As a parent I am always looking for family friendly walks and outings. Especially over the Lockdown year of 2020 when most entertainment for children was closed. Over the last decade of parenthood, I have explored a great number of the wonderful places Kent and East Sussex has to offer families; and I thought I would share some of my favourite places with you.
I’d love to hear your favourite family friendly walks in and around Kent and East Sussex. Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page.
Grosvenor & Hilbert Park
This is a very popular park and boasts a number of great features for a town centre area. There is a fabulous playground with a cycle track for young cyclists and scooter-ists. For slightly bigger kids a skate park offers hours of trick practising. A basketball/tarmac play area is popular for impromptu team football. A large duck pond is a great place to spot wildlife and the Table 8 Cafe is extremely popular. We’re big fans of the woodland trail, football pitches, and orchard and there are plenty of benches for sitting on to watch the kids play.
A stroll around the perimeter of the whole park with kids is just about long enough to make you feel like you’ve had some exercise without the kids starting to moan. In the summer, exploring the stream in the woodland can fill up a good couple of hours in my experience!!!
There is no specific car park, but there is free parking on the residential streets which surround the park on Dorking Road and Auckland Road.
Find out more here.
Tunbridge Wells Common
Located on the West side of Tunbridge Wells, Wellington Rocks on the edge of The Common is a wonderfu unusal town centre spot. These are great for the kids to climb and explore. Once they tire of that, you can meander towards The Pantiles down tree lined avenues to ponder one of the many eateries at the bottom of town. Great for buggies as there are plenty of concrete paths leading to the common from the town.
Find out more here.
One of my all time favourite places to take the kids and one of the most family friendly walks you can do. Almost in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, there are two free car parks, formal gardens, a boating lake, a buggy friendly circular walk, an adventure playground, wider grassland. If that isn’t enough, there is a cafe serving delicious hot chocolates in winter and sumptuous ice creams in summer!
A concrete path runs around the lake and from one side of the park to the other. In winter, near the lake, the path can get water logged and you will need sturdy shoes. From October to March the wonderful adventure playground is a quagmire underfoot, so wellies are essential! In the summer the ground dries out and is perfect for picnics either in the shade or out in the sunshine.
See the Visit Tunbridge Wells site for more information and directions.
Not the most obvious destination for a wander, but really convenient for residents on the northern edge of Tunbridge Wells. You can park in the Church car park, or on the side of the road on Victoria Road and if you delve further into and beyond the Common itself you can find various rights of way through the woods along Victoria Road and towards Southborough Cemetary (which is hidden a good distance behind St. Peter’s Church).
You can find information and directions here.
Managed by the Woodland Trust, Hargate is a lovely option on the very edge of Tunbridge Wells. With plenty of free, on-street parking on Broadwater Down there are two entrances leading into the forest. Once in, you will find a mixture of pine tree walks along well designated paths, as well as more open grassland paths with stunning views towards the South Downs. Relatively buggy friendly in summer, you might prefer an off-roading buggy during winter. However, for walking kids of all ages, there are trees to climb, dens to explore and lots of lovely picnic spots.
Find more info here.
Tudeley Woods is managed by the RSPB and a designated bird reserve. It’s not suitable for buggies at any time of year. However, walking children and adults alike will love the circular walk from the car park. In the woodland you might spot a woodpecker or a mouse, and in the meadow area you might just spy a grass snake or darting dragonflies. In the spring there is a wonderful carpet of bluebells too! The car park is generally closed (in my experience), but there is room on the road for a few cars. Busier at weekends with dog walkers, a weekday trip is ideal.
Find out more here.
Looked after by the RSPB, this is one of my favourite places to return to time and again. Broadwater Warren is a fabulous nature reserve offering both easily accessible toddler friendly walks, as well as longer trails suitable for older children. There are circular routes which take you from and to the free car park. Or you can head off-path and explore! In the winter it can get EXTREMELY muddy so be prepared for filthy children by the time you get back to your car! But in the height of summer it’s possible to walk the circular route in flipflops, and with an all-terrain buggy you can get round!
Visit the RSPB website for more information.
These woods house Harrisons Rocks which are popular with climbers. The rocks have very sheer edges so keep younger children on the path and away from edges! Adventurous older children will love to explore the rocks.
However, my favourite part of this walk is not the rocks. Instead, from the car park, head west away from the woodland. The path comes out into open fields and turns left to follow the railway line of the Spa Valley Railway. Keep walking for a couple of hundred meters and the trees give way to a big open field perfect for summer picnics. At the right time of year, you can wave to the steam trains as they go chugging past! In winter, it is VERY boggy so wellies are a must.
There is a charge for the car park.
You can find directions and further information here.
Haysden Country Park
Between Tonbridge & Tunbridge Wells lies Haysden Country Park. Around 160 acres of park and nature trails, this has an abundance of family friendly walks. There is a buggy friendly circular path around Barden lake which is great for little bikes and scooters too. There are plenty of wooden jetties so feeding the ducks and swans is a must! Next to the car park is a popular cafe with outdoor seating. However, the winner is the playground which is great for kids up to about 10 years old.
If you want to wander further, there are much longer walks West from the car park towards Haysden Water where there is a busy sailing club (I have not explored this!) and along the side of the River Medway.
There is a charge for the car park.
Find out more here.
