You can’t beat a family walk in the gorgeous countryside. Here are over 30 top walks for families in Kent and East Sussex, many of which we have done over the last few years and a few which we are hoping to do over the coming months.
If you are reading this blog post during the coronavirus outbreak and do decide to go to any of these places, please do follow these guidelines. I should also mention that some of these walks are likely to be busy over the coming weeks. If you do come across a busy carpark, you are probably better off to choose an alternative walk. Plenty of these are near each other…Oooh and at some of these sites, the playgrounds and cafes (if there are any) are likely to be closed at the moment. Check the website (if there is one) before visiting. Hope this helps!
♥ Bedgebury – A favourite of ours as there are so many different play areas and places for the kids to discover as well as lots of different walking routes. Or try out one of the cycle paths too! View entry prices here. The car park is currently open, but many other facilities, including the cafe, bike hire and some toilets, remain closed (May 2020).
♥ Birchden Wood / Harrison Rocks – Just outside Groombridge, this is extremely buggy friendly with lovely wooden creatures scattered throughout the forest including a snake and a very large acorn along with some little outdoor dens hidden throughout the woods. There is a fee for parking which can be viewed here.
♥ Bewl Water – We have had many’s a family walk or bike ride at Bewl Water over the years! The 12 ½ mile scenic route is open to walkers and cyclists all year round and follows a collection of forest paths, country lanes and all-weather surfaces. There’s a big grassy area, playground and pirate ship too. At the time of writing this, the play areas are closed. Entry is £5…
♥ Bexhill – If you you, like visiting the seaside, why not spend an afternoon in Bexhill? After a walk, scoot or cycle along the promenade, you could enjoy some takeaway fish and chips on the beach!! We normally park along the road running parallel to the promenade (and it’s free!).
♥ Broadwater Warren – Just off Broadwater Forest Lane, Broadwater Warren is a beautiful place to visit on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. There’s something very peaceful about the warren and the RSPB is making great progress with restoring it since they took over in 2007. The trail takes about two hours, though we usually just do part of it when we go. There’s an onsite carpark which is free! Look out for the wild ponies and try to visit Decoy Pond (pictured) – there are maps along the way and at the entrance. One of the more unique walks for families in Kent
♥ Camber Sands – It’s all about the beach at Camber with steep sand dunes and the most beautiful golden sand. Wrap up and have a picnic in the dunes! Though please note, it is apparently incredibly busy there at the moment. We have been avoiding it and have gone to other beaches in Kent and East Sussex which you can read about. If you do choose to go to Camber, you could also combine your trip with a visit to Rye Harbour nature reserve (though apparently the carpark, toilets and info hut are closed at the moment) – a stunning coastal habitat with changing coastline and military history.
♥ Chartwell – The gardens at Chartwell are now open. You’ll need to book your tickets by 3pm the day before your visit. Visit the two-storey treehouse, which is roughly a 30-minute walk from the house (if you have a baby put them in a carrier!). Also, within the 80 acres of grounds are giant swings, den-building, a Canadian camp, looped trails, natural play areas and Donkey Jack’s Caravan. There are ideal picnic spots by the lake and in the meadow. (Note – the play areas and treehouse may not be accessible at the moment. We will double check and update).
♥ Cinderhill Woods – If you fancy a welly walk, consider heading over to Cinderhill Woods near Matfield. The 12 hectares has lots of lovely trails to explore through woodland, heathlands, grasslands and streams. There are some lovely views to enjoy across the heath and don’t miss the big wooden ‘slithery snake’ a few minutes’ walk from the car park. If you can avoid taking a buggy, it’s best as the trails are narrow in places and quite muddy.
♥ Cobtree Manor Park – Set on over 50 acres of parkland on the site of the old Maidstone Zoo, the park has a themed play area, a sculpture trail and lots of space for picnics.
♥ Dene Park – a large mixed woodland with an array of pathways from which to explore the variety of deciduous trees and conifers and enjoy glimpses into the surrounding countryside. We visited it recently! Parking is free and there’s a little river to discover too.
Looking for somewhere to have a coffee along the way???? Here are 15+ Independent Cafes around Tunbridge Wells open for takeaway now!!!
More of our top walks for families in Kent and East Sussex…
♥ Eastbourne & Holywell Beach – Parking is free in and around Eastbourne College (though double check the signs as this may vary) and it’s a nice stroll down to the promenade. Enjoy a walk in either direction – towards Holywell Beach or towards Eastbourne Pier. Enjoy an ice cream and maybe some fish and chips too?
