Main Walk: 19¼ km (12.0 miles). Four hours 50 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9½ hours.
Short Walk, starting from Frant: 15 km (9.3 miles). Three hours 45 minutes walking time.
Long Walk, starting from Frant: 21 km (13.0 miles). Five hours 15 minutes walking time.
Long Circular Walk, via Groombridge: 23½ km (14.6 miles). Five hours 55 minutes walking time.
Explorer 135 & (for a small section at the start of some options) 136. Tunbridge Wells, map reference TQ585392, is in Kent, 7 km S of Tonbridge.
5 out of 10 (4 for the Short Walk, 6 for the Long Circular Walk).
This walk through the High Weald near the border of East Sussex and Kent has plenty of interest and variety. After escaping from the suburban charms of Tunbridge Wells you climb through woodland to a possible early lunch stop in the elegant hill-top village of Frant, dominated by its large triangular green. The walk continues with an attractive but potentially muddy section through the landscaped parkland of the Nevill Estate's Eridge Old Park. On the edge of the park Forge Wood has a particularly fine display of bluebells in spring.
After the alternative lunch stop in the hamlet of Eridge Green you pass the first of several massive sandstone outcrops, Eridge Rocks. The Main Walk then goes through Broadwater Warren, an RSPB nature reserve (free entry) which is undergoing a ten-year restoration programme to bring back its original heathland habitat. You glimpse another sandstone outcrop at High Rocks and the final stretch is alongside the Spa Valley Railway (SVR), a restored branch line.
The route into Tunbridge Wells goes across its large wooded common into The Pantiles, a famous colonnaded walkway with interesting shops, galleries, cafés and (sometimes) market stalls. This spa town developed in the 17thC after an influential nobleman staying nearby became convinced that the iron-rich water from its chalybeate spring had curative properties. Its popularity waned in the 18thC when sea bathing became more fashionable than ‘taking the waters’, but revived after regular visits from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The town's popularity with the royal family led to it being granted the “Royal” prefix in 1909.
Most of the RSPB's work programme has now been completed but be aware that you might be required to take an alternative route through Broadwater Warren.
There is a choice of routes out of Tunbridge Wells, with the main (longer) route advised for the earlier lunch stop in Frant and the shorter route for the later one in Eridge Green. The latter is also worth considering if you miss a train and have to start 15-20 minutes late, as you would be able to catch up a group doing the main route.
The main route includes a section through a private estate (Calverley Park) which is closed on Sunday afternoons and all day on Good Friday. At these times the simplest option is to do the alternative start.
The original version of this walk started at a rural station one stop down the line from Tunbridge Wells, called Frant but some way from its village. This has been relegated to the Short Walk option as its first 300m is a less-than-ideal stretch along a busy narrow road with no pavement; an alternative start with an even longer road section – though nicer in other ways – has been dropped.
The original version also took a much longer afternoon route and this has been retained here as two Long Walk options (starting from either Frant or Tunbridge Wells). This longer route goes along the southern part of Broadwater Warren and then loops around the area's most famous sandstone outcrop, Harrison's Rocks, which are very popular with climbers. After a mid-afternoon tea stop in Groombridge you pass the grounds of Groombridge Place, a beautiful Jacobean manor house surrounded by a medieval moat. This option includes a much longer stretch alongside the SVR and if their steam trains are running you could round off the day with a ride from Groombridge (or High Rocks) into the old Tunbridge Wells West station, leaving just a 1¼ km stroll via The Pantiles to the mainline station.
You can shorten all versions of this walk in several ways by using buses to or from Tunbridge Wells (details below). The Long Walk also includes directions for a short cut into Groombridge which cuts out the loop past Harrison's Rocks, and a diversion to finish at Eridge station on the route of Extra Walk 120b (Eridge Circular).
There are trains from both London Charing Cross and Cannon Street to Tunbridge Wells, taking about 55 minutes: a total of four an hour Mon–Sat, half-hourly on Sundays (fewer in the evenings). Frant is on the same line but only has an hourly service, taking 1 hour. Buy a return to Tunbridge Wells (or Frant if you are starting from there).
Tunbridge Wells is a major transport hub with a good bus service, making it possible to start or finish this walk at several points along the route. Stagecoach 254 goes through Frant village (hourly Mon–Sat). There is a particularly good service along the A26 to Eridge Green: Brighton & Hove 28/29/29A/29B runs half-hourly Mon–Sat and hourly on Sundays, and Arriva 228/229 also goes this way (Mon–Sat). On the Long Walk options, Metrobus 291 goes through Groombridge (hourly Mon–Sat, limited Sunday service).
If driving, parking anywhere near the centre of Tunbridge Wells is difficult and/or relatively expensive; if you can find a space in the small station car park it costs £5.90 off-peak, £4.10 Sat, £1 Sun. At Frant the cost is £3.30 off-peak, £2.60 Sat, £1 Sun (2017).
For the Main Walk, take the train nearest to 10:00 from Charing Cross or Cannon Street to Tunbridge Wells. If you are doing one of the options with a later lunch stop, take the train nearest to 09:45 (or 10:15 if starting from Frant).
