Why visit Tonbridge? Family outing town near London
Just half an hour by train from central London, Tonbridge is in many ways more convenient to visit than places which are actually in London. It has seen the biggest spike in property demand in the UK. My home town is better each time I return, thanks to initiatives led by community volunteers such as my parents. For example, the area around the train station was a Conservative Party safe seat until 2019, when The Green Party won 79% of the vote.
Tonbridge is added onto my London Children's Map here
Tonbridge is on the train lines from Charing Cross, Waterloo and London Bridge. It has a great bridge for trainspotter toddlers, where a driver once waved at us. My parent’s eco BnB is around the corner from the train station, and they also hire out their electric car charging point.
You can hire a bike from the train station, or Cycle-ops bike shop near the castle. Cycle the Tudor Trail to Penshurst Place historic house and adventure playground. Tonbridge Bicycle Users Group are encouraging the council to improve local cycling.
The website Walk Tonbridge has many local walks.
Shops near the train station
Back beside the train station on Barden Road is Zilch Zero Waste shop. On Avebury Avenue, near the library, there is a row of evening cafes where you can get a vegan curry. Further along there is a community pub called the Nelson Arms, which was also rescued from closing by the local councillors. It serves a vegan Sunday roast.
Racecourse sportsground- playground and boatyard
Left from the train station you find our local park, which is home to the volunteer run Tonbridge Calling festival. It also has a massive children’s playground, crazy golf and table tennis, and coffee van; so you might find you spend the duration of your visit there. If you manage to move on, then try walking around the perimeter by the river to the left. You pass the boatyard, a mooring for houseboats which was rescued from closure by the local councillors. On the other side of the park is a swimming pool with outdoor pool and spa, beside a model railway.
Haysden Country Park- lake, cafe and playground
Cross a bridge over the river and walk left through a wooded area, and left again through a farmer’s field. You will reach Barden Lake. The country park was given a Green Flag award, thanks to hard working volunteers. This is one of my child’s favourite places, as there are so many ducks, geese, and swans. Under a railway bridge at the far end is a cafe, which serves a mean (but not cruel) homemade chickpea and aubergine burger. Next to this is another playground which was recently redeveloped.
Tonbridge Castle and boat hire
Either turn back, or follow another path round back into town. You find the remains of a Normal castle, which is a pretty sandstone, and wild flowers. You can hire rowing boats or take a river tour on an electric boat beside the Big Bridge with Tonbridge River Trips. There’s a cafe on the opposite side of the river, overlooking the castle. The river is the racetrack for the volunteer run Dragon Boat festival.
The High Street
Now you are at the shops. Tonbridge has many charity shops, such as RefugEase, which are a great way to recycle. There is sometimes the family Angel Cafe in the church hall, which has a good play area and jacket potatoes.
The supermarkets are through the mews. Angel Community Garden sits beside the car park, and was started by Tonbridge Friends of the Earth. Tonbridge Farmers Market is the largest farmers market in Kent, and you can also find zero waste goodies there on the second Sunday in the month.