Tonbridge to Penshurst walk

Through Haysden Country Park and along the Eden Valley Walk to Penshurst Place and Chiddingstone Castle.

History

This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 22-May-22 Sunday Walk – Hildenborough to Tonbridge [New] 12 gentle sunny
Sat, 14-Dec-19 Saturday walk - Tonbridge to Penshurst - A quiet slice of Kent 19 mainly sunny
Sat, 29-Jul-17 Tonbridge to Penshurst - a gentle stroll with lots of refreshment stops 25 bright in the morning with intermittent rain in the afternoon
Sun, 17-Jul-16 Penshurst manor and the rolling Kent countryside 6 hot and humid
Sat, 12-Mar-16 Saturday Second Walk - A gentle slice of Kent 10 warm spring sunshine
Wed, 08-Apr-15 Tonbridge to Penshurst
Sun, 11-Jan-15 Tonbridge to Penshurst, with shorter afternoon 14
Sun, 22-May-22
Sunday Walk – Hildenborough to Tonbridge [New]
Extra Walk 235c – Hildenborough to Tonbridge, via Penshurst

Length: 18¼ km (11.3 miles). Toughness: 3/10

10:26 Tonbridge train from Cannon Street (London Bridge 10:30, Orpington 10:51, etc), arriving Hildenborough at 11:07. Buy a return to Tonbridge.

Return trains from Tonbridge are every half hour, at xx:20 & xx:50. For the benefit of car drivers returning to Hildenborough, the xx:50 trains stop there; there's also a 401 bus going this way at 15:30 & 17:30.

Tonbridge Castle You might have done the main version of this walk (from Tonbridge to Penshurst station) but it was always my intention to include the option of a route back to Tonbridge; this eventually materialised when a dodgy footbridge over the A21 was replaced. In a misguided fit of enthusiasm an alternative start from Hildenborough got added too, so this variation is arguably a ‘New’ walk even though the central loop between Leigh and Penshurst will be familiar to most of you.

If you want a shorter walk the directions mention a short cut bypassing Penshurst village (but missing out the main lunch places). You could even cut out the whole of the central loop and watch the cricket on Leigh's village green instead, for a total walk of less than 10 km. However, don't be tempted to head for Leigh (or Penshurst) station: there's a replacement bus on this branch line.

Last month a large contingent of Saturday walkers got a friendly welcome and enjoyed a pub lunch in the beer garden of the Leicester Arms Hotel in Penshurst, but if this doesn't appeal you could visit the Porcupine Pantry outside Penshurst Place or have a picnic in the churchyard. There are plenty of options for post-walk refreshment in Tonbridge, with the Finch House Café suggested if you get there before it closes at 5pm.

NB. A recent scouting expedition on the outward leg returned with positive vibes but warned of several wobbly stiles. There's also an awkward 200m or so of road walking between Leigh and Tonbridge, so it's not all plain sailing.

You'll need to bring the directions from the L=swc.235.c (if you click c in the Walk Options list it will show this route on the Walk Map as well as skipping the directions for other variations when you print).

  • 21-May-22

    I may be wrong but I think the outbound train timetable has changed since this was posted? I can only see:

    Cannon Street 10:26 arrives Hildenborough 11:07. Calling points London Bridge 10:29/10:30, Orpington 10:50/10:51, Sevenoaks 11:00/11:01

  • 21-May-22

    Thanks for spotting that, Daisy Roots. Yes, the Southeastern site says "urgent engineering work between Charing Cross and London Bridge...all day Sunday". Apologies in advance for anyone who doesn't spot this in time and misses out.

  • 23-May-22

    12 walkers, including 1 who took an earlier train and doing the walk independently and 2 on later trains who caught up with the main group in the garden of the Leicester Arms at lunchtime. A perfect day in many ways: gentle sunny weather, easy walking through quintessential Kent countryside, sheep and lambs resting under the trees, butterflies and birdsong.

Sat, 14-Dec-19
Saturday walk - Tonbridge to Penshurst - A quiet slice of Kent
Length: 15.3km (9.5 miles) or 18.0km (11.2 miles). T=3.235
Toughness: 3 out of 10
9.40 train from Charing Cross (9.43 Waterloo East, 9.49 London Bridge) to Tonbridge, arriving 10.21. If you just miss this, there is a train doing the same stops five minutes later...

Buy a day return to Penshurst.

For walk directions click here. For GPX click here. For a map of the route click here.

