall of Tonbridge Castle5 and past the Boer War Memorial.
A path up to the right here gives you a second chance to detour into the Castle Courtyard and perhaps climb the spiral pathway to the top of the tall Motte.
To continue the walk carry on along the riverside path, with the motte behind a small moat on your right. At a path crossing turn left to cross a stream on a footbridge, briefly retracing a section of the outward route in §1a. On the other side turn right to go through a small car park, passing the large outdoor model railway4 on your left.
At the end of the car park veer right across the access road to a larger car park to continue on the signposted WW (and EVW), with the tree-lined stream on your right. At the end of the car park the Tonbridge to Penshurst Cycle Route (CR 12) is behind the hedge on your left; you could also take this as the two routes stay together all the way to the Country Park.
The path eventually goes under a low railway bridge carrying the South Eastern main line. A further short stretch of tarmac leads onto a broad woodland path alongside a water channel, the outflow from the Powder Mills19 site. In 200m you come to a path junction and turn left, signposted to Haysden Country Park.
Go across a couple of footbridges and follow the footpath (or CR 12) for 150m, soon passing a well-camouflaged WWⅡ pillbox. Where the two paths merge again cross the river on Lucifer Bridge (with steel lattice sides), leaving the WW and EVW. Do not cross a second footbridge over a backwater but immediately turn right between metal barriers onto a narrow woodland path, leaving CR 12.
The path winds its way through the trees and goes down a short flight of steps to the perimeter path around Barden Lake. Turn right and go along its north side. At the far end fork left to go past a picnic area and viewing platform over the water.
If you are not doing a loop around the main part of the Country Park, go to §13.
The suggested route is to go out to the western end of the Country Park via the Park Café, The Shallows, the eastern part of the Straight Mile and the north side of Haysden Water. Go under the railway bridge and return to Barden Lake via water meadows, the Flood Relief Barrier, Heusenstamm Wood and Stone Lock. Short cuts are possible by looping back after Shallows Bridge and Rainbow Bridge.
This section essentially goes out to the western end of the Country Park and returns along the other side of the railway embankment. There are several paths under railway bridges and two possible short cuts are described.
Take the broad track heading SW away from the lake, under the bridge carrying the Redhill–Tonbridge railway line20. On the other side fork right to come to the Park Café and toilets on the left.
Keep right to go through the car park for 100m. As it curves round to the left turn right onto a path signposted to Haysden Water, soon crossing a backwater21 on Shallows Bridge.
At the bottom of the footbridge turn right and follow the path under the railway line to Stone Lock. Turn right onto the path alongside the New Cut and resume the directions at [†] below.
For the longer routes keep ahead on the main path, which meanders between the railway and the reed-lined backwater (with a couple of side paths to the water's edge). On the main path you eventually cross the backwater again on Rainbow Bridge, alongside an old railway bridge.
At the bottom of the footbridge turn right and squeeze under the railway bridge on a slightly awkward path. At the entrance to Heusenstamm Wood follow the path round to the right and resume the directions at [‡] below.
For the full route turn left onto a path between metal barriers. This soon crosses Straight Mile Bridge where you turn right, leaving the WW. Follow a tree-lined path alongside a disused waterway, the eastern part of the Straight Mile22.
At the end climb up the flood embankment ahead and bear slightly right down the other side towards a footbridge over a stream. Cross Botany Bridge and continue on a grassy track with plastic matting under the A21 flyover to the perimeter path around Haysden Water. Turn right and follow the path around two sides of this large sailing lake.
In the north-western corner of the lake veer right onto a path going under a railway bridge into the corner of a water meadow, the start of the return route back towards Tonbridge. The suggested route is to follow a grassy path close to the River Medway on your left, but if the meadow looks waterlogged it is advisable to walk along the low embankment on its right-hand side.
Either way you go back under the A21 and over the flood embankment at the far end, with the riverside path providing a better view of the Leigh Flood Relief Barrier23. Make your way to either of the two stiles leading into Heusenstamm Wood24 ahead. The two woodland paths converge at the far end, where you go past a wooden sculpture and between metal barriers to leave the wood.
[‡] Follow a long straight grassy path through a meadow, ignoring Friendship Bridge across the New Cut25 (river) on your left. At the end of the meadow you pass the derelict Stone Lock26 on your right.
[†] After going alongside the river for 150m turn right to cross a backwater on Sharpe's Bridge, signposted to Barden Lake. Follow the path out to its north-western corner and fork right, briefly repeating your outward route past the picnic area and viewing platform.
