Main Walk: 17 km (10.6 miles). Three hours 55 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8½ hours.
Circular Walk, returning to Tonbridge: 24¼ km (15.1 miles). Five hours 40 minutes walking time.
Explorer 136. Tonbridge, map reference TQ587460, is in Kent, 10 km SE of Sevenoaks.
2 out of 10 (3 for the Circular Walk).
This walk takes in both sides of the River Medway to the east of Tonbridge (pronounced Tunbridge: see Walk Notes), a low-lying area of meadows, farm fields, orchards and hop gardens. The scenery is pleasant rather than dramatic and the walk would be unremarkable were it not for two highly unusual features: a unique church and a striking folly.
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 is also on the walk route. 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.
Throughout the walk there are occasional glimpses of its other main feature, rising high above the landscape. There can be few stranger sights on a Home Counties walk than this multi-tiered Gothic folly, taller than Nelson's Column. Hadlow Tower was built in 1838 by William Barton May as an embellishment to his equally eccentric father's extravagant house in Strawberry Hill Gothic style (“the most singular looking thing I ever saw” according to William Cobbett). Much of Hadlow Castle was demolished in 1951 but fortunately the Tower was saved; after a local campaign it has now been beautifully restored and converted into a charming heritage let. It is open in summer months to pre-booked visitors on Thursdays only (contact 07913-861979), last entry 3pm; admission (2016) is £7 (£5 concessions).
The Main Walk finishes at Hadlow's other attraction, Broadview Gardens (free entry). This is a collection of small landscaped gardens designed by successive generations of horticultural students at Hadlow College.
Several tributaries flow into the Medway near Tonbridge and although there is a flood barrier upstream at Leigh, the area is still susceptible to flooding. This walk should not be attempted after periods of prolonged or heavy rain.
The full walk is probably too long for most walkers to reach Hadlow by mid-afternoon, although this might be feasible if you started earlier and/or took the short cut mentioned below. This walk's shorter companion Extra Walk 219 (Hildenborough to Hadlow) is more suitable if you plan to visit the Tower.
There is a choice of routes from Capel church, 7 km into the walk, depending on whether you want to visit the Dovecote Inn (see below). Compared with the main route, you can save 1 km by heading directly for the pub along a slightly awkward stretch of road, or you can bypass it altogether by taking a short cut which saves 2¼ km.
For a longer walk you can complete a Circular Walk back to Tonbridge. This heads south from Hadlow along a quiet lane, continues across large farm fields to the River Medway and finishes with a long but easy stretch alongside the river.
There are four to six fast trains an hour from either London Charing Cross or Cannon Street to Tonbridge, taking 40-45 minutes. There is also a much slower hourly service from London Bridge via East Croydon and Redhill. Buy a day return to Tonbridge.
There is no station in Hadlow, so at the end of the Main Walk you will need to take Arriva 7/77/147 to Tonbridge. There are buses every 20 minutes or so up to 6pm (Mon–Sat), with an hourly service in the evenings and on Sundays.
There are several other places along the walk route with a bus service to Tonbridge, operated by Autocar: the 205 goes through Tudeley and Five Oak Green, and the 208 through Golden Green (both Mon–Sat).
Take the train nearest to 09:40 from Charing Cross (or Cannon Street) to Tonbridge.
Except on Mondays when it is closed, the suggested lunchtime pub is the Dovecote Inn (01892-835966) in the hamlet of Capel, after 8¾ km on the main route. This popular freehouse serves good freshly-cooked food with real ales straight from the barrel, and has an attractive patio area at the back. A little earlier the walk passes the George & Dragon (01892-832521) on the B2017 between Tudeley and Capel churches, but call ahead to check if they are serving food.
Other pubs on or near the walk route are the Queen's Head (01892-832073) in Five Oak Green (but closed Mon–Wed lunchtimes), the Bell Inn (01732-851748) in Golden Green, and the Two Brewers (01732-850267) in Hadlow.
If you have been visiting Hadlow Tower the suggested tea place is the Gingerbread Teashop (01732-850240) opposite The Square, open to 5pm (Thu only). Another interesting place with limited opening hours is the coffee shop in Weathered and Worn (07963-909156) on the High Street between the Tower and Broadview Gardens, open to 5pm (Thu-Sat only).
At all other times a good alternative is the Broadview Gardens Tearoom (01732-853286), open to 5pm (4pm Sun). The late lunch pubs mentioned above would provide stronger fare towards the end of the Main Walk, or before starting the final leg back to Tonbridge on the Long Walk.