♥ Forest Way – Explore the disused railway ‘Forest Way‘, a 10 mile stretch ideal for cycling (as well as walking and horse riding) between Groombridge and East Grinstead. We have parked up just outside Groombridge and joined the trail there (you can read about exactly where in this Facebook thread) and have also parked at the old train station in Hartfield. As it is quite flat, it’s buggy friendly too.
♥ Friezland Wood near High Rocks have come recommended too. There are some logs to climb on and rocks (big and small) plus a little stream for the kids to go paddling in.
♥ Hargate Forest – There are two walks to take at the beautiful Hargate Forest in Broadwater Down. The entrance can be found at TN2 5PE which is the postcode for a property opposite the site entrance. The green walk is one mile long and take approximately 30 minutes to walk.
♥ Haysden Country Park – The great thing about Haysden Country Park is that it has a bit of everything – a fun playground, a cafe (with outdoor seating only), a big lake with pedestrian and cycle path and a forest. Parking is £1.20 for up to 4 hours. At the time of writing this, the cafe and public toilets are open (June 2020). This has been one of our long-term favourite walks for families in Kent…
♥ We only recently discovered Hurst Woods which is an absolutely gorgeous forest walk in Tunbridge Wells with a stream, abundance of bluebells (during the right season) and a circular route. There are two ways of entering the woods. We entered via Reynolds Lane (where there’s a sharp turn halfway down Reynold’s Lane, up towards a farm). Follow the path towards the farm and then veer off to the left when you get to the farmhouse. Once you reach the kissing gate you can follow a circular route by taking the left fork, which takes you along the stream and the little bridges. You’ll then get to a natural end in the path and have to take a right up the little steepish hill. Then turn right at the top, walk for 15 minutes and the path brings you back to the original kissing gate, where you started! You can also enter the forest via Coniston Avenue too (which seems to be most common way of doing it).
♥ Ightham Mote – Ightham Mote is open from 15th June – pre-booked tickets only, via the website. A great choice for the whole family to enjoy the fresh air at this medieval moated manor house near Sevenoaks. The highlight for us is always the novelty of the stream set within the natural play area, so pack wellies and spare clothes as they are bound to want to paddle or build dams! Here you will also find balance beams, chimes, dens, steppingstones etc. The house, garden, café and shop are now closed. However, the estate will remain open for you to enjoy, while observing social distancing measures.
♥ Kingdom in Penshurst has a short circular route which is great for parents with little ones. Kingdom is now open Friday to Sunday each week, serving delicious food between 10am-3pm from their gorgeous Mother Truck. Card payments only. If you haven’t been to Kingdom – you must visit!
♥ Knole – Another favourite of mine, the magnificent parkland estate surrounding the house is idyllic for picnics, playing games, little bikes and scooter and you’d be unlucky not to spot the resident herd of wild deer. The house, courtyards, Brewhouse Café, shops, car park & toilets are now closed. However, the parkland remains open for pedestrians to enjoy, while observing social distancing measures. It seems like this is one one of the most popular walks for families in Kent at the moment!
♥ Leybourne Lakes Country Park – This park, near Snodland (ME20 6AA), is set over 230 acres, and is designated as a Local Wildlife Site as well as being a Green Flag Award winning park. The play area, toilets and car parks are currently closed.
♥ Limpsfield Common – go for a stroll, fly a kite or just relax and unwind under the magnificent beech trees at Limpsfield Common – there’s plenty to see and do for all the family. Look out for the Peter Rabbit Houses in the woods at Ridlands Grove!
♥ Lullingstone Country Park – As well as a playground at Lullingstone Country Park, there’s also a lovely stream nearby to go paddling in as well as lots of fields and woodland to explore. There’s a small fee for parking – more info here. At the time of writing this (May 2020) the toilets and carpark are open though the cafe and visitors centre remain closed.
If you are looking for some activities to do at home with the kids, here are 30 things to do at home with the kids during lockdown!
♥ Pooh Sticks Bridge – I‘m still surprised at how near the Ashdown Forest and Winnie-the-Pooh land is to us! Pooh Sticks Bridge can be found just beyond the village of Hartfield. This is a lovely family day out and a nice way of nurturing an interest in books too. Read more about our visit to Pooh Sticks Bridge here. And please look after your belongings if you park at the official carpark there. I have been advised that someone recently had a bag stolen from their car so don’t leave anything on view!
What are your favourite walks for families in Kent and East Sussex?