• To visit the Park Café before returning to Tonbridge, take the track under the railway bridge and fork right; return the same way.
Follow the perimeter path around the south and east sides of Barden Lake. Near its north-eastern corner turn right onto a path into the trees and fork right at path junctions to leave the Country Park on a footpath past allotments. Cross the railway line on a footbridge and keep ahead on Barden Road, soon with the river behind houses on the left. Just before the junction with Avebury Avenue turn left onto a footpath alongside the river. Go past a footbridge on the left and continue along
a tarmac path leading via Lamberts Yard to the High Street. Turn right onto the main road for refreshment places and the station.
If you want to visit the Park Café before returning to Tonbridge, follow the directions below.
Return the same way and fork right in front of Barden Lake.
Follow the perimeter path (or the parallel cycleway, CR 12 again) around the south and east sides of the lake. After the two paths merge near its north-eastern corner turn right with CR 12 into the trees, signposted to Barden Bridge. Inside the wood fork right at path junctions, leaving CR 12 at the first and eventually joining a tarmac path leading into a grassy area dotted with trees.
The path straightens out to run between hedges, soon with allotments on the right. At the end go between barriers and cross a street onto a tarmac footpath to the right of a chainlink fence, which leads to a footbridge across the South Eastern main line. On the other side go straight across Nelson Avenue onto Barden Road.
Follow this residential street for 350m. After passing Barden Park Road it swings right and there are occasional glimpses of the river and recreation ground off to the left. Opposite the fourth side street on the right (Preston Road) turn left onto a signposted footpath, a tarmac path running alongside the river. In 200m continue past a footbridge on the left.
In 100m the tarmac path comes to a small green. Make your way diagonally across it to the far corner, crossing over the outward route in §1a.
You might have to detour round to the left by Buley's Weir if the continuation of the tarmac path is blocked by construction work.
Follow the path into a short side street (Lamberts Yard), passing Nancy's Tea Rooms on the left. At the end turn right onto the High Street, with some more refreshment places on the way to the station: there is a Caffè Nero on the right and the Finch House Café across the road at the front of the Pavilion Shopping Centre.
To complete the walk make your way onto the right-hand side of the High Street and follow it up the slope beyond the roundabout. The station entrance is at the top; trains to London usually leave from Platform 2 (down the steps on the left).
Before reaching the railway turn left to cross back over the river, leaving the WW and EVW. Follow the perimeter path around the west side of the large recreation ground. Cross the other branch of the river on a footbridge and turn left onto
Alternatively, for a much shorter route go straight across the High Street onto River Walk and loop back via Lamberts Yard, continuing along the High Street to the station.
The suggested conclusion to this short ending follows the main route for 1 km and then loops back through the large recreation ground. For a direct route to the station you could simply walk along the High Street, but the alternative route in §14b is not much longer and goes past some additional tea places away from the congested town centre.
The path swings round to the left and later crosses a side stream on a wooden footbridge. In a further 200m, on the other side of a tree boundary, turn left at a path junction (leaving all the waymarked trails). Follow the path across a branch of the River Medway into the Racecourse Sportsground3, where there are several ways back to the town centre.
The suggested route is to turn right and follow the perimeter path around the edge of this large recreation ground for 800m, for most of the way with the other branch of the River Medway on your right. Immediately after passing a children's playground cross the river on a footbridge and turn left onto a tarmac path, staying close to the river.
continue on a broad pedestrian pathway (River Walk), leaving the WW and MVW. You pass Beyond the Grounds (a café) and the pub's beer garden, with a fine view of Tonbridge Castle5 across the river.
At the end of River Walk keep ahead on a cycleway to the left of a modern apartment block (Waterside Lodge), which then veers right to pass between Tonbridge Memorial Garden2 and the river. You briefly retrace a section of the outward route in §1a, but immediately after crossing the water channel at Buley's Weir turn sharp left.
- Tonbridge has always been pronounced Tunbridge and was often spelt that way. The 'o' spelling became standard in the late 19thC to help distinguish it from its spa neighbour Tunbridge Wells, which retained the 'u' spelling.
- Tonbridge Memorial Garden was created after World WarⅡ “in grateful memory of the men of this town who died in the service of their King and Country”.