There are plenty of refreshment places at the end of the Circular Walk in Tonbridge, although the High Street is not a particularly enticing place to linger before catching the train back. If you get there in time, the suggested place for tea (serving home-made cakes) is Finch House Café & Bakery (01732-771775) at the front of the Pavilion Shopping Centre on the High Street, open to 6pm (5pm Sun). The direct route to the station also passes The Humphrey Bean (01732-773850), a JD Wetherspoon's pub in the old Post Office building, which has a large beer garden overlooking the river. Alternatively, a short detour across the river would take you to the Rose & Crown Hotel and Ye Olde Chequers Inn, plus other watering-holes tucked away down side streets.
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Out: (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.
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Walk Options ( Main )
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- Main Walk, finishing in Hadlow (17 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 Cannon Bridge (1½ km)
- Cannon Bridge to Tudeley Church (3¼ km)
- Tudeley Church to Capel Church (2¼ km)
- Capel Church to the Dovecote Inn (1¾ km)
- The Dovecote Inn to Five Oak Green Road (1¾ km)
- Capel Church to Five Oak Green Road direct (1¼ km)
- Five Oak Green Road to Golden Green (3½ km)
- Golden Green to Hadlow (The Square) (2 km)
- Detour to see Hadlow Tower (+400m)
- Hadlow to Hadlow College (Broadview Gardens) (1 km)
- Hadlow College to to the River Medway (3¼ km)
- The River Medway to Tonbridge Station (4 km)
Turn left out of the station and go down to the start of the High Street. To avoid walking along this busy road, turn left into Avebury Avenue and right into River Lawn Road, then along the riverside path to return to the High Street by Big Bridge. Cross over the road and continue on the towpath on the south side of the river to the A26 at Cannon Bridge.
Arriving from the London train on Platform 3, go up the steps near the front to emerge on a busy main road. Turn left, go down the slope and past a roundabout into the start of Tonbridge's1 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 the River Medway.
Cross a footbridge over the channel at Buley's Weir and head N alongside the river for a short distance, soon coming to a footbridge opposite Tonbridge Memorial Gardens2. The suggested route is to cross the river and switch to the riverside path on the other bank (the path on the right bank soon swings away from the river, although you can continue along a street).
After 150m along the riverside path on the left bank you have to recross the river on a road bridge. Turn left to go along a broad path (River Walk), with the remains of Tonbridge Castle3 across the river on your left. The path curves round to the right and brings you back to the High Street at Big Bridge. Cross this busy road carefully and take the narrow path between the river and the Castle Hotel, onto a towpath along the site of Medway Wharf4.
If this permissive path is blocked, take the side street (Medway Wharf Road) by the front of the Castle Hotel and veer left onto the towpath at the newly-renovated area beside Town Lock, 300m ahead.
Continue along the broad towpath past Town Lock, now on the Medway Valley Walk5 and passing some new apartment blocks on your right. In 400m you reach Cannon Bridge, carrying the A26 across the river.
Cross over the A26 and go along Postern Lane for 1¼ km. Turn left into the driveway to Postern Park Farm, then turn right onto a footpath heading east along field edges for 900m. Turn right just before a stream onto a footpath heading south, eventually crossing the railway to reach the B2017. Turn left onto the road and follow it round a right-hand bend. Turn left into the driveway to Tudeley church.
Cross the A26 carefully and continue on Postern Lane6 opposite, which you will be following for over 1 km: an inconspicuous concrete marker confirms that this private road is also a public footpath. The lane goes between water meadows, crosses a mill stream at Postern Bridge and continues between orchards. You pass a few cottages and later the driveways to some grander houses.
After a particularly fine Georgian house on the left (“The Postern”), turn left at a signposted footpath marker into the driveway to Postern Park Farm. In 75m turn right as directed, going up the bank and through a wooden gate. Head E along the edge of a field, with a tall hedge on your left. In the corner go through another gate into a much larger field and continue in the same direction.
The next few turnings are easy to miss. Two-thirds of the way along the field edge, after about 400m, you need to swerve left through a narrow gap, as indicated by a yellow footpath marker in the hedge. On the other side you continue on a broad grassy strip with another fine Georgian house (“Postern Park”) ahead on your left, across a meadow.