On all the walk routes you could stop for an early lunch at the attractive George Inn (01892-750350) in Frant village, which has a beer garden and serves excellent home-made food, up to 2.30pm daily. This is conveniently placed for the Main Walk (after 7 km) but if you take one of the shorter starts and/or intend to do the Long Walk via Groombridge, you may prefer to stop an hour later at the Nevill Crest and Gun (01892-864209) in Eridge Green; it has a large garden and serves very good food all day from noon.
At the end of the walk there are many refreshment places in Tunbridge Wells. The cafés in The Pantiles have outdoor seating in fine weather, and some of the restaurants and winebars here also serve cream teas. There are more cafés, delicatessens and coffee shops on the way to the station, such as Juliets (01892-522931) at 54 High Street. There are also plenty of pubs in the town, with the most unusual being The Opera House, a splendid building which more recently was a cinema and bingo hall and is now a JD Wetherspoon pub; it is a five-minute walk up Mount Pleasant Road from the station.
If you don't expect to reach Tunbridge Wells in time for its tea places, the High Rocks Inn (01892-515532) is a convenient place to stop for refreshment; it has a large garden next to the SVR station. On the Long Walk you could also stop earlier in Groombridge: the walk route passes the Junction Inn (01892-864275), and when the SVR is operating there is a buffet on the station platform.
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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.
If you are doing the Long Circular Walk (or taking the shorter start on the Main Walk) from Tunbridge Wells station, start at §3.
If you are doing either the Short Walk or the Long Walk option from Frant station, start at §5.
If you take bus 254 to Frant (Abergavenny Arms), head south on the A267 past the village green and start at §6.
If you take bus 28/29 to Eridge Green (church), go back on the A26 to the lane by the church and start at §7.
- Tunbridge Wells Station to Hawkenbury (2 km)
- Hawkenbury to Nevill Golf Club (2¾ km)
- Tunbridge Wells Station to Nevill Golf Club direct (3 km)
- Nevill Golf Club to Frant village (2¼ km)
- Frant Station to Frant village (2¾ km)
- Main route
- Alternative route
- Frant village to Eridge Green (4½ km)
- Eridge Green to Broadwater Warren (1½ km)
- Broadwater Warren to High Rocks (3 km)
- Broadwater Warren to Birchden Farm (1½ km)
- Short Cut to Birchden (+600m)
- Birchden Farm to Harrison's Rocks (1½ km)
- Finishing at Eridge Station (+2 km)
- Harrison's Rocks to Birchden (1½ km)
- Birchden to Groombridge (1 km)
- Detour to Groombridge Station (+250m)
- Groombridge to High Rocks (3½ km)
- High Rocks to The Pantiles (2½ km)
- The Pantiles to Tunbridge Wells Station (¾ km)
Go out of the station, cross over the A26 and take the short street opposite into Calverley Grounds. Keep to the left through these grounds and leave by the Crescent Road exit on the north side. Turn right and follow a path curving round through Calverley Park, coming out onto the B2083 (Grove Hill Road). Turn left to go up this road and keep ahead into Camden Hill. Continue into Camden Park, then fork left onto a public footpath, joining the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk (TWCW). Follow this out to Forest Road and continue briefly on this road, going round a left-hand bend to a junction.
This section goes through a private estate, Calverley Park. As noted in the Introduction, this is not a public right of way and is closed on Sunday afternoons and all day on Good Friday.
Trains can arrive on either platform. From Platform 2, simply go up steps to the Mount Pleasant Road exit. You can reach this exit from Platform 1 via the overhead walkway, but it is easier to go out through the main booking office, turn right and take a path up steps and over the railway onto Mount Pleasant Road.
Either way, cross this main road carefully and head for a street almost opposite the alternative way out (about 50m to the left of the Platform 2 exit), with a signpost for Great Hall parking. At the end of this short street keep to the left of the car park entrance to enter Calverley Grounds1.
If you are not in a hurry you could use the map at the entrance to devise a longer circuit through these grounds. The walk continues through Calverley Park (beyond the grounds) but there is no gate linking the two, so you have to leave by the Crescent Road exit on the north side.
For the most direct route, take the leftmost path which curves round above the Tea House ahead. At the top turn left at a path junction, continuing between a hedge and a basketball court. Keep left at a fork to leave the grounds by the Crescent Road exit and turn right into Calverley Park.
A notice implicitly grants pedestrian access through this private estate (at most times) by asking that “visitors who walk through the park should respect this unique environment”.
You can either stay on the road as it curves round to the right through this crescent-shaped strip of parkland, or take a clear grassy path to its right. The path rejoins the road at the far end, where you go out past a wooden gate and turn left onto Grove Hill Road, uphill.
In 75m the main road turns left but you keep ahead into Camden Hill, still climbing. At the top go past a gate into Camden Park: this private road is also a public footpath. Keep ahead (slightly to the right) to go gently downhill for 150m. At the bottom of the slope, opposite the driveway to “Hollyshaw” and “East House”, fork left onto an enclosed footpath, joining a link route for the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk2 (TWCW).