In the early part of this walk there are considerable sections on gravel tracks, though don't let that gull you into thinking that it won't be muddy - probably very muddy - in places. But hey, it is the winter.

The morning is a pleasant walk out of Tonbridge through parks and along wooded rivers. You then go over a hill (on a track) and descend into Penshurst with its Elizabethan stately home: this is closed at this time of year, but its cafe, the Porcupine Pantry, is open for light lunches. Otherwise lunch is at the Leicester Arms in Penshurst, 5 miles into the walk, which serves food till 3pm.

After this you have a choice:

- The shorter walk (15.3km/9.5 miles) has the advantages of following another nice length of track and getting you to Chiddingstone village in 4km (2.5 miles), where - as far as I can tell - the Tulip Tree tea room is open till 5pm. Those with more dissolute lifestyles can repair to the adjacent Castle Inn, which serves food till 4pm, in case you are minded to use it as a late lunch stop. It is then 3km (1.8 miles) across fields (definitely muddy!) to Penshurst station, where the Little Brown Jug is a wonderful pub to finish at.

- The main walk (18.0km/11.2 miles) strikes out from Penshurst village to reach Hoath Corner in another 3.8km (2.4 miles) where the diminutive Rock Inn might be a late lunch stop: but I would phone to check they are open/have space before relying on it. It then cuts north to get to Chiddingstone and the tea options outlined in the paragraph above in another 3.3km (2 miles)

Trains back from Penshurst (the station being conveniently just across the road from the Little Brown Jug) are 22 past the hour to Tonbridge (the platform on the same side of the tracks as the pub), or 09 past the hour to Redhill (the platform over the footbridge), in both cases requiring a change for trains to London. The Tonbridge route is slightly quicker but leaves slightly later, so both arrive in London at the same time. The Redhill route offers connections via East Croydon, which may suit some of you.
  • 14-Dec-19

    19 on this walk, including 3 late starters (I am told). The weather was mainly sunny apart from one heavy shower late morning which was accompanied by the most savage squally wind I have ever experienced out walking: I really thought branches were going to come down, and indeed one fair-sized stick did hit one of the party.

    The early part of the walk, as promised, had plenty of firm gravel paths, though not all of the lakes we passed are usually there. We got to Penshurst at 12.30, where after a bit of hemming and hawing by the management we were admitted to the dining room at two separate tables. Seven sandwichistas ate in Leicester Square and soon set off to do the main walk, but found their way blocked by floods around a footbridge and (we later learned) retreated to Penshurst to do the short walk.

    Otherwise five of the pub lunchers set off to do the short walk, passing more pop-up lakes and enjoying fine views and more gravel tracks. Only towards Chiddingstone were things more gloopy. Arriving at Chiddingstone at 2.40pm, we briefly intersected with the sandwichistas, and then went for a leisurely tea at the Tulip Tree, with its monster-sized cakes. Crossing the swollen River Eden after tea we had one flooded field to contend with before a reasonably dry last stretch to Penshurst. Three caught the 16.09 to Redhill while two of us went to the Little Brown Jug to find the seven sandwichistas leaving for the 16.22 to Penshurst.

    We there waited for the rest of the party - six pub lunchers who had decided to do the main walk. They navigated the flooded bridge by creating a causeway of sticks and then took off boots and socks to wade through the flooded path beyond. (It makes you proud to be British.) After more mud snorkelling adventures they got to the Little Brown Jug just before 5pm. All but one then had drinks and (in three cases) puddings (one of the puddings, a vegan one proving inedibly dry, alas), before getting the 6.22 to Tonbridge

Sat, 29-Jul-17
Tonbridge to Penshurst - a gentle stroll with lots of refreshment stops
SWC walk 235 - Tonbridge to Penshurst
Length: 18km (11.2 miles) - with shorter option (15.3km/9.5 miles) and a longer one (21km/13 miles)
Toughness: 3 out of 10

9.45 train from Charing Cross (9.48 Waterloo East, 9.53 London Bridge) to Tonbridge, arriving 10.28

Buy a day return to Penshurst.

For walk directions click here.

I have the most delightful memories of the last time this walk had an outing in March 2016. My impressions may have been skewed by the fact that it was the first sunny spring day we had that year, but I recall a gentle walk which took unfamiliar routes through well-loved territory and with plenty of places to refresh the stomach as well as the soul.