In 400m you come to a footbridge over a stream at the corner of a field. Turn right just before this bridge through another narrow gap in the hedge (the footpath marker is easier to see from the other direction). Head S on a faint grassy path along the left-hand edge of three fields, crossing streams on footbridges along the way, to reach the Tonbridge-Ashford railway line on a low embankment.
Go over a stile and cross the railway tracks with great care. On the far side turn left onto a fenced path alongside the railway, down a few steps and over a stile onto a path through a small wood. Follow this round to the left and then along the right-hand edge of a small field to come out onto the B2017.
Turn left to go along this busy road into Tudeley, taking care as there is no pavement for 250m. You need to be on its left-hand side at the road junction ahead to avoid crossing the main road at a blind spot. At the junction cross the side road (Hartlake Road) and turn right to continue along the main road, now on a pavement. In 100m turn left into its driveway to come to All Saints church7 with its world-famous windows; its entrance is on the right-hand side.
Take the footpath from the back of the churchyard heading east across a field and a small meadow, then out past Bank Farm to Sherenden Road. Turn left onto this lane, then right onto another footpath heading east and later south-east to the B2017. Continue on a footpath to the left of the George & Dragon heading south-east to Capel church.
Turn left out of the church and follow a grassy path to the back of the churchyard, heading E. Go over a stile and continue in the same direction on a clear path across a large field. On the far side go over a stile and keep ahead across a small meadow.
Continue up an enclosed path and then through a parking area to the right of farm buildings. Take the signposted grassy path to the right of the farm's driveway (avoiding a fieldgate across the drive) to come out onto a lane (Sherenden Road).
Turn left and go along the lane for 100m, then turn right at a footpath sign. Follow the potentially muddy farm track as it heads E for 400m, going through a couple of wooden side gates along the way. Where the hedge on the right ends keep ahead on a clear path 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 once again on a clear path across the field, towards the left-hand end of another wood. Go round its corner to head S for 125m, keeping the trees on your right and this time ignoring a path continuing across the field.
At the corner of this wood turn half-left to go down across the field towards an isolated building, the George & Dragon pub on Five Oak Green Road. Cross the road carefully in front of the pub and turn left; the continuation of the walk is indicated by a footpath signpost just past the pub.
This is the most convenient lunch stop if you are planning to take the short cut from Capel church. If you are staying on the main route the recommended lunch pub is 2¼ km further on (less if you take the direct route along Alders Road).
To continue the walk, take the footpath into the belt of trees beside the pub. 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 clear path across the field. Go over a stile into the churchyard of St Thomas à Becket8, which is worth visiting.
If you are taking the short cut (bypassing the Dovecote Inn), go to §6.
To avoid walking along a slightly awkward road to the pub, take the farm drive heading south from the church. At the end turn left onto Amhurst Bank Road and follow it for 500m. Turn sharp left onto a footpath through an orchard and continue along the edge of a wood to return to Alders Road. Turn left to come to the Dovecote Inn.
If you have been visiting the church, return to the footpath you arrived on, heading SE. This soon 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.
The Dovecote Inn is 700m away to the left on Alders Road, and you could save 1 km by simply walking along the road to it. This road is quite busy, however, so the directions below take you on a rather out-and-back route via Amhurst Bank. This also involves 500m of road walking, but along a quiet country lane with little traffic.
For the suggested route, cross Alders Road carefully and go along the farm drive, heading S. This soon climbs gently – with a nice 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. Halfway along the road bends left and then right, and shortly afterwards there is a fieldgate on the left leading into an orchard.
You will be walking through this orchard a little later, but this entrance is not a right of way.
Continue along the road for a further 125m, passing a tree-lined pond on the left and a few cottages on the right. Opposite the last of these go over a stile into a field (with two footpath signposts) and turn sharp left, almost doubling back. Follow a faint grassy path slanting slightly downhill towards a wide gap, which leads you back past the other side of the pond. Instead of following a path curving right, go straight ahead into the orchard through a metal side gate.
There is no defined path through the orchard. The footpath marker on the gate points ahead but the exit is down to the right, at the bottom of the orchard.
Start by going ahead for a short distance, as indicated. Just before the path curves left towards the fieldgate you passed earlier, turn right onto a clear grassy strip going downhill between the fruit trees, heading E. In 100m, with a field ahead on your left, swerve slightly right and left to continue in the same direction, now fairly close to the left-hand edge of the orchard. In a further 100m you pass a footpath marker on a post pointing you to a metal gate where you leave the orchard.