The path curves to the right and eventually leads into a lane. Follow this out past houses and later an office block (behind a tall hedge on the right) to meet Forest Road at a bend. Continue in the same direction on this busy main road, crossing over carefully at some point. You go round a left-hand bend and soon come to a junction, where the main road bends left again.
At the junction bear right into Halls Hole Road and then turn right into High Woods Lane. Just after entering High Wood turn right onto an unmarked woodland path, then right again to join the High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT). Follow this waymarked trail to Hawkenbury Road and then as it zig-zags across the countryside to meet Benhall Mill Road at Windmill Farm. Turn right and follow the lane to the entrance to Nevill Golf Club.
At the road junction bear right into Halls Hole Road, then almost immediately turn right into High Woods Lane. After passing a couple of streets on the right keep ahead past a metal gate into yet another private road, which is also a public bridleway. Go past the Indoor Bowls Club and follow the lane between hedges. Just after it goes into a wood, turn right onto an unmarked path.
If this well-used woodland path (which is not a right of way) is blocked off, you would have to continue along the lane for a further 250m in order to turn right onto the public footpath. This long way round was also much muddier when checked, so the short cut is well worth trying.
The path stays close to the edge of the wood and in about 200m comes to a T-junction with the public footpath, with a large semi-cleared area ahead. Turn right onto this potentially muddy path along the edge of the wood, joining the High Weald Landscape Trail3 (HWLT) as well as the main TWCW route.
You may have to dodge around some fallen trees on this stretch. In 150m the path goes past a small metal barrier and you continue on a broad grassy path between fences, soon with playing fields on the right and fine views to the left. Ignore steps leading into the playing fields at the end of the chain-link fence and follow the path down a slope to a lane (Hawkenbury Road).
Turn left and go along the lane for 150m, then fork right into the driveway to Hawkenbury Farm B&B. Go past its accommodation and car park and follow the farm track downhill, curving round to the left. 150m from the road, just before a metal fieldgate across the track, fork right onto a rather overgrown path between hedges. After passing some stables on the left continue downhill on a sunken tree-lined track. At the bottom go over a stile and then a footbridge across a stream.
On the other side of the bridge turn right and follow a path meandering through a strip of woodland, with the stream on your right. In 200m the path swings round to the left and comes to a path crossing where you go straight on, now heading SSW. Follow this woodland path gently downhill for 125m, where you cross another stream and come out into the corner of a fenced field.
Go up a broad grassy track to the left of the fence. At the top the track continues between hedges and swings round to the left in front of the railway. Keep to the right of a wooden fieldgate and follow the track out onto a driveway and then a lane (Benhall Mill Road). Turn right to cross over the railway and continue along the lane for 350m, with Nevill Golf Course behind trees on your left. Shortly after passing the exit from the club's car park you come to its entrance.
Continue the directions at §4.
Go out of the station, cross over the A26 and head south-west down the High Street. At the bottom turn left into Mount Sion, right into Cumberland Gardens and left into Cumberland Walk. Follow this alleyway and then Upper Cumberland Walk past the town's cricket ground and across the railway. Turn right and go along Delves Avenue for 250m, then a footpath to come out onto Forest Road. Turn right and then left onto a footpath heading south-east to Benhall Mill Road. Turn left and follow the lane to the entrance to Nevill Golf Club.
Trains can arrive on either platform. From Platform 2, simply go up steps to the Mount Pleasant Road exit. This is also the suggested way out from Platform 1 (via the overhead walkway), rather than going out through the main booking office.
You can get to the High Street more directly by turning left outside the main booking office, but you would then have to dodge the traffic to get across Vale Road at the top (or go back round to the pedestrian lights on Mount Pleasant Road).
From the Mount Pleasant Road exit cross the main road at the pedestrian lights on the right, turn right and go across Grove Hill Road at another set. Turn into the High Street and follow it down to the bottom, where it turns right to meet the A26. At this bend (with a pedestrian section ahead) turn left into Mount Sion, then in 50m turn right into a short footpath (Cumberland Gardens). At the end turn left at a path T-junction.
Follow this long alleyway (Cumberland Walk) out to a street. Turn right briefly onto this street, then left into Upper Cumberland Walk. This alley curves left, goes over an old railway bridge4 and leads into a private road (still Upper Cumberland Walk). After passing a tennis club the road peters out and becomes a broad tarmac path between trees. Keep left where the main track veers into an architect's premises and follow the path up to and across the railway on a footbridge, then out onto a residential street.
Turn right onto this street, then almost immediately fork right into Delves Avenue. In 250m, where the street curves left, turn right onto a signposted footpath. At the end of a short path go through a wooden gate and continue in much the same direction up a small open space, with a line of trees on your left. At the top go through another gate, up a few steps and out onto Forest Road.