Those many walkers who did the Cowden to Hever walk in mid June might like to note that there is a small bit of overlap between that walk and this in the afternoon: but lots is different. The morning particular takes you on an interesting route along the River Medway though the Haysden Country Park.

Lunch is at the Leicester Arms in Penshurst, where you could also visit nearby Penshurst Place if you want. The pub is popular but has a history of accommodating us with reasonable efficiency. The walk directions mention a possible later lunch stop in Hill Hoath but this may not be serving food: you would need to check before relying on it.

For tea there is the well-loved Tulip Tree tea room in Chiddingstone mid afternoon, and the adjacent pub has also now reopened. At the end of the walk, the Little Brown Jug with its large garden is a walker favourite and is conveniently only a few staggers from the station.

The walk directions also have an afternoon short cut to Penshurst (the 15.3km/9.5 mile option) and a longer ending to Edenbridge (21km/13 miles), though there is warning of "poorly maintained paths" on the latter.

Trains back from Penshurst go direct to Victoria (far side of the footbridge) via East Croydon at 27 past until 20.27: then at 21.21 or 22.21 with a change in Redhill.

Just a few minutes slower, and so worth it if trains this way are more convenient to you, is the 31 past (until at least 21.31) in the other direction (this side of the footbridge) to Tonbridge, where you change (arrive 39, depart 49) for trains to London Bridge and Charing Cross.

If doing the longer option to Edenbridge Town trains go at 09 past to London Bridge via East Croydon. A return to Penshurst is valid on this route too. T=3.235
  • Anonymous
    28-Jul-17

    I'm travelling from Clapham Junction directly to Tonbridge (not via London) and returning from Penshurst the same way. I think for this route a Tonbridge return ticket is needed as Penshurst is before Tonbridge on this line? Both Tonbridge and Penshurst tickets are the same price in any case so it may not matter.

  • 29-Jul-17

    25 on this walk including two who drove to Penshurst and then walked back to Tonbridge and vice versa. bright in the morning with intermittent rain in the afternoon . The rain did not start till the end of our al fresco lunch, vindicating my choice of a train a train half an hour earlier than specified. The Leicester Arms was not full, though allegedly had a wedding party coming. One of our party caught them adding a service charge to a meal order made at the bar. We hope this was an isolated error.

    We put waterproofs on as we set off from lunch but they quickly came off again as it was too darned hot and sticky for extra layers. The weather did not detract from what is a very charming section between Penshurst and Chiddingstone: indeed, speaking personally the whole walk delighted me as much as it had done the first time I did it.

    The rain was patchy, though paths were slippery and even a bit muddy from previous days' downpours. Some faster walkers stopped at the Hill Hoath pub for drinks and then caught us slowcoaches up, so we all got to tea in Chiddingstone together. Here there was a split between pub and tea room. The rain hammered down for a while at this point but those of us in the tea room still got to sit outside under an awning. Wasps kept us company, mysteriously preferring to fly around our mouths and eyes rather than eating the jam on offer.

    The rest of the walk was without incident. The Little Brown Jug was as busy with screaming infants as usual. Some got the 5.27 train, others the 6.27. Six of us had complex negotiations over dinner options and finally ended up at that nice Thai place near Waterloo.

Sun, 17-Jul-16
Penshurst manor and the rolling Kent countryside
Download walk 235a Penshurst circular
Length 13.7km (8.5m); toughness 3/10.
Trains
London Bridge 10.04 (East Croydon 10.22) Penshurst 11.02; direct return trains to London Bridge at xx:44
There is no record of this circular variant being posted before so lets give this gentle walk which explores the rolling countryside around Penshurst with its medieval manor house and formal gardens an outing.

Click here for more details about the walk and the lunch options. Scroll down the page for walk options and click on a) for the directions for this particular walk variation.
T=swc.235.a
  • Anonymous
    13-Jul-16

    Hoping to attend. Not good with directions. Will assist. Anyone else comming can please post a comment. Thank you

  • Anonymous
    16-Jul-16

    Does anyone know the lunch/afternoon tea arrangements/location?

  • Danny C
    16-Jul-16

    I am going to give this a try in the morning but will catch an hour earlier from London Brigdge.Seems a shame not to get an earlier start on what promises to be a beautiful day.

  • Stacey
    17-Jul-16

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Anonymous
    17-Jul-16

    A couple of us are on a train from LB to East Croydon to see if we can get another connection.Will keep you posted.

