While researching areas to move to, we’ve found little reviews of towns found on the internet were vital – especially when we started looking in Wiltshire and Somerset – places we hardly knew at all. So, now that we are leaving it, here’s my thoughts on Tonbridge; having lived here for 30 years, I feel qualified enough to tell you!
If you’re new to the area, you’re probably coming here for the excellent train link to London; and if you’re not – be warned that prices reflect this. I really like Tonbridge, and I would certainly recommend it as a place to live. You’re nearly always only a 10 minute walk to a park with a kids play area; there’s a great indoor/outdoor pool; The Angel Centre has a modern gym and good sports facilities (my kids practically grew up there (as did I)); plenty of clubs for kids; good schools/college/university centre; the High Street has improved a lot in the last few years, and is fine for most things, though Bluewater and Tunbridge Wells are near enough for other needs (we’re talking clothes here). There are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants and a nightclub. It’s generally clean and although it’s a large-ish town, you can certainly feel part of a community and people seem to respect that. A good example is dog mess. You just don’t tread in it in Tonbridge – on the whole, dog owners pick it up. I only appreciated this when I walked round a very nice park by a lake in Snodland recently and despite being dog bins every 100 metres or so; every two metres, there was dog mess on the path. I was quite shocked. (Incidentally, I wouldn’t recommend living in Snodland!)
Residentially speaking, Tonbridge is a funny place, in that I would say it’s a mix of council houses and wealthy houses, and not much in-between. (We actually have compromised and bought a private house with a shared ownership scheme in a council estate). There are a lot of council estates – maybe as much as a third of Tonbridge – and a lot of very nice private estates; but you’d need 2 very good wages to afford one. A three bed (if you’re lucky 4) semi costs around £320,000. A detached house with 3 beds and a 4th on the ground floor, with a study and big garden in the North end just went on at £450,000. With prices dropping though, these may become more affordable.
North Tonbridge is considered a bit posher than south, and mainly divides into 4 areas:Willow Lea; Cage Green; Higham Wood and Trench Road. You cannot go wrong with Higham Wood (Higham Lane and the surrounding roads); everywhere is lovely. I lived there for the fist 16 years of my life and loved it. Willow Lea (and the roads around it) is also a very desirable area. Cage Green; the same applies really. I lived in St Pauls Close for a couple of years. There are a few private houses on this council estate and never had any cause to complain. Though there is a thing about council estates where people feel they have the right to know everyone’s business and get straight on the phone the minute your car tax runs out. Trench Road area is mainly council and apparently has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Tonbridge and Malling District. You get a bit of kids and teenagers hanging around, but honestly it’s not that bad.
Going towards central Tonbridge you have the Ridgeway and Yardley Park and those are most definitely the poshest places to live. I don’t know too much about the Slade area, and as there’s a new development, I don’t know what the future holds for that area. At the moment it’s desirable due to the good primary school.
Behind the station the houses go back a long way. Again, I don’t know so much about this area, but I know it hasn’t got such a good reputation; I think there’s more unsociable crime – graffiti, litter etc. Just beyond the college, there’s a large council estate before the private Molescroft Way estate. I’ve lived at Chaucer Gardens for the last 7 years and it’s very nice here. Loads of green spaces for the kids to play around in; it’s safe; very little crime; friendly atmosphere – people smile and say Hi and I’ve got no complaints about living here. There are a lot of little boys that play football on the nearby Green though; and I do wonder what will happen when they all become teenagers! Molescroft way is very nice, but you have to put up with the noise from the A21.
The area around Hillview school; Hectorage Road etc, is a mix of council and private, but does not have a particularly good reputation. It’s all relative. You’ll have no complaints coming from any rough city area.
The roads coming off Pembury Road leading up the hill are all private and it seems like a nice quiet place. It’s never easy to park though, so bare that in mind if you’re buying there.
The villages surrounding Tonbridge are mostly very nice. Hadlow and Hildenborough are at opposite ends of the scale, with Hildenborough being at the top end. Prices have recently gone up due to a couple of footballers moving there. (It’s also on the London rail line). Hadlow in the past has had problems with bored teenagers and crime, but it’s getting better. There are good areas and bad to Southborough, but I’m afraid I can’t point you in the right direction there. Bidborough is very high class, and I think Pembury is fine, but I’m not certain on that one; and Rusthall is not a place I’d like to live. It’s funny how there’s a mixture as you go towards Tunbridge Wells. I think you’re pretty safe going towards Sevenoaks. Weald village is very desirable.
So there you have it. I don’t think I could be more detailed than that. I’ll tell you my knowledge on local schools in another post soon.