Turn right and go along this main road for 100m, crossing over at some point. Shortly before its junction with Warwick Park, turn left onto a signposted footpath. Avoid a fork down to the left and follow the path through a strip of woodland for 400m, eventually bending right to come out onto a lane (Benhall Mill Road). Turn left and go along this lane for a further 400m, reaching the entrance to Nevill Golf Club on your right and joining both the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk2 (TWCW) and the High Weald Landscape Trail3 (HWLT).
Take the footpath heading south along the edge of the golf course, signposted as the HWLT and TWCW. Follow this waymarked trail across Bayham Road, past Brickhouse Farm and up through Chase Wood into Frant.
At the right of the Golf Club entrance (with the Nevill crest on top of the brick pillars) take the signposted footpath to Frant, with waymarkers for both the HWLT and TWCW. Go all the way alongside the brick wall on your right: past the car park and club house, then downhill past a practice area. At the bottom go through a wicket gate, cross the B2179 carefully and continue along the farm drive opposite.
At Brickhouse Farm go past some buildings and along the right-hand edge of the farmyard. On the far side turn left as indicated onto a farm track, then in 25m turn right onto a tree-lined enclosed path between fields. In 200m follow the path into Chase Wood, crossing a stream on a wooden footbridge. In 100m fork left in front of a small open area, then keep left at the next path junction to join a wider path.
Stay on this main path as it crosses another stream and makes a long steady climb through the wood, soon curving right to head SW. Eventually you go through a wicket gate into the bottom corner of a large field. Take a grassy path up its left-hand edge, in 100m crossing over a track where there is a wide gap in the hedge on your left. A little further on go through a smaller gap in the trees to continue in the same direction up the left-hand edge of a second field.
In the top corner of the field go over a stile into a churchyard and follow the path round to the front of St Alban5, which is worth visiting. Go through its lychgate into Frant's High Street. The George Inn (the earlier lunch pub) is the first building on the left, opposite the Old School6. At the end of this picturesque street keep ahead along the top of a small triangular green to the site of an old well, joining the route from Frant station.
Continue the directions at §6.
There is a choice of routes at the start. For the main route, turn left out of the station and go along the B2169 for 300m, then turn left onto a footpath going up a track between fields to a lane. You can avoid the awkward stretch along the busy B2169 by turning right out of the station, then right again in the centre of Bells Yew Green onto this quiet lane. Either way, instead of taking the lane all the way into Frant, turn left into the driveway to Manor Farm and take a footpath across fields to the village.
Although there are some pleasant country footpaths from Frant station to its village, these can only be reached via a stretch along a busy narrow road with no pavement (including a particularly awkward spot under a railway bridge with limited visibility). The alternative route in §5b involves even more tarmac, but on a wider road with much less traffic.
Leave the station through its car park and turn left onto the B2169, heading NW. There is no pavement so take great care, especially where the road curves left after 250m to go under a railway bridge. On the other side of the bridge, as the road bends right, turn left onto a track signposted as a public footpath, making your way past an old metal gate.
This initially unappealing track soon bears left to head SW and passes an isolated house on the left. It climbs gradually between fields towards some buildings on the horizon, veering right and then left halfway up the hill. At the top go over a stile beside a fieldgate, across a yard and onto a tarmac drive, passing to the right of a large corrugated iron shed.
Go across a concrete track (slightly to the right) and over a stile to continue on a grassy path between hedges. Where the way ahead is barred by a gate with a “Private Property” sign, go over a stile on the left and along an enclosed path to a minor road. Turn right onto this lane, joining the alternative route.
Leave the station through its car park and turn right onto the B2169, heading SE. In 250m you pass the Brecknock Arms and come to a crossroads in the centre of Bells Yew Green7. Turn right at the junction, signposted to Frant and soon crossing over the railway.
In 400m ignore a bridleway on the left as the lane bends right. Continue along the lane for a further 500m, round several more bends. Eventually a footpath comes in from a gap in the hedge on the right, the main route.
75m after the two routes join, turn left through the solid brick and stone gateway to Manor Farm. In 300m, where the driveway turns slightly away from the hedge on the right, keep ahead across a patch of grass to find a stile in the hedge a little further ahead, beside a metal fieldgate. Go over the stile and head W across a large field; if there is no clear path, aim just to the right of a prominent half-timbered house in the distance.
After passing an isolated tree the path turns slightly to the right. On the far side of the field go over a stile and across another field, again slightly to the right. Cross a stile next to a holly tree and bear right onto a grassy path. This gradually swings round to the left and returns to the lane you were on earlier.
Go over a stile to the right of a double fieldgate and turn left onto the road. In 150m the road forks in front of a small triangular green; climb up the grass to the site of an old well at the top of the green. Unless you want to visit the village pub or church (150m to the right at the far end of the High Street) turn left at the well, joining both the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk2 (TWCW) and the High Weald Landscape Trail3 (HWLT).
Head south across Frant's large green, now on the HWLT and TWCW. Keep ahead along the A267, then turn right to go between a large wood and Eridge Old Park. After skirting a lake continue over a small hill with a distant view of Eridge Park mansion beyond another large lake. Go through Forge Wood and then uphill across fields to the A26. Turn right onto the road and go up to Warren Farm Lane by Eridge church.
