Monday, October 5, 2015

October running highlights - Tonbridge to Penshurst 13 mile loop

It's been a long time since I've shared fitness-focused posts, which is a shame, because running is still very much a part of my life and it feels odd not to feature it more on here. Historically, I've been mindful that there's only so much I can write on the topic before I bore my regular food-focused readers. Recently, I've been wondering if there's a way to share my love of active pursuits whilst still appealing to everyone. My idea? To share a particularly beautiful run once a month, with the details of the running route (if you care about such things) but also the scenes (which, I hope, will be beautiful even if you don't plan to run them).

Barden Lake, Haysen Country Park, Tonbridge

Today's run is a 13 mile (20.95km) out and back route from Tonbridge to Penshurst Place and Gardens in Kent. Mr Bite can take credit for introducing me to the route, and we first explored it by bike on a dual-use cycle path. We are yet to visit Penshurst Place but the route is a great way to take in some beautiful scenes.

It doesn't matter exactly where you start in Tonbridge, but you'll want to make your way to Haysden Country Park, which is the starting point for many a beautiful run or cycle. If the day is clear you'll have sparkling views but if you're running in the morning in October you may be met with fog such as that visible below!

Approaching Haysden Country Park from the Tonbridge playing fields 
Luckily the above photo was snapped this week and not when I ran this particular run. If you're coming from Tonbridge castle or playing fields you will enter the country park by Barden Lake. Run around it to exit on the trail by the shallow (bird feeding) end of the lake, over a bridge away from the car park.

If you continue along this path you will go through an open field and then some woodland before crossing a stile to a grassy expanse with a steep hill - go over the hill, then continue straight ahead and underneath the motorway. You'll find a path curving to the left which takes you to the car park from where the cycle path to Penshurst starts. You can get to this car park in a few different ways, and some trails deposit you on the quiet Lower Haysden Road. If you come that way, run away from Tonbridge and under the motorway and you will reach the car park.

Lower Haysden Road

From the car park there is a well signed track path towards Penshurst. At this point it is shared use for pedestrians and cyclists. Later on there are two paths, one for pedestrians only, but I recommend staying on the cycle route on your way out. It is a rough cycle route so perfect for running on - mostly hard dirt with a few gravel sections.

Cycle route to Penshurst

There is little navigation required for this section. The initial path goes through woodland but eventually you emerge at a road, which you carry along for a short stretch before crossing over and taking a sealed but private use road towards Penshurst. This road takes you uphill and is quite steep, but you are rewarded with views like the scene below.

Views approaching Penshurst
When I ran this another runner was using the same route, but on a Saturday morning, you will have plenty of space to yourself. When Mr Bite and I cycled this route on a Sunday afternoon it was busier, but still not actually busy.

More views approaching Penshurst

Depending on your required run length, you could push on beyond Penshurst Place to the town of Penshurst itself. I turned around at the Penshurt Place gardens and then followed the same route back for most of the way. When returning, there is a branch before you get to the cycle path car park, which allows pedestrians (not cyclists) to follow the Weald Way back to Tonbridge via a different route. It is muddier but a pleasant alternative and takes you past Haysden Water.

Penshurst Place
To get my 13 miles in I ran back through Haysden Country Park to the Tonbridge playing fields and up around the castle. If you aren't as focused on distance you could finish wherever suits.

Route statistics: 13.02 miles / 20.95 kilometres / out and back route as I ran it / easy trail surfaces including dirt, gravel, asphalt and some road sections / scenic / mostly flat but with a couple of decent hills / very little traffic exposure.

What outdoor activities have you enjoyed lately?


  1. I love your idea of running routes with photos - it is a great way to share pictures of places you pass and a nice way to record some runs. It is also a nice way to promote running - to make it seem a pleasure to see the countryside which looks so much nicer than running in the gym. We've had lots of outdoors lately because it is getting warmer and sylvia has a new netball but I particularly liked a new local park we finally visited and would like to return because they have a netball hoop. (sadly it is just vicarious outdoors but at least I am along for the ride)

    1. I'm glad you like the concept and loved hearing about your recent outdoor pursuits. Public netball (and basketball) hoops are all too rare so I'm glad you've got a local one! Parks and outdoor runs definitely appeal to me more than gyms these days :-)

  2. I love this post, I would love to read more about your running adventures! I enjoy a bit of running but I'm stuck inside running with the Wii Fit, as I can't really go for a run without the little ones. Your scenery is much nicer than my views from the Wii Fit, lol! Kent is so picturesque, your photos made me think of books I have read set in England.

    1. Thanks so much Kyra :-) I'm glad you enjoyed it and we are really fortunate with our local countryside and views. It reminds me of quintessential England too!

  3. Great photos Kari - thanks for sharing.

  4. The scenery for this run is stunning and I like how you can run without getting caught up in crowds and traffic - this is so much better. I am contemplating a 10km run next year. I'm not sure about it as I've had so many issues with jogging lately. I'm going to ask my trainer tomorrow. He makes me run on the treadmill and that hasn't given me any issues but mind you, I only run for 12 minutes. I'll keep you posted xx


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