- Tonbridge Racecourse Sportsground is now a large public park, having been acquired by the Urban District Council in 1923 for the benefit of local sports clubs. These ‘Racecourse Meadows’ between two branches of the River Medway were used for horse racing from 1851-74.
- The outdoor model railway is run by Tonbridge Model Engineering Society, who offer public rides on summer weekend afternoons.
- The original motte and bailey Tonbridge Castle was destroyed after a failed rebellion against WilliamⅡ in 1088. A new stone castle was built in the 13thC, with the imposing gatehouse being completed in 1260. The site is now owned by the local council and the grounds are a public park.
- The glass sculpture at the entrance to Botany is by local artist Guy Portelli, and represents the River Medway flowing through the town.
- The Schools at Somerhill is the title given to a group of independent schools, for boys aged 3-13 and girls aged 3-11. The three schools were at Tunbridge Wells before moving into Somerhill House in the 1990s.
- The 44 km Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk (formerly the High Weald Walk) was established by the Borough Council as one of its centenary events in 1989.
- Somerhill House is a GradeⅠ listed Jacobean mansion, dating from the early 17thC. It was greatly extended in the late 19thC when it was owned by the Goldsmid family, becoming the second-largest house in Kent (after Knole).
- All Saints, Tudeley was almost completely rebuilt in the 18thC, but there has been a church on the site since Saxon times. The 16thC tomb of George Fane in the chancel is one of the few survivals from an earlier period. The Chagall windows were installed in stages between 1967 and 1985, with the Victorian chancel windows representing the four evangelists being re-sited in the vestry.
- The 13thC wall paintings on the north wall of St Thomas à Becket, Capel were discovered during restoration in 1927. Becket himself is said to have preached by an old yew tree in the churchyard. The church is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and only used for occasional services.
- Hadlow Tower is a multi-tiered Gothic folly (taller than Nelson's Column), built in 1838 by William Barton May as an embellishment to his equally eccentric father's extravagant house in Strawberry Hill Gothic style.
- The present appearance of Tudeley Hall is the result of a major modernisation in the 1930s, giving a 16/17thC house an attractive Tudor style popular at the time.
- Postern Lane was one of the main approaches to the town in medieval times, leading through its inner park to the postern (ie. back door) of Tonbridge Castle. Some of the grand houses in Postern Park were built around much older properties.
- The Wealdway runs for 130 km through the Kent and Sussex Weald, from Gravesend on the Thames estuary to the outskirts of Eastbourne.
- The Medway Valley Walk runs alongside the river for 31 km, between Rochester and Tonbridge.
- Medway Wharf was where barges were loaded and unloaded. The river was made navigable between Maidstone and Tonbridge in the 1740s and was profitable for 100 years, until the coming of the railways. It was claimed to be “the most irregular and worst constructed navigation in England” as it had no towpath and barges had to be hauled by teams of men.
- The Eden Valley Walk runs for 24 km, from Tonbridge to a remote spot on the Vanguard Way west of Edenbridge. The section to Penshurst (where the River Eden flows into the Medway) is essentially a continuation of the Medway Valley Walk.
- The Powder Mills site manufactured gunpowder from 1813 until its closure in 1934, with the channels from the River Medway providing the water power for grinding and mixing the ingredients. The site has recently been redeveloped for housing but traces of its former existence survive in place names.
- The Redhill–Tonbridge railway line opened in 1842 as part of the main line between London and Dover, and retained that status until the direct line via Sevenoaks opened in 1868.
- The Shallows are the original course of the River Medway before the attempts to straighten it for navigation. The surrounding area is gradually reverting to marshland.
- The Straight Mile (now cut in two by Haysden Water) was an early attempt to straighten out the River Medway for navigation. It was dug in the 1830s but it never filled with water and the project was abandoned.
- Completed in 1981, the Leigh Flood Relief Barrier was designed to protect Tonbridge from flooding. The embankment acts as a dam and a large area of water meadows can be flooded to hold back the water (although it did not have enough capacity to fully protect the area downstream in the winter storms of 2013/14).
- Heusenstamm Wood was planted on reclaimed land after the Flood Barrier replaced a large weir which had previously controlled water levels. The trees were donated from Tonbridge's twin town in Germany after the 1987 storm.
- The New Cut was a later and more successful attempt to straighten out the meanders of the original river, and is now the main channel.
- Stone Lock is at the eastern end of the Straight Mile, where the canal joined the River Medway. The huge blocks of stone were reputedly taken from Tonbridge Castle.
» Last updated: February 17, 2020