From the old well head S along the top of the small green. At the end cross a minor road and climb up onto Frant's main green. Follow the direction of a tarmac path down the large sloping green, with another minor road on your left and the A267 down to your right. At some point you will end up heading S on the other side of the main road, but you can first cross the minor road and continue on another part of the green.
About 175m from the end of the main green, between “Thornbury” and a small telephone exchange, turn right down an enclosed path, still following the HWLT and TWCW. The path makes its way downhill for about 200m. At the bottom turn left in front of a deer fence, then almost immediately turn right through a gate in this fence to enter Eridge Old Park8. Head W through the parkland along a pleasant grassy track.
In 350m go through a kissing gate into a more wooded area and follow the path to the left. Continue on this tree-lined path at the edge of the wood for 500m, ignoring a permissive path off to the right along the way. Where the path comes to a fence, with a metal fieldgate on the left and a wood ahead, turn right down a slope and across a stream.
Follow this potentially very muddy broad track with the wood (and later a large lake9) on your left and a semi-cleared area on the right. At the end of the lake turn left to cross its outflow on a footbridge. At the other side of the lake turn right through a gate in the deer fence onto a fenced path around two sides of a field. In the far corner follow a broad track round to the right into a large field, heading W; a parallel grassy path just off to the right alongside a low wire fence is the right of way across this field.
As you climb up the slope you get a distant view of Eridge Park10 ahead on your right, across another large lake. After descending, follow the track briefly into some trees but almost immediately fork right as indicated into Forge Wood. This attractive woodland path meanders through the trees for about 300m and eventually veers left to return to the track. Cross over onto a footpath opposite, which turns right to run parallel to the track, heading N.
Ignore a stile into the field on the left and follow the path across a stream. Climb steeply up the right-hand edge of two large fields, passing through a belt of trees between them. At the top of the hill follow the field edge round to the left, across a dip in the ground and back up the other side. In the top right-hand corner of this last field go through a gate onto the A26 (with a bus stop on your left). Cross this busy main road carefully, turn right and go along it for 100m. Just before reaching a church there is a lane on the left.
For the Nevill Crest and Gun pub, go along the A26 for a further 100m (and return the same way afterwards). To continue the walk, go along Warren Farm Lane and turn right at Eridge Rocks onto a woodland path, leaving the HWLT/TWCW. Head north alongside the outcrop and continue to the southern boundary of Broadwater Warren.
If you are not visiting the later lunch pub, turn left into the lane (signposted “Park Corner 1½ miles”) and continue the directions at [•] below.
For the pub, continue along the A26 past Holy Trinity church11 for a further 100m to find the Nevill Crest and Gun12 on the left, set back from the main road. Afterwards, return the same way and turn right into the lane by the church.
[•] Follow the lane round to the left, passing a row of cottages and heading towards a large rock outcrop in a wood. On reaching Eridge Rocks13 turn right (leaving the waymarked trails) to go through a small parking area and past an information panel about the rocks.
Follow a path N into the woods, keeping the rocks close by on your left and ignoring ways off to the right. In 150m the path bends left, then back to the right to head N again. Where the long sequence of rocks finally ends, keep ahead at path crossings for a further 200m to reach a T-junction in front of a 300-year old ‘veteran oak’, with an information panel about the RSPB's Broadwater Warren nature reserve14.
If you are doing the Long Walk via Groombridge, go to §9.
Turn left into Broadwater Warren. Turn right at some point and take any convenient route through the nature reserve to the RSPB's car park. Cross a lane and head north on forest tracks. Join a sunken lane and go along minor roads into High Rocks, rejoining the TWCW.
Turn left at the large oak to head W. In 150m turn right at the first path junction onto another broad track. This bends right and in 200m comes to a T-junction, where you turn left. In 150m you reach a major path crossing. The suggested route is not to take any of the main tracks, but to turn half-right onto a narrow path heading N into the conifer woods.
This path was part of a waymarked Nature Trail through the reserve, but this has now been re-routed. If it no longer exists on the ground the broad path on the right at this crossing leads directly to the RSPB's car park on Broadwater Forest Lane in 700m. If you take this short cut, continue the directions at [•] below.
The narrow path meanders through the pine trees for about 400m, bending slightly left towards the end and going down a few steps to a junction of tracks. Go straight across onto the one opposite, turning half-left and heading SW. Take the first turning on the right, which leads to a boardwalk zig-zagging through an area of wet woodland.
The route to the car park now follows (in reverse) the RSPB's Heathland and Woodland Trail, waymarked with green arrows.
The path continues alongside a stream and eventually comes to a T-junction with a broad track. Turn left and go through a wooden side gate, climbing gently through an area of restored heathland. In 150m, and about 100m before reaching a road, turn right at a path junction. In 250m this brings you to the RSPB car park; cut through it if you want to look at the RSPB noticeboard on the far side, or take the grassy track on the left skirting around it.
