Local Knowledge: Welcome To Tonbridge

The adorable mini railway in Tonbridge Park.

The adorable mini railway in Tonbridge Park.

My previous Local Knowledge post, about my hometown Paddock Wood, went slightly viral amongst the Paddock Wood community. As expected, it struck a chord with people my age and angered/upset people of my parents’ age, who forget that young people need something to do that doesn’t involve going to church or buying wool from Barsleys, fun as that may be.

Tonbridge is our nearest decent-sized town. About four times bigger than Paddock Wood, it has a proper high street, its own Norman castle, a branch of Dominos (which, sadly, does not deliver to Paddock Wood), and a delightful football team with passionate, loyal supporters who make up the Ryman Premier’s second largest average home attendance.

However, while there are some lovely buildings, they’re mostly tucked away down side streets, and the Longmead is on the outskirts of town – the actual high street itself is largely depressing. If you want to go shopping, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone have far more to offer. It’s a proper, functioning town – but is, generally speaking, weirdly soulless, little more than a vehicle for commuters and schoolchildren (it’s home to at least 6 secondary schools). The castle really is the saving grace.

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TONBRIDGE STATION

Tonbridge’s mainline station is very ugly indeed, possibly more so since its refurbishment a few years ago, when it was doused in the awful, bleak pastel blue that Southeastern Trains has adopted.

But this is to totally miss the point of Tonbridge station. It’s THE place to be on a 4pm after you’ve finished school. This is where the girls of Tonbridge Grammar, Weald of Kent and Hillview come into contact with the boys of Hayesbrook, Judd and Tonbridge School. This is where it all happens: the initial flirtation, the romance, the break-up. It’s also where the cliques formed at school are solidified. You know you’re an outcast when you have no-one to get the train with.

It also has the honour of being the only train station where I have ever fallen off a moving train, battered my knees and elbow, and been greeted not with sympathy or kindness from the platform guard, but with a telling off for ‘jumping off the train’. Ah, 2004, back in the days of slam-door trains. (To be fair, I’ve only fallen off of one moving train.)

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TONBRIDGE PARK

Perpetually flooded, but the location of everything outdoor-sporty in Tonbridge. It’s got a good-sized children’s park with a zipwire and a giant round swinging hammock thing, and is a convenient location for after-school dates. Also, it has an adorable mini railway line. How cute is that??

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THE HUMPHREY BEAN (WETHERSPOONS)

Not as beautiful as Tunbridge Wells’s Spoons (it’s in an Opera House, for fuck’s sake – how can you compete?), but it’s cosy, cheap and has a large beer garden out back. The pub quiz is pretty woeful, though: I know you want to ensure everyone gets one right, but “Which cricket team do Australia play against in the Ashes”?? Really??

It's not exactly the Mediterranean.

It’s not exactly the Mediterranean.

THE RIVER MEDWAY

Rivers are generally a good thing for a town. There is a reason why virtually every capital city is built around a body of water, and the best are built around rivers because they’re harder to attack than seaside cities. They can also be beautiful when well-maintained and clean.

The River Medway is not that river. It’s a charming shade of sewage-brown and every time there’s a large amount of rain, it floods, causing havoc for residents and businesses (most recently, on Christmas Eve 2013).

However, it brings back fond memories for me as it used to have a Rosie and Jim canal boat on it which I loved dearly, and without it we might not have Tonbridge, the Angels, or a Dominos within a 10 mile radius.

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TONBRIDGE CASTLE

Tonbridge Castle is where it all started: it’s nearly a millennium old. It’s a motte and bailey castle with a shell keep (big mound for people to keep lookout on), surrounded by lush gardens. They have festivals, pantomimes and film screenings here, but it’s nicest of all on a normal day. A great location for picnics, dates, hanging out with friends – it quite literally towers over everything else in the high street.

(Hard to get a decent picture of it because other buildings are in the way.)

(Hard to get a decent picture of it because other buildings are in the way.)

ST PETER AND ST PAUL CHURCH

It’s the nicest church building in Tonbridge that I know of. This is not at all influenced by the fact that Mama and Papa Steadders got married here, nor by the fact that my grandpa is involved here. It’s no secret that I’m a massive heathen atheist, but I really do like church buildings. If only they were just buildings…

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TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

The buildings of the very-expensive, very-exclusive Tonbridge School are Hogwartsesque and the grounds are immaculate, and they’ve got amazing facilities including their own chapel (stained glass windows at the ready) and a theatre – it’s amazing what making a secondary school place as expensive as a university one will do for you.

Sadly, it is only the location that bears any beauty: the vast majority of Tonbridge School pupils are snotty elitists who refer to women as “[x]’s wench”, making Judd boys look like a comparative paragon of perfection. There’s the occasional pleasant one, but if local residents actually spent a day hanging out with a representative sample of these gold-plated, entitled shitcunts then they’d soon rethink their quinquennial decision to vote that gold-plated, entitled shitcunts should run the country.

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THE LONGMEAD STADIUM

The best football stadium in the world. See here.

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