Keep ahead into a wooded area. Ignore a footpath marker pointing right and continue along a clear track near the left-hand edge of the wood, later with a wire fence on your left. This leads you into a field with a group of houses (one of which is the pub) visible 200m ahead. Stay fairly close to the fence on your left as it curves gently round to the right, eventually coming out onto Alders Road to the right of these houses.
You will be returning to this spot and continuing on the footpath opposite, but to visit the lunch pub turn left. The Dovecote Inn is 75m away, on the left-hand side of the road.
Turn right out of the Dovecote Inn, then in 75m turn left onto a footpath heading north across a meadow. Make your way around Lydd Farm, then turn right off its driveway onto a footpath between fields. Later this bends left by a stream to come out onto the B2017 in Five Oak Green. Turn left and go along the main road for 250m to its junction with Sychem Lane.
Turn right out of the pub, retracing your steps if you took the main route. In 75m turn left through a side gate into a long narrow meadow and follow a faint grassy path near its left-hand edge. In the far left-hand corner go through a gate and continue on a fenced path along the left-hand edge of a field. At the end go over a stile and turn right as indicated to go along the edge of the field, initially heading E with a hedge on your left.
Follow the field edge as it curves round to the left. Ignore a track past a rusty fieldgate leading to some barns, continuing a little further to find an unobtrusive stile in the corner of the field. Go over this onto a narrow fenced path, which comes to an unsurfaced driveway by the entrance to a house on the right. Do not continue on the footpath opposite but turn left onto the driveway (which is also a public footpath).
In 100m bear left at a junction, joining the driveway to some other houses. Follow this round a right-hand bend, passing the picturesque Clock House9 on your left. At the bend there is a stile on the right.
You can save 250m by following the driveway out to Sychem Lane and turning right onto it (joining the direct route from Capel church in §6).
For the suggested route go over the stile onto a pleasant grassy strip between fields, heading NE. In 250m keep ahead at a path junction, going over a stile onto a fenced path along the left-hand edge of a field. At the end follow the path as it curves right into a belt of trees, then turns left to go between high garden fences and alongside a stream. The path leads to the B2017 in the village of Five Oak Green, by a bus stop (for the 205).
The Queen's Head pub is 150m off to the right along this road, but to continue the walk turn left. Go along the main road for 250m (crossing over at some point) to come to its junction with Sychem Lane, rejoining the short cut route.
Continue the directions at §7.
Head north on a lane from the church and take a footpath on the right to Sychem Lane. Turn left and follow the lane out to the B2017.
For the short cut, leave the churchyard on the main path going past the south side of the church (ie. turn left and left again when leaving the church). On the way out you pass an old yew tree with a notice about Thomas à Becket. Turn left onto Church Lane, heading N.
In 125m turn right onto a signposted footpath. Go up a short track and turn left into a large field. Follow a clear path which runs parallel to the lane for a short distance, then turns right to head E across the field. On the far side go out onto a minor road (Sychem Lane) and turn left. Now simply follow the lane for 500m to a T-junction with the B2017 on the outskirts of Five Oak Green.
Cross the B2017 and take the driveway opposite, a public footpath. Veer left around farm buildings to go under the railway and head north on clear paths across farm fields. In 1¼ km go across Hammer Dyke and continue on a broad track between new gravel pits, then across more fields and meadows to East Lock on the River Medway. Cross the river and take a track heading north, then a path across fields leading to a short residential street. Turn left onto Three Elm Lane in the village of Golden Green.
Take the driveway opposite Sychem Lane, signposted as a footpath and heading N. In 200m go through a metal fieldgate in front of the farm buildings and turn left onto a surfaced track. Follow this as it winds past some large barns and hoppers' huts10, soon veering right to go under the railway.
Stay on the track through a narrow field. At the end go through a fieldgate and continue in the same direction on a clear path through a field. On the far side cross a ditch on a concrete block and veer right briefly to continue along the edge of the next field, with a reed-filled ditch on your right. You now continue to head N for a further 750m, crossing occasional ditches along the way, always on a clear path.
Eventually your path merges with another coming in from the right and you cross Hammer Dyke on a wooden footbridge. Continue in the same direction on a broad grassy track between two flooded gravel pits. On the far side keep ahead across more fields and ditches for a further 300m, where you go through a metal kissing gate to East Lock on the River Medway.
Make you way across the river via the footbridges. On the far bank bear left past a pill box and take the broad track swinging right to head N again, away from the river. In 150m, where the track bends left, keep ahead on a path through the field. On the far side of the field go through a gap in the hedge and keep ahead across the corner of the next field towards a line of poplars, then continue alongside them.