[•] Leave the reserve through the car park entrance and go straight across a road (Broadwater Forest Lane) onto a potentially muddy broad track heading NW into Broadwater Forest. Ignore a forest track to the right soon after the gate, but 100m later turn right onto another track, heading NE. In 200m cross a lane and continue in the same direction on a woodland path, 20m off to the right. In 300m this comes to a T-junction where you veer right to meet a sunken lane.
Turn left to go downhill on the lane, round a long right-hand bend. In 150m it merges with Hillswood Road and you continue towards High Rocks, initially heading NE. The road curves right, turns left at the bottom of a dip, then climbs and turns back to the right. As you reach High Rocks station on the Spa Valley Railway15 a track comes up from the left, the route of the Long Walk. Continue along the road to come to the High Rocks Inn, a possible refreshment stop.
Continue the directions at §14.
Turn left into Broadwater Warren and make your way to the road junction opposite Birchden Farm, at first on broad tracks and then on a path at the edge of the wood. (A more direct route would be to leave Broadwater Warren at Park Corner, but this part of the wood is privately owned and there is no public access).
Turn left at the large oak to head W. In 150m ignore a broad track off to the right, but in a further 150m turn right at a second path junction onto another broad track. In 100m turn left and go through a wooden gate onto a track heading W through a more open area.
In 600m a track merges from the left. The next turning is easy to miss. Shortly after the paths merge keep ahead at a path crossing, but immediately afterwards veer left onto a narrow path which heads W along the edge of a wood, with a large field on your left. In 450m you come out onto the narrow Park Corner Lane at a T-junction, with Birchden Farm on the other side of the main road.
If you want to take a short cut (saving nearly 2½ km by omitting the loop past Harrison's Rocks), follow the directions below; otherwise, skip to the next section.
For the short cut, cross over Park Corner Lane and head W along the main road (Broadwater Forest Lane). In 350m, as the road bends slightly to the right (and 100m before a Groombridge village sign), turn left past a metal fieldgate and head SW on a faint grassy path.
Halfway across the field bear right, aiming to pass to the right of a house on the far side. Go alongside its fence to the corner of the field, through a narrow gap in the hedge and out to a road. Turn right onto the road, then in 50m turn left into a lane leading to Harrison's Rocks. In 50m turn right through a kissing gate onto an enclosed path.
At the end of this short cut continue the directions at §12.
Head south on Park Corner Lane. Take the driveway to Pinstraw Farm and continue along a track in the same direction. Detour off the HWLT/TWCW into Birchden Wood, turning left at a path junction to come to the top of Harrison's Rocks. Go down through a cleft in the rocks to their base.
Turn left onto Park Corner Lane and follow it S for 500m, climbing gently at first, to reach a T-junction at Park Corner. Cross over the road and go down the public footpath slightly to the left, with a “Private Road to Pinstraw Farm” sign (briefly rejoining the waymarked trails). In 300m you pass the farm and go over a stile to continue in the same direction.
In 450m the track veers to the right, narrows and descends between hedges on a potentially muddy stretch. As you reach some trees fork right (leaving the two trails again) and go over a stile into Birchden Wood (open access). In 50m turn left at a path junction and continue for about 150m until the wire fence on your left ends.
Although you could remain on this high-level path it is more interesting to walk along the base of Harrison's Rocks16. Bear left to continue briefly along the top of the rocks. In a short distance you will find a flight of steps going down through a cleft in the rocks to their base.
If you want to divert to Eridge station and finish the walk there, follow the directions below; otherwise, skip to the next section.
To divert to Eridge station, head downhill on any convenient path away from the rocks. At the edge of the wood, find a gap in the fence and turn left onto a footpath. Follow this downhill and through a gate to reach a driveway in front of the attractive Forge Farm Oast. Turn right to go along its drive and cross the railway carefully at a level crossing.
At a T-junction turn left and go along a minor road for about 1½ km, parallel to the railway and heading SE. Shortly after the road skirts around some large ponds you will see the platforms of Eridge station off to your left. Turn left at a T-junction to reach the station entrance. If you want some refreshment The Huntsman pub is less than 100m past the entrance.
Head north on any convenient path parallel to the rocks. At the end join the public footpath alongside the Spa Valley Railway (SVR) and follow it around Birchden Wood (or take a short cut through the wood), continuing on the access road from Aytton's Wood car park. Just before reaching a road turn left onto a footpath.
Head N alongside Harrison's Rocks: you can either take the climbers' path near their base or make your way down to an easier woodland path a little way below them. In about 500m the two paths merge and after passing the last of the rocks there is a wooden gate on your left. Go through this and turn right to head N along a public footpath, with the Spa Valley Railway15 (SVR) on your left. In 50m an opening on the right leads back into Birchden Wood.
The suggested route now follows the public footpath, although you could take one of the (potentially boggy) paths used by climbers to cut through the wood to the car park. If you do this, go through the car park onto its access road, where the footpath soon rejoins from the right; continue the directions at [•] below.
For the suggested route keep ahead on the footpath alongside the wood, gradually moving away from the railway. At a corner of the wood the path turns right and goes across a small open area, then through trees with Aytton's Wood car park on your left. Cross over a forestry track and follow the potentially muddy footpath as it swings round to the left, climbing gently. The path comes out onto the car park's access road where you turn right.
