Tonbridge is a large market town and administrative centre within the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling in Kent. Situated on the River Medway, 29 miles south of London, the town is home to the prestigious independent Tonbridge School, set up in 1552. The town has a long history and many royal connections through Tonbridge Castle, built in the 11th century - its last royal owner, Henry VIII, took it from the Duke of Buckingham, who he had executed for treason.
The town has a lively centre with a wide range of high street names and independent traders, as well as many pubs and restaurants. Just 45 minutes by train to central London, Tonbridge is popular with commuters and 4.1m passengers passing through its railway station each year. The town is served by the A21 Hastings to London Road and the nearby M25.
The villages around Tonbridge are set in some of the most beautiful countryside in Kent and with good access and plenty to see and do, they are as popular as ever with those looking for a slice of Kentish village life.
Penshurst is a beautiful, unspoilt little village six miles west of Tonbridge in the Weald of Kent. At its heart lies the magnificent Penshurst Place. Built over 500 years ago and ancestral home to the Sidney family, it is the seat of the current Viscount de L'Isle. There's a busy village hall, an excellent primary school and a few shops. Penshurst is packed with timber-framed homes and Elizibethan red-brick grandeur, and boasts one of the world's oldest cricket pitches, still used by the local team. Its three pubs, together with the village tea rooms, provide options for visitors and residents to eat and relax from their walks in the beautiful Wealden countryside.
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Seven miles north of Tonbridge is the village of Ightham. Home to another fantastic medieval Kentish manor house called Ightham Mote, the village lies close to the main A25 road, with easy links to the M20 and M25 motorways. The busy village hall on Sevenoaks Road is a meeting place for many clubs and organisations, and the centre of the 1,500-strong community. Timber-framed Tudor homes lines its narrow streets, and it is a popular village for commuters to London, Tonbridge and Maidstone. The village has a primary school, the George and Dragon Inn, village shop and a number of small businesses.
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Mereworth village is situated in the Medway Valley, eight miles north east of Tonbridge just off the A228 road. Pronounced ‘merry worth', the village is home to one of the most ornate church spires in the county, and Mereworth Castle, a Palladian mansion built in the 1720s on the site of a 14th-century manor house. Protected by London's metropolitan Green Belt, new building in Mereworth is very rare, and The Street and narrow lanes of the village are lined with many listed buildings from centuries past. The village has a little school, village hall and the Queens Head pub in Butchers Lane. The local hop gardens have long given way to soft fruit growing orchards.
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A mile from Mereworth and nine miles from Tonbridge is the new village of Kings Hill. Built mainly on the site of the old RAF West Malling air field, the village has a range of new homes, two primary schools and amenities including a small shopping centre and large supermarket. A new hi-tech business park provides employment opportunities for many from across the region, while the golf course and sports clubs offer relaxation. Journey times to London Victoria from nearby West Malling are 57 minutes by train, and the village is close to the M20 and M26 motorways.
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Tudeley, Capel and Five Oak Green
This group of three villages in the parish of Tudeley-cum-Capel lie between three and five miles from Tonbridge. Once the centre of the Kentish hop industry, the area boasts some of the most attractive wooded countryside in Kent. Thousands of varieties of fungi, orchids and other flowers grow among the carpet of bluebells that fills the ancient woods and heathlands of Tudeley Wood each spring and summer. The villages share a post office at Capel, and the village stores and Queens Head pub serve the residents of the new housing estates in Five Oak Green.
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Golden Green is a small village four miles east of Tonbridge, off the A26. With a population of around 350 living in a mix of traditional properties and newer homes,, the village is surrounded by farmland and fruit orchards. The village has no shops but Sunday lunch at The Bell Inn pub is popular with villagers and residents of nearby hamlet of Barnes Street.
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Two miles north of Tonbridge is the village of Hildenborough. Set on the B245 Tonbridge Road, the village developed in the early 1700s around the turnpike, the first in Kent, and the coaching inns built to meet the needs of those travelling from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge. Two of the coaching inns, the Hilden Manor and Half Moon, remain open today. Since 2008, a weekly farmers' market in the centre of the village has grown in popularity. The village has a busy village hall, primary school and London Cannon Street is just 40 minutes from Hildenborough railway station, making the village popular with commuters.
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One of the prettiest and most sought-after villages near Tonbridge is Leigh, pronounced ‘lie'. This quintessential Kentish village has a village cricket green, tiny primary school, church and traditional brick and timber-framed houses. The Plough at Leigh pub is a traditional country inn combined with an excellent restaurant and wedding venue. An hour from Charing Cross by rail from Leigh Station and just three miles from Tonbridge, the village offers everything for its 1,200 residents from allotments, badminton and bowls to youth groups and the traditional game of stoolball.
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Shipbourne is a village located midway between Tonbridge and Ightham in the wooded, rolling Kent countryside, and part of the Green Belt. With a population of around 400, the village is mainly residential, with farming being the only real industry. At the centre of the village is a large green, known locally as The Common, and there is a pub, church of St Giles, village hall and village school. The award-winning thriving weekly farmers' market is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors, and offers a variety of locally sourced produce.
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