My family and I have spent many, many a long winter and summer afternoon at Bedgbury. We LOVE it! Parking is £14 per car (at peak times (price valid March 2021) no matter how many people you bring – or you can purchase annual membership which is very good value in my opinion!). On offer you have bike trails, Go Ape and a formal garden nature trail (often themed around a children’s story book). However, the piece de resistance is a 2km PLAY TRAIL suitable for pretty much all ages. Near the car park there is a visitor centre with toilets and restaurant. There is also a stall selling teas, coffees and snack by the start of the play trail.
If it rains there is plenty of tree cover, and during those (fleeting) boiling hot summer days, cool can be sought in the shade of the trees the Pinetum is famous for. An absolute must!
Directions and information is here.
Just on the edge of Matfield, this little known walk is a great find. With plenty of trees to climb and the odd wooden sculpture, it’s quiet and – especially in autumn – really beautiful. It has a shorter circular walk than some of the other places I’ve suggested here which is great for little legs! Muddy in winter and with some smaller paths, it’s not suitable for buggies, but great for toddlers with lots to explore.
For directions and to find out more, click here.
This is a little gem that a client introduced me to. Not far from Mark Cross there isn’t a much of a car park, but rather a pull in space that can hold 3 – 4 cars. The wood is privately owned but there is public right of way. In Spring, you can meander through the bluebells down to the stream at the bottom of the hill, passing fields of curious cows munching on buttercups!
Find out more here.
Do you have a child who is into princesses or knights? Even if you don’t this is a lovely walk with the added bonus of an impressive hill top tower! We visited in winter when snow hadn’t quite melted away which made it even more magical! There are plenty of tree climbing opportunities and a nice and gentle circular route to follow around the hill. Park in the layby on the Tunbridge Wells Road – the A267, just north of Nap Wood – which can hold a dozen cars or so and you’ll see the path leading up the hill from there.
‘Forest’ is a bit of a misnomer because it’s predominantly heath land with a few wooded bits thrown in for good measure! However, it is completely wonderful and offers a wealth of walks, views and picnic spots. It covers an area of 6500 acres and has countless car parks with easy access to wildlife and fresh air. I haven’t yet found an area that would be good for buggies as generally there are no gravelled paths. But for walking toddlers upwards there are so many options for exploration and fun!
Find out more here.
One specific Ashdown Forest walk my family and I have done is Chelwood Vachery. I did for the first time with my 5 and 8 year olds – I wouldn’t have wanted to do the walk with kids much younger than 5! It’s just shy of a 5km circuit and I found I needed the map and instructions to follow as there are no clearly defined way markers to follow.
Park in the free Long Car Park on the A22. From there follow the directions (on the downloadable map – link below) across open heathland, into the wooded area of the Forest Garden and (now disused) bathing lakes. There are lots of lovely opportunities for exploring or pausing for snacks.
Click here for a downloadable map.
One of the area’s great National Trust properties, Knole Park in Sevenoaks boasts over 1000 acres of park land. It offers fabulous picnicking opportunities and lovely walks. Knole is well known for its’ wild deer and you’d be unlucky not to have a close encounter with a bambi or two!
* Be careful in rutting season and keep your distance *
If you don’t have NT membership there is a small car park fee, but you can park outside the site and walk in via one of the many public pedestrian entrances located around the perimeter of the park. There are plenty of buggy friendly walks and many more ‘off-road’ opportunities too. In the summer there are beautiful pink foxgloves littered across the park adding to the gorgeous scenery.
For everything you’d ever need to know about Knole click here.
Lullingstone Country Park
With no traffic, Lullingstone is about a 40 minute drive from Tunbridge Wells. The car park holds 100 cars and there is a charge. From the car park, a wide (wildflower meadow in summer) open hillside leads up to woodland famous for it’s ancient trees. There are ample picnicking opportunities and various walks – a 1.5 mile discovery trail (with a a cradle swing and zip wire), a 2 mile woodland walk as well as a 4 mile loop around the park taking in a roman villa and Lullingstone Castle. In the height of summer you can delight in the beautiful lavender fields of Castle Farm adjacent to the country park.
Find out everything you need to know here.
Find out about my 2021 Lavender Mini sessions here.
White Horse Wood Country Park
Around a 45 minute drive from Tunbridge Wells, White Horse Wood Country Park offers amazing views over the Kent Downs. The car park is located off the southbound side of the A249 at Detling Hill and there is a small charge for all day parking. Walk up the hill following the path to explore the ruins of Turnham Castle. Plenty of opportunities for picnicking, rolling down hills, cartwheeling and generally getting lots of lovely fresh air!
Find all the info here.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
I love the seaside so any excuse to head to the coast works for me! But on days when it’s not sunbathing weather and you feel like a good long walk to stretch your legs, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is just the place. About an hour from Tunbridge Wells, there is a large free car park at the end of Harbour Road and from there you can walk into the reserve. The paths are nice and flat and paved, so if you have young scooters or cyclists it’s a great, safe place for them to roam free (however, it’s not a place for adults or older kids to go cycling generally).
Keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of different birds and wildlife on the reserve (there are a number of hides you can pop into as well), and on one of our visits, we were thrilled to spot a seal in the River Rother. There are circular routes of varying length depending on the sturdiness of your little ones’ legs – or you can just pop down to the shingle beach and watch the waves crashing onto the shore!
Find out all you need to know here.