[•] In 150m, just after the access road bends right and 50m before a T-junction ahead, turn left through a kissing gate onto an enclosed path.
Follow the footpath alongside fields and across the railway. Turn right onto a minor road heading north into Groombridge, leaving the HWLT. In 250m cut through a residential street on the right (Gromenfield) to reach the Junction Inn.
Follow the footpath alongside fields for 400m, then across the railway on a footbridge (with Groombridge station visible off to the right). On the other side go past a primary school and turn right onto a minor road, leaving the HWLT. Head N along Corseley Road, passing the church of St Thomas the Apostle and some residential streets.
In 250m you come to a junction with Orchard Rise on your left, opposite a byway and the entrance to “The Crossways”. Turn right into the byway and then immediately fork left into a cul-de-sac, Gromenfield. Where this turns sharply left, keep ahead on a tarmac path to reach Station Road. The bridge on the right overlooks the SVR's Groombridge station17 if you want to take a quick look, but to continue the walk turn left and go down the road for 100m to the Junction Inn, a possible refreshment stop.
If you want to take a closer look at the heritage railway and perhaps shorten the walk with a trip to High Rocks or Tunbridge Wells West, follow the directions below.
Make your way to the old station building (down a flight of steps opposite the path where you emerged onto Station Road, or along its access road from the Junction Inn) and turn right for the platform, where there is a small buffet when trains are running. If you are not taking a trip on the SVR, return along the access road.
If you take the train to High Rocks station, continue the directions at §14.
If you take the train to its terminus, follow the brown tourist signs along Linden Park Road to The Pantiles and complete the directions at §15.
Go through the recreation ground opposite the Junction Inn and down a path towards Groombridge Place, crossing a stone bridge over the River Grom. Stay on the TWCW as it goes past Groombridge Place Gardens and up the Grom valley. After moving away from the river to pass a water treatment works the path winds its way back down towards it. Eventually the path takes you across the river and under the railway to reach a minor road at High Rocks.
From the Junction Inn, cross Station Road and enter the recreation ground opposite. Pass to the right of a children's playground and continue alongside a wire fence to the far corner. Go through a gate here onto a path, which veers left and heads N downhill. Near the bottom follow the enclosed path as it turns half-right towards Groombridge Place18. Cross the River Grom on a stone bridge in front of the house and its moat.
On the other side of the bridge you could detour left for a short distance to see the front of the house, but to continue the walk turn right. Where the drive bends left round the back of the house, keep ahead on a footpath between fences. After crossing a stream continue through a meadow, with Groombridge Place Gardens19 on your left.
In 400m cross a stile and continue in the same direction, soon with the “Enchanted Forest” behind a waterway on your left. In 200m cross a stream on a wooden bridge and continue along the left-hand field edge, later veering left uphill to head NE towards two houses. Cross a stile and a driveway to go along an enclosed path, which later skirts around a large water treatment plant behind black metal railings on your right.
After passing these works go over a stile and cross Broom Lane onto the track opposite, signposted as a public bridleway. In 250m go across a parking area in front of a house and then down towards a footbridge. Cross the stream and go through a metal gate. Ignore a path up to the left and bear right with the path, which in 100m comes to a stile on the right. Go over this and bear half-left downhill on the edge of a field (with trees on your left) towards a footpath post, now heading SE.
Continue through a potentially muddy patch near the river and go over a stile by a huge oak tree. On the other side bear right, passing under some electricity cables. The path later swings round to the left and continues just inside a wood, staying fairly close to the river. Eventually the path bends right, crosses the river on a footbridge and passes under the railway. Bear left uphill on the other side and turn left onto a minor road by the SVR station to come to the High Rocks Inn, another possible refreshment stop.
Go past the High Rocks Inn and bear right onto a path through Friezland Wood, following the TWCW. In 500m ignore a track leading under the railway to continue through the wood and later a narrow meadow leading to a new housing estate. Go through this to the A26, then up a tarmac path onto Tunbridge Wells Common. Take the right-hand of two paths opposite Cabbage Stalk Lane and follow this through the common, eventually dropping down to rejoin the main road opposite the Pantiles Hotel. Go down Swan Passage into The Pantiles.
Continue along the road, passing the entrance to the privately-owned High Rocks20 opposite the inn. Just before the road crosses over the railway bear right past a wooden barrier into Friezland Wood, with a good view of the rock outcrop on your right. Follow the main path for 500m as it goes between the railway and the rocks, later dropping down to go alongside a stream.
Ignore a track off to the left going under the railway and bear right to continue through the wood. In 150m veer left through a wooden gate with a TWCW marker, where the main path curves up to the right. In a further 100m fork left and follow the path down a slope, soon crossing a ditch on a plank bridge and leaving the wood. Keep left to continue on a broad grassy path through a narrow meadow between the railway and the Ramslye housing estate.
At the end of the meadow go through a gate and continue alongside a row of new houses. Follow the roadway (Spring Walk) round to the right, then turn left to go past a few more houses. Keep ahead on a tarmac path leading to the A26 and turn left to go under the railway bridge.
