Garden of England, Kent

Garden of England, Kent

by Mike Bartlett

February Half Term

Put a spring in your step this half term - never before have we felt so grateful for the wealth of outdoor spaces, breath-taking views, sumptuous gardens and historic grounds here in Tunbridge Wells.

You may not be able to make a long journey to Kent this February half term, so instead sit back and enjoy some inspiration for when we can welcome you back safely.

For those local to the area, here are some great ideas for getting out for that all important daily exercise with your family…and some other activities for rainy days in!

10 fun free things to do in the fresh air

There is ample space to cycle, picnic, walk, run, throw a ball, play hide & seek…the list goes on.

We guarantee all these ideas are in stunning locations to get away from it all and relax the mind whilst improving your physical health too.

Think ruddy cheeks and a lungful of fresh air!

  1. The Commons - 104 hectares of free wide open green spaces right in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. If you can keep quiet, you may spot some wildlife. Whilst there you can visit the Rocks - giant, ancient, unusual rock formations, free to clamber over and explore - ideal for active imaginations: a moonscape, an epic canyon, hiding from trolls, finding fairies, there's no limits to the adventures.  Quite a sight to behold near a town centre!
  2. Tales of Tunbridge Wells – download the free audio trail of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Feed your curiosity as you hear about the colourful history of this beautiful spa town whilst taking a pleasant (and socially distanced) stroll through the centre. Alternatively you can listen to it from the comfort of your own home on a rainy day!
  3. Calverley Grounds - pretty landscaping, paths, gardens, café, small adventure playground and a lovely little knoll to roll down!
  4. Local woodlands and nature reserves - Wander the woodlands and turn a walk into an exciting adventure. While the trees are without their leaves it is the perfect opportunity to see the woodland birds as they flit amongst the foliage.  Challenge the children to discover how many different sounds they can hear or how many different birds they can spot on the way. Look out for Robins, Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Wrens one of the smallest of birds with the loudest of voices!
  5. Dunorlan Park – A park with so many accolades and its own tree trail! Children can try to identify the Scots Pine, the Weeping Willow, the Japanese Maple tree, the Oak tree, and the Copper Beech. There are 18 trees on the trail – can you find them all? Walk (or scoot) around the lake and takeaway a bite to eat from the café.
  6. There are 5 world famous National Trust properties close to Tunbridge Wells and all of them are doggy friendly. Pick your closest one and enjoy the myriad of paths to walk round which are free, naturally you can adapt the walk to suit the length of your legs!
  7. Another option for little legs is the parent and toddler walks outlined on the Kent and High Weald Partnership web site.
  8. Pepenbury Woodland is in a beautiful location, is a 10 minute drive from the town centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells and can be admired at any time of year.  Free to wander through (donations to Aspens charity for autism and learning disabilities gratefully received).
  9. Bewl Water country park near Lamberhurst is a great space to watch the kids discharge some energy. Hot food and hot drink can be enjoyed as takeaways from the café overlooking the massive reservoir. Parking only £3 per car all day long.
  10. Grosvenor Park has one of the best adventure play areas in town. Not only is it one of the town’s oldest parks alongside its lake and grottoes, Grosvenor Park is connected to Hilbert Woods Nature Reserve. This is another haven for wildlife in the heart of town. Warming refreshments are available for takeaway from the café, just don’t forget to take some binoculars with you.

Outdoor adventures on your doorstep

There are a number of beautiful ticketed gardens and grounds open for local walkers this February in and around Tunbridge Wells. Due to current restrictions, we recommend checking their websites for the latest information; many will also require pre-booked tickets.

For a large country park experience head to Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest. It has excellent woodland play parks, trails and walks for all the family to enjoy.

See if you can spot the Gruffalo sculptures on your way around. Most of the play areas are open and the staff are making every effort to keep them extra clean and provide hand washing facilities, although they do suggest that you bring your own hand sanitiser.

Their award winning café is open for takeaway service. There is a charge for parking which goes towards conservation of the forest and further research. 

Penshurst Place is planning to reopen in time for half term, so check their website for full details of what you can see and do during your visit. Currently the parkland around the estate is open and free to visit all year round, with the stunning gardens due to open daily from 13th to the 21st February.

The Penshurst Place manor house appeared in the acclaimed dramatic TV series, Wolf Hall. Come and see what the drama is about in real life! Booking in advance is essential.

Roam around the romantic gardens at Scotney Castle with your little knights and princesses this half term and let their imaginations run wild. This beautiful woodland estate boasts a 14th century moated castle, and although currently closed, the elegant country mansion sits proudly in the grounds as a fine example of Victorian architecture. 

Rainy Day Activities

Just in case the weather keeps you indoors during half term, we’ve found some great ways to distract and entertain even the most active little minds…

Trinity Theatre is proud to present a series of workshops for keen little creatives this February. Meet puppeteer and puppet maker Katie from Rust and Stardust and her selection of puppets as she takes you through performance techniques, voice and lip syncing and even some rod and shadow puppetry. Make your own simple puppets and watch stories come alive! This 'Introduction to Puppetry' workshop has sessions suitable for school years 3-6 and 7-9. Book the entire course of four one-hour zoom sessions for just £25 per child. 

The team at The Amelia are busy creating a brand new series of their hugely popular Discovery Days for this half term. There is also a series of interactive craft videos and colouring sheets available for free online. Full details will be announced on their website shortly.

Local Tunbridge Wells Dance Academy 'Footsteps' is running a series of online workshops sure to get little feet tapping this half term. On Saturday 13th February you can join West End star and former Matilda cast member Sam Lathwood for a fun packed live zoom workshop, designed for ages 5-10. Also that day Sam (who has most recently been performing in Mary Poppins in the West End) will be hosting a workshop for children aged 11+ based on the music and moves from smash hit Hairspray. Book now to avoid disappointment.

Make the most Tunbridge Wells at half term

The annual Winter Lantern Parade is back for 2021, but with a twist! Throughout February, locals will be making and displaying their lanterns for you to enjoy whilst taking an evening stroll around your local neighbourhood. Wait till after dark and marvel at the displays all based on this year's theme 'Heroes and Villains'. Enjoy and do remember to keep your distance when on your walks.

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