Can't decide which town is better to move to - Seven Oaks, Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells?(18 Posts)
We are a London family seriously considering escaping the smog in London and making the move to the beautiful Kent Wealds area, but cant decide between Seven Oaks, Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells and their surrounding villages. IYO what would be the best area for assess to good primary and secondary schools? How is the public transport for getting around town (is it essential to have a car?), Where could the children go for extra-curricular activities such as ballet, tap and piano? What is there to for family fun days out?
Thanks for reading, be thrilled at some feedback
Hi. I live just west of Tunbridge Wells and think that the area you're considering is a fantastic place to live.
In my experience Tunbridge Wells is the best all round location of the three you mention - it has good shops of all kinds (lots of supermarkets, an industrial estate, a quirky old high street, a shopping centre for clothes etc), good parks (Dunorlan Park is particularly good for kids), lots of lovely coffee shops and restuarants, and the common right next to the town centre to make it not feel too urban. House prices also vary quite a lot depending on what type of property you want and how central - there's also a good rental market. There's lots going on with farmers markets, summer outdoor jazz evenings etc. There are also lots of lovely surrounding villages e.g. Penshurst, Hever and Chiddingstone with fantastic family pubs and good gardens (we particularly like The Little Brown Jug), good places to visit (e.g. Penshurst Place, Hever Castle, National Trust properties such as Igtham Mote) and lovely countryside. The public transport in Tunbridge Wells and its immediate vicinity is good e.g. to get to London, East Grinstead, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Pembury Hospital or local schools but if you're an out-doorsy person who'd want to walk and visit National Trust properties in the villages you'd need a car. I've heard the schools are good and that there's lots of mum and baby activities going on but my first is not due till later in the year so i can't speak with personal experience on that.
Sevenoaks is posher - it has less shops (but still enough) and limited restuarants - there's a National Trust property (Knowle Park) in the town centre so within walking distance maybe which is lovely - there's some fantastic private schools - the train links are very good - the housing is probably the most expensive of the 3 areas you've suggested.
Tonbridge is the least posh of the three and would be a good choice if you have a limited budget. It has a good High Street of shops and again good transport links. I don't think the schools (with the exception of Tonbridge Boys private school) are as good but i think they're more than good enough. There's not so much outdoor stuff to do there though i don't think or so many parks.
Ah thank you so much LittleSpade for your helpful snapshots of the areas in question.
I read your post with interest as this is what my family would like to do in a couple of years. These 3 places spin around in my head, so please keep posted on your discoveries. We love Tunbridge Wells but are torn perhaps going up the road to something a little more rural.....and Tonbridge rural house prices are quite tempting compared.
Good luck with your search.
hi we just made the move to TW from East London with our boys. Day 4! havent been out and about much yet but looking forward to finding out about the area. It took us AGES to make the move out, we decided to come here as it seemed to have a lot to offer whilst still in striking distance of London but offers a lot for "family living". We looked at lots of areas but are happy we chose here as we have found a lovely house and I think you get the best of all worlds here (I'm hoping so anyhow!). Good luck with your search, I know how all consuming it can be!
I would disagree that Sevenoaks is 'posher'. There's perhaps more money there, but I would say that it's a bit brasher, City and new money.....but then I live in TW ;-) so perhaps would say that, wouldn't I!
It's a great area - and Little Spade has covered most of the salient points. I would say that if you are moving here for (state) primary schools, you need to do your research VERY carefully as catchments are tiny, and if you want the good private preps, you need to have your name down early to guarantee places - particularly at Rose Hill in TW which is always full. You also need to consider whether you want to be in a grammar school area - the competition is heinous for selective grammars and there is a lot of pressure - it doesn't suit everyone/child and you need to think about your Plan B if you aren't going to go down the private secondary route.
Your helpful advice has been duly noted....feeling daunted, yikes!
I live in Sevenoaks (or in a village near it). If you want village life then Weald village is lovely - a very country village feel but very close to Sevenoaks. Good village community and local primary school. Or Otford is also really nice if you wanted to be slightly further from Sevenoaks (about 5/10 mins drive) or Shoreham or even Knockholt.
I also love Tunbridge Wells though. It's a lovely place. Has more facilities than Sevenoaks but is further from London if that's a consideration. Tonbridge is
a bit of a dump a bit more down market, but has some nice villages around it (underriver is lovely) and has all the facilities you need. There's also secondary grammar schools there. Prices I imagine are cheaper so it may be a good trade off to make to live there. There's nothign wrong with it, it's just not as nice as the other two. I'm pretty sure I read earlier this week Tonbridge has gained lots of funding to reinvent their high street in the next few years, so may be improving alot soon.
Remember we have the 11+ here, and, as yet, no secondary grammar schools in Sevenoaks.
I'm in Sevenoaks and love it here. We came within a day of exchanging in Tunbridge Wells before bring gazumped but so glad we ended up here instead, the commute is so much better for DH - quicker and also more trains to chose from. We have a good selection of local shops/restaurants and Bluewater is only 20 mins away.
Tunbridge Wells is lovely - more shops and restaurants but it does have horrendous traffic and can feel a bit more threatening at night. It used to have a huge drug problem but not sure if that's the case now.
There are frequent local buses in Sevenoaks but they are expensive so a car is useful. If you buy close to the station and centre of town you run the risk of not getting into any local schools. The 2 primary schools in centre of town are faith schools (St. Thomas's R.C. and Lady Boswells C of E ) so if you don't meet their criteria you may be allocated a school in an outlying village. In general, catchment areas are tiny so do your research before looking at houses.
There is a campaign to get a Sevenoaks grammar school, due to open 2014. Until then all the grammars are in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
I'm in Otford so near to sevenoaks and love it! My childhood was in a village closer to tunbridge wells so know that area too. I