Immediately after the main road curves to the right past a garden centre, turn left onto a signposted footpath climbing onto the wooded Tunbridge Wells Common. Soon after the tarmac path enters the trees and before it climbs more steeply, fork right onto a clear path through the trees. Follow this meandering path as it climbs gently, staying fairly close to the A26 off to the right. Keep ahead at path crossings until the path merges with a broad grassy path coming in from the left, which you join.
At the end of the trees the path drops down to the A26, with a mini-roundabout ahead. Cross the main road with great care in front of the roundabout and go down a flight of steps (Swan Passage) to the left of the Pantiles Hotel. At the bottom turn left onto an attractive walkway, The Pantiles.
Head north-east along The Pantiles and cross Nevill Street into Cumberland Walk. Continue along the High Street to the station.
To complete the walk head NE along The Pantiles, which has several possible tea places. At the far end you pass the spa town's chalybeate spring shortly before emerging into Nevill Street. Cross over this main road at the traffic lights and go into Cumberland Walk opposite.
In 20m turn left up some steps to an alley and keep ahead along the (initially pedestrianised) High Street. There are plenty more cafés, coffee shops and delis along this street: Juliets is on the left about halfway along, at #54.
At the far end of the High Street the main station entrance and booking office is down to the left on the other side of Vale Road. If you do not want to dodge the traffic on this busy main road you can reach the alternative entrance in Mount Pleasant Road (straight ahead) via two sets of pedestrian traffic lights.
Most trains to London depart from Platform 1, by the booking office. There is an overhead walkway linking the two platforms.
- Calverley Grounds were originally the pleasure grounds of Mount Pleasant House, later the Calverley Hotel. They were purchased for the town in 1920. Near the main entrance there is a memorial to Lord Dowding, the commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain (1940).
- 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.
- The High Weald Landscape Trail runs for 145 km across the length of the High Weald, mostly near its northern edge, from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye.
- The railway bridge in Upper Cumberland Walk crosses a disused spur which linked the main Hastings line with Tunbridge Wells West station, now the terminus of the Spa Valley Railway.
- St Alban, Frant was almost completely rebuilt in 1822 when the medieval church became uneconomic to repair. It has a particuarly fine August Gern organ.
- The inscription on the front of Frant's Old School “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” is from Proverbs 22:6.
- The unusual name Bells Yew Green is derived from the medieval French Bels Lieux (the ‘beautiful place’ being the nearby Bayham Abbey).
- The spacious parkland of Eridge Old Park was landscaped in the late 18thC by Henry Nevill, the 2nd Earl of Abergavenny, who built Eridge Castle in Strawberry Hill Gothic style.
- This man-made lake provided the water power for a 16thC iron foundry, part of the extensive Wealden iron industry.
- The Georgian style mansion of Eridge Park was built in the 1930s, replacing Henry Nevill's more exotic Eridge Castle.
- Holy Trinity, Eridge was built in 1851 as a Sunday School building and consecrated five years later. It was completely refurbished in 1950 and has several features associated with the Abergavenny family.
- The Nevill Crest is a bull with a crown around its neck; the Gun was a large cannon made from the local forge. The family motto Ne vile Velis (‘never have evil thoughts’) incorporates their name, then spelt Nevile. The elaborate letter A's stand for [Earl of] Abergavenny.
- Eridge Rocks are a Site of Special Scientific Interest because they support a great variety of tiny ferns, mosses, lichens and liverworts. Climbing is permitted on some of the rocks but there are more restrictions than at Harrison's Rocks.
- The RSPB acquired a large part of this extensive woodland in 2007 and the area to the north is now the Broadwater Warren nature reserve (free entry). They are clearing out much of the thick conifer plantation in order to restore the original heathland habitat.
- The Spa Valley Railway restored a public service between Tunbridge Wells West and Groombridge in 1997, extending this to Eridge in 2011. The line had been closed by British Rail in 1985, some years after the Beeching Report.
- Harrison's Rocks are managed by the British Mountaineering Council. This outcrop of Ardingly sandstone is very popular with climbers and the path along the base of the rocks is a good place to observe them.
- The platform at Groombridge station had to be re-sited on the other side of the road bridge because the station building was a private residence for many years. The line used to carry trains to London, Three Bridges, Brighton and Eastbourne.
- The present house at Groombridge Place was built in the early 17thC on the site of a medieval moated house (and possibly an earlier Saxon fort). A 12 year-old French Count was held hostage here in the Hundred Years War until his ransom was paid 30 years later. It was the setting for Peter Greenaway's 1982 film The Draughtsman's Contract and was used for Longbourn in the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.
- Groombridge Place Gardens are a popular visitor attraction, combining 17thC formal walled gardens designed as ‘outside rooms’ of the house, and the Enchanted Forest which aims to “intrigue, amuse and entertain”.
- There is a fee to enter the grounds of High Rocks, where the sandstone outcrops have been linked by ornamental bridges.
» Last updated: July 31, 2017