10 good reasons to visit Tonbridge

PUBLISHED: 21:06 21 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:35 20 February 2013

10 good reasons to visit Tonbridge

10 good reasons to visit Tonbridge

It's festival time at this pretty market town with an exceptional range of leisure facilities, including its much-loved sportsground and outdoor swimming pool

10 good reasons to visit Tonbridge

Its festival time at this pretty market town with an exceptional range of leisure facilities, including its much-loved sportsground and outdoor swimming pool

1 Music and picnics

New this year, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council is partnering with Opera Brava to bring three nights of classical productions to Tonbridge Castle on 7, 8 and 9 July. Each performance will be in full costume involving professional singers from English National Opera and Covent Garden and audiences will be able to enjoy a picnic on the lawn during the event with tables and chairs. On 7 July there will be a young people's performance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, on 8 July its the turn of Mozart's The Magic Flute with the Chamber Ensemble and on 9 July you can enjoy a candlelit gala concert with the Chamber Ensemble, plus spectacular closing fireworks 01444 443000 or 01732 770929.

2 Ancient stones

Reputedly Englands finest example of a motte and bailey castle with a remarkably complete 13th-century gatehouse, Tonbridge Castle is set in landscaped gardens overlooking the River Medway. Visitors can see how the castle was defended, join the guards for supper, visit the armourers stores and imagine what it was like to be a lord or lady at Tonbridge Castle more than 900 years ago. Interactive displays and life-size figures plus audio tours available 01732 770929. Dont miss local resident Shaun Jefferys fascinating Tonbridge Collectables display in the basement, a collection of Tonbridge memorabilia he has been adding to for more than 25 years, including a Neolithic flint axe head and equipment used by four generations of his own family to stitch the cricket balls for which Tonbridge was once famous tonbridgecollectable@googlemail.com. The castle grounds are a popular venue for ftes, open-air concerts and performances.

3 To market, to market

Tonbridge has been a market town since the Earl of Gloucester was granted the right to hold a weekly market in 1259 but for many years has been without its own Farmers Market. The good news is that a brand new Farmers Market opened in Tonbridge on 12 June with more than 50 stalls and will continue to be held on the second Sunday of every month in the Sovereign Way long-stay car park between Waitrose and Sainsburys, from 9.30am-1.30pm. Every month the market will also be looking to give a free pitch to a local charity or organisation steve@tonbridgefarmersmarket.co.uk or 07876 685853. The next market is Sunday 10 July. The new Farmers Market is in addition to the existing general market with many stalls, including clothes, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat produce, held in the station car park on Saturdays.

4 Tonbridge Racecourse Sportsground

If you havent visited the Tonbridge Racecourse Sportsground yet or just havent been for a while, then you wont know about all the new things to do and improved facilities at the 69-acre site just behind the High Street, near the castle and swimming pool. The play area has new equipment, including multi-play units and sand play equipment; while a new concrete skate park provides a low-level ramp street-course style park. Other facilities range from a ball court, added a year ago, which features football goals and basketball hoops, to a shelter near the ball court and skate park that gives younger people a place to sit in the shade when its sunny or to get away from the rain. An outdoor gym is popular with all age groups, theres a new nine-hole crazy golf course and for budding stars of Wimbledon, the tennis courts were refurbished last year with new fencing, nets and surfacing and are available for hire at the games kiosk April-September. Lessons for adults and children are being run by the John Heuerman Tennis Academy, 01959 523377.

5 Keep your cool

Theres nothing finer on a hot summers day than taking a boat out on the river for a leisurely punt on the Medway and in Tonbridge you can now do just that from Big Bridge. Call Tonbridge Castle Rowing Boats Boat Hire 01732 360630. But if you prefer full immersion, then head for Tonbridge Swimming Pool (01732 367449) where the heated outdoor pool is open from April until September and has space for sunbathing too.

6 Space for quiet and contemplation

Built in 1952, the Tonbridge Memorial Garden is a public space of quiet and contemplation for all in the heart of the town, as well as the site for the Remembrance Sunday Services organised by the local Royal British Legion. A Memorial Garden Trust has been set up to oversee improvements to the Garden, which will include extra paved areas for people to stand, repair to the Memorial as well as new seating and interpretation panels. The Trust, which aims to complete the project by autumn 2012, has launched a campaign to raise the necessary funds, with a target of 250,000. For further information or to make a donation, contact Rachel Lucas, vice-chairman and administrator to the Trust 07910 205422 or rachel.lucas@btinternet.com.

7 A country day out

Haysden Country Park has been a Green Flag Award-winning park since 2006, was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2008 and is now also a Natural England accredited country park. A great asset to the town (follow the country park signs to the west of Tonbridge, the park is off Lower Haysden Lane, satnav postcode TN11 9BE), it includes Barden and Haysden Lakes and a stretch of the Medway within its boundary. About 165 acres in total, youll find a rich variety of wildlife here, including waterfowl, and it is much loved by walkers, joggers, dog owners, fishermen and families with a surfaced path around Barden Lake that allows easy access for all, and a popular childrens play area. If you enjoy a family bike ride, then the Tonbridge to Penshurst cycle route starts in the Sportsground and leads you through Haysden Country Park into the countryside beyond. Keen walkers can do the same route. Copies of the free Haysden Country Park Nature and Historical Trail leaflets are available at the park or from Tonbridge Castle Customer Services 01732 876322. Tonbridge Town Sailing Club uses Haysden Water for small boat sailing: for details about club membership 01732 354841.

8 In Austen family footsteps

Fans of Jane Austen, who has many links with Tonbridge (her father George was born here and baptised in the parish church) will be delighted at the addition of a new town walk starting and finishing at the Castle: In Austen Family Foosteps is a more detailed and complementary walk to the existing Jane Austen Literary Walk and is led by Vivian Branson on Thursdays at 10:30am (Tonbridge Castle 01732 770929 to book, 4 per person). Visit Tonbridge Library in Avebury Avenue ( 01732 352754) to hire a MP3 player loaded with the audio guide of the circular literary walk, narrated by local actor Louise Jameson. Places of interest on the route include the home of Janes grandfather, William Austen (174 High Street), Chauntlers (Janes great-grandmother lived here before her marriage to John Austen; its now divided into two houses) and Tonbridge School, where George Austen and his cousin Henry were educated.

9 Theatre and ballet

Tonbridge is not only home to one of the leading boys' boarding schools in the country, but its E M Forster Theatre at Tonbridge School has enriched the lives of the whole community since its opening 11 years ago. Look out for Our Countrys Good on 29 June and 1 July, while next month The National Youth Ballet of Great Britain is performing the premiere of Ballet Chocolat on 25-27 August ( 01732 304241). At The Oast Theatre (01732 363849) a major public production is presented every month except August and September. From 15-31 July the Oast is getting together with Lewes Theatre Club and the Archway Theatre in Horley to produce all of Noel Cowards collection of 10 one-act plays under the title Tonight at 8.30 the only time this has been done since they were first seen in 1936.

10 Top quality of life

Its official - Tonbridge and Malling is one of the best places to live in rural Britain, according to the Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey, which puts the borough in tenth place. The survey ranks 50 Rural Local Authority Districts in Great Britain for their quality of life, based on analysis carried out in 2010 on residents' health, life expectancy, employment, school performance and regional climate. Add to that its excellent rail connections into London and the rest of Kent and great surrounding countryside, and you see why Tonbridge scored so highly.

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