In the far left-hand corner of the field go through a metal kissing gate. Continue along a short residential street to a T-junction and turn left onto Three Elm Lane. Follow this up to a junction in the centre of Golden Green, with a bus stop (for the 208) on the left and the Bell Inn opposite.
In the centre of the village turn right into Victoria Road. In 200m turn left onto a footpath heading west and then north-west. Veer right before Bourneside Farm, then turn left onto a footpath heading north towards Hadlow. Follow it round to the left and continue on a tarmac path going past the church. Turn right down Church Street into the centre of the village.
In front of the pub turn right into Victoria Road and follow this for 200m, out of the village. Just before a bridge over the River Bourne, turn left onto a footpath running alongside the river. For 100m this is quite narrow and potentially overgrown, but then a footbridge takes you across the river (with a clear view of Hadlow Tower ahead, 1¼ km away). Turn left to continue on a broad grassy path along the edge of a field, now with the tree-lined river on your left.
In 500m you come to a T-junction in front of a low wooden fence and turn right. In 75m follow the path round to the left to head NW along the edge of a field, with trees on your left. In 150m, shortly after the path starts to curve right at the field corner, veer left at a footpath marker onto a narrow path into the trees, which climbs gently and curves round to the right, becoming a broad earth path in a belt of trees.
If the first part of this path is too muddy or overgrown, an unofficial path about 50m further along (round the corner of the field) may provide an easier route.
On the broad path you soon come to a junction marked by a footpath post where you turn left. Go through a metal kissing gate and continue along the right-hand edge of a field, with the Tower ahead on your left, behind a line of trees. At the end of the field go through another kissing gate onto a short path through some trees and bear left onto a tarmac path. In 150m there is a permissive path off to the left, through a wooden kissing gate.
The path leads to the edge of Hadlow Castle grounds directly opposite the Tower in about 200m. If you are unable to visit the Tower this is about the closest you can get, although the view is still partially obscured by some large trees. If you take this detour, return the same way.
To continue the walk, follow the tarmac path past allotments and then round to the left into a short residential street. At a T-junction keep ahead on a signposted footpath, soon passing a churchyard on the left. At the end of this tarmac path a quick visit to St Mary's church11 is recommended; the Hoppers' Memorial is right at the back of the churchyard, in the opposite corner. A short walk along Church Street then brings you into a small parking area called The Square in the centre of Hadlow.
There are several appealing tea places nearby but some are unlikely to be open (see the Introduction). The Gingerbread Teashop is directly opposite and the Two Brewers pub is off to the right along the main road. The other places are on the route to Broadview Gardens (below).
Even if you are finishing the walk in Hadlow this short continuation is recommended. There are bus stops for Tonbridge near all the possible tea places.
Turn left and go along the A26, soon passing the visitor entrance to Hadlow Tower on the left. After crossing the River Bourne turn right into the grounds of Hadlow College. Broadview Gardens (and its tearoom) are on the left after 200m. Return to the A26, cross over the main road and turn right, in 100m coming to a stop for buses to Tonbridge.
To continue the walk, turn left onto the main road. In 100m there is an imposing gateway on the left, the visitor entrance to Hadlow Tower12.
This entrance arch is one of the few surviving parts of Hadlow Castle. Note that you are only allowed to enter this private estate when accompanied by one of the Tower stewards, on days when it is open to the public.
Further along the A26 you pass the Maltings13 on your right and another possible tea place on the left, Weathered and Worn. After crossing the River Bourne you can see the vehicle entrance to Hadlow College14 up ahead, although you can bear right onto a tarmac path cutting across its grounds. This joins the driveway coming up from the A26, after which you turn left into the car park for Broadview Gardens and its tearoom.
The entrance to the gardens is to the right of the Garden Centre. At the information panel you should be able to pick up a leaflet with a plan of the gardens, which shows a suggested short route through them. However, they are worth exploring more fully if you are not pressed for time.
After visiting the tearoom and/or the gardens go back through the car park, keeping to the right. Veer right onto a surfaced path running parallel to the driveway and follow this out to the A26. Cross over this busy main road with great care and turn right. In 100m you come to the Hadlow College stop for buses to Tonbridge, while the Circular Walk continues along the main road.