    - Candy

  • Anonymous
    17-Jul-16

    Hello, heading to east Croydon to pick up train to Penshurst but unfortunately it isn't until 11.21... does anyone have any suggestion of another walk we can do where we can pick up another train from east Croydon? Thanks

  • Anonymous
    17-Jul-16

    2 waiting for 11.21 at east Croydon. 3 others have diverted to do coulsdon south circular

  • Anonymous
    17-Jul-16

    Oh no, I came by car but no one is here.. Any suggestions where I could go from here?

  • 18-Jul-16

    Another day, another Southern train cancellation. Spotting this in advance I switched to Plan B, driving to Chiddingstone and setting off from there at 1130. I was eventually joined by three more who'd persevered and got to Penshurst by various means, up to an hour later than scheduled. A report elsewhere says that two more drove and did the walk at the appointed time, so at least 6 walkers completed the course on a hot and humid day.

    In contrast to other walks recently there were no problems with overgrown footpaths. The Leicester Arms was predictably busy at 1pm and the expensive (but good quality) lunches took a while to arrive, but it wasn't a day for rushing. It's hard to choose between the two excellent tea places in Chiddingstone but as the Castle grounds are open on Sundays we went to its tearoom, in a nice courtyard. A quick check revealed that Southern had still not managed to persuade a replacement crew to turn up on the Tonbridge line and the 1702 & 1744 were cancelled, so I expect the Little Brown Jug got some extra custom as the others waited for the 1802. A long day out for an 8½ mile walk...

Sat, 12-Mar-16
Saturday Second Walk - A gentle slice of Kent
SWC Walk 235 - Tonbridge to Penshurst
Length: 17.3km (10.7 miles) with shorter afternoon option of 15km (9.3 miles)
Toughness: 3 out of 10

9.31 from Victoria (note: not Charing Cross, due to engineering works: this train also calls at Bromley South at 9.56 and Orpington at 10.03) to Tonbridge, arriving 10.20.

Buy a day return to Penshurst.

For walk directions click here.

I am aware the Weald can be muddy at this time of year, but this walk starts on firm tracks and pathways out of Tonbridge, and I venture to suggest (famous last words!) that the mud is starting to dry out now as evapouration from the higher spring sun takes effect. The short cut route in the afternoon also follows a good firm track for a good distance. I am sure we will manage.

Otherwise, I am hoping this walk will yield some signs of spring - willow catkins, lesser celandines, emerging foliage on weeping willows. And is it too much to hope for some springlike weather?

Lunch is at the revamped Leicester Arms, though the Porcupine Pantry, the cafe of Penshurst Place, is also open. So is this Elizabethan house and its gardens (which if they did not figure in Wolf Hall certainly ought to have done) and with the longer days it would be feasible to combine a visit to them with the short ending. Tea is in Chiddingstone or at the nice pub opposite Penshurst station.

Trains back are at 27 past to Victoria: direct until 18.27; after that needing a change at Redhill (which only adds a few minutes to the journey time).

You can also go in the opposite direction at 31 past to Tonbridge and change there, but since trains from Tonbridge are also running into Victoria today it makes little difference, unless you want to go to Sevenoaks, Orpington or Bromley South.


  • 07-Mar-16

    The engineering works actually provide an alternative outward route which may be more convenient for some. The 09:23 Hastings service from London Bridge is diverted through East Croydon (09:41) and Redhill (09:58), arriving Tonbridge two minutes before the train from Victoria, at 10:18. If you take this route, get a return to Tonbridge.

  • 12-Mar-16

    10 on this walk, a heavenly day out in warm spring sunshine . Birds sang, shrubs were budding leaves, and later in the walk there was a field of lambs. We ate lunch outside the pub (which was remarkably empty: not sure why as the food was generally good and quickly served) and had tea outside at the Tulip Tree in Chiddingstone. I walked without pullover or jacket all afternoon and even rolled up my sleeves for a time. You could feel that vitamin D flooding in.

    Though I say so myself as the walk poster, the walk perfectly fitted the day too. This was a very scenic walk through a lovely gentle corner of Kent. Though I know the area well, there were many parts of the route - including all of it between Penshurst and Hill Hoath - that I did not know at all and was delighted to be introduced to.

    As for mud, yes there was quite a bit in a few places - mainly one 100 metre stretch along one of the lakes in the morning and a section across Yewtree Wood. Plus a few bits by gates and so on. But generally the ground was pretty firm underfoot. I stand by my comment in the walk post about the mud starting to dry out now.