♥ Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve – The Visitors Centre is currently closed and the carpark too – the centre is accessible for pedestrians only. A pioneering nature reserve which includes five lakes and a mixed habitat of ponds, seasonal flooded pools, reedbed and woodlands. There isn’t a charge for entry though donations are welcome.
♥ Sherwood Lake has come recommended too. Families have been exploring the woods around this lovely lake which has been hailed as a hidden gem. Read more about it on the Kent High Weald Partnership site.
♥ Shorne Woods Country Park – The car park and toliets have re-opened. Recommended as one of the walks for families in Kent that we must do this summer, Shorne Woods near Gravesend (DA12 3HX) sounds like a super place to visit for a family day out. Check out the sensory garden, orienteering, fishing lakes, a trim trail and picnic and play areas as well as 292 acres of rolling woodlands, wetlands and meadows that can be explored through a variety of waymarked trails.
♥ Southborough Common was always lovely but it has really come into its own this season. A big section of the forest behind Woodlands Day Nursery has been cleared and there’s a whole load of dens for the children to duck in and out of if you veer off to the left. There are various rope swings dotted around too and a small river running along the bottom too. If you are feeling adventurous, walk up towards Bidborough’s Bomb Crater Field through Witches Hollow. There’s a circular walk you can do too which is outlined on this leaflet.
♥ Another one of our favourite walks for families in Kent – the Southborough Viaduct walk is an absolute gem and another one that we have discovered during lockdown. There are several ways of doing it but this route is probably my favourite and has superb directions. Starting from Pennington Park carpark, you can do a circular walk that took us around 2 hours (with a 1,5 and 8 year old). Other people may do it quicker! It takes you through forests, fields, across bridges and streams and of course a pitstop at the infamous viaduct which the train passes over on the way into High Brooms.
♥ Explore a host of wildlife along The Cuckoo Trail, a 14 mile surfaced path through the Sussex countryside that is traffic free (although there are a few roads to cross over on the way) and a safe route for walkers and cyclists of all ages. The Cuckoo Trail forms part of the National Cycle Network – route 21. It’s buggy friendly too!
♥ The Hollies – In an absolutely stunning location at the Ashdown Forest, enjoy rolling fields, beautiful views and animals (sheep and cows mainly) wandering around in their natural habitat. I imagine it must be fairly muddy there at the moment, so make sure you wear your wellies and sensible clothing and maybe leave the buggy at home! You can do the walk in a loop which takes approx an hour and there’s a WWII memorial (know at the Airman’s Grave) halfway along the walk, as well as a stream and lots of cow-pats which my boys enjoyed spotting! Here’s a link to more details. There’s a free carpark there too (called The Hollies) which can be accessed via Crowborough Road, postcode TN22 3HU.
♥ Tudor Cycle Trail – Journey to picturesque Penshurst from Tonbridge castle along the Tudor Cycle Trail which is mostly off road. We usually park up at Tonbridge Swimming Pool (parking is free on Sundays) and cycle out to Haysden Country Park where we then have a little break, maybe play in the playground and the wooded area which has natural ramps for bikers. We haven’t yet continued on to Penshurst as it is quite hilly for the kids but it is a lovely scenic route so if you are a family of strong cyclers – give it a go!
♥ Tunbridge Wells Common – actually a lot bigger than I first thought, with plenty of paths and routes for walkers. Enjoy clambering on Wellington Rocks overlooking the cricket ground and discover something new on your doorstep! Being in Tunbridge Wells, surely this one of the most wonderful walks for families in Kent?
♥ Wakehurst – The gardens are currently open for a limited number of people who will need to book online beforehand. A botanical garden containing the world’s largest seed conservation project and well worth a visit! Entry to Wakehurst, including car parking, will be free of charge until further notice so you can continue to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the wild botanic garden during this social distancing period. The buildings will be closed. See here for full details about the closures & latest guidance.
♥ We visited Walshes Park in Crowborough for the first time recently and what a find it was! The park is a mix of boardwalk, slightly bumpy tracks and fields with a stream along the way. Lovely for a socially distanced picnic and very few people there when we visited… Bikes are apparently allowed for children (not adults) and we parked at Alderbrook Way. Please note that Alderbrook Way is a residential street so considerate parking is a must. Also don’t use your sat nav to get to the address online for Walshes Park as it leads you down a country lane to a building site.
♥ Wilderness Wood – Located in Hadlow Down, Wilderness Wood is currently open for walks however the cafe is closed and activities are not currently taking place. Check the website for updates. Donations are very welcome – visitors are encouraged to pay £3.00 per person or £10.00 for a family to help fund this fantastic facility! Wilderness Wood is such a lovely place which we wrote about here.