Continue past the bus stop for 100m, then turn left to head south on Blackman's Lane. Take the second footpath on the right to go across a large field and keep ahead at a crosspaths. Turn left at a large oast house conversion and head south to Three Elm Lane. Turn left onto the lane, then turn right onto the driveway to Hadlow Place Farm. Where this swings left, bear right and head south on footpaths across fields for just over 1 km to reach the River Medway.
To complete a Circular Walk back to Tonbridge, continue past the bus stop for a further 100m, then turn left into Blackman's Lane. Ignore the first footpath on the right (after 300m) but turn right at a second, 200m later and opposite the entrance to Bourneside Farm. This heads W on a broad grassy path, initially with a copse on the left and then between two large fields.
Go straight ahead at a path crossing after 400m to continue towards a large oast house conversion. Follow the path as it veers left and right around the house, then immediately turn left to head S on another broad grassy path. This curves slightly right, later going alongside a line of trees on the left, and comes out onto a road (Three Elm Lane).
Turn left to go along this road, taking care as there is no pavement. In 100m turn right into the driveway to Hadlow Place Farm. In 150m, where the farm drive swings round to the left, bear right through a gate to head S on a broad track on the left-hand edge of a large field, with trees on your left.
In 350m the main track swings right but you keep left, staying close to the trees. This takes you down a slope and round to the left, where you immediately turn right onto a well-defined path going straight across a large field, still heading S. Continue in much the same direction across four fields for 750m, crossing a stream on a concrete bridge halfway along. Eventually you come to a footpath post in front of the river and turn right onto the riverside path.
Head west on the Medway Valley Walk all the way to the A26 at Cannon Bridge. Turn left to go over the bridge, then turn right to retrace your outward route along the towpath to the High Street. Tonbridge station is 500m away to the left, but you could detour across the river for a wider choice of refreshment places.
You now simply follow the riverside path all the way back to Tonbridge, although you need to take care near the end.
In 800m you pass Eldridge's Lock. In another 700m you go under a low girder bridge carrying an access road to gravel pits on the far side of the river. You stay on the main path for a further 800m, at which point you need to fork left to stay close to the river (the right fork goes through a belt of trees into a playing field).
The path goes between the river and a high fence shielding an industrial estate for 400m, then comes out onto the A26 at Cannon Bridge. Cross over this busy main road at the traffic island and turn left. On the other side of the river turn right onto the towpath, retracing your outward route. After Town Lock you can reach the High Street either by continuing alongside the river or walking along Medway Wharf Road, to its left.
Tonbridge station is 500m away to the left along the High Street, which contains several bars and coffee shops. The Humphrey Bean is opposite Medway Wharf Road; Finch House Café & Bakery is 300m along the High Street, on the left. To reach the station go straight on at the roundabout, up the slope. The entrance is on the right at the top; trains to London generally leave from Platform 2 (down the steps on the 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 Gardens were created after World War II “in grateful memory of the men of this town who died in the service of their King and Country”.
- The impressive gatehouse of Tonbridge Castle was completed in 1260. An earlier motte and bailey castle was destroyed after a failed rebellion against William II. The site is now owned by the local council and the grounds are a public park.
- 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, despite claims that it was “the most irregular and worst constructed navigation in England” (it had no towpath along its length and barges had to be hauled by teams of men). Like all waterways it declined after the coming of the railways.
- The Medway Valley Walk runs alongside the river for 31 km, between Tonbridge and Rochester.
- Postern Lane led to the postern (ie. back door) of Tonbridge Castle in medieval times, and was one of the main approaches to the town. The grounds on the left after Postern Bridge were once the inner park of the castle (Postern Park) and some of the Georgian-style grand houses were built around much older properties.
- 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.
- The picturesque Clock House was built in the 19thC as a coach house with a summerhouse on top. It was converted into a dwelling in 1970.
- Hoppers' huts housed families from London in the hop-picking season. The work is now much less labour-intensive but some of these primitive dwellings are still in use.
- St Mary, Hadlow dates from the 11thC, with the tower being added in the 13thC. Its churchyard contains the elaborate Barton May family tomb and a monument to 30 hop-pickers who drowned in 1853 while trying to cross the flood-swollen River Medway at Hartlake Bridge.
- Hadlow Tower was badly damaged in the 1987 storm and the lantern had to be removed in 1996. A two-year restoration project (including replacement of the lantern) was completed in February 2013.
- Hadlow had several breweries until the mid-20thC. The Maltings were converted into flats in 1990.
- Hadlow College of Agriculture and Horticulture was established in 1968. It runs a wide variety of land-based training courses.
» Last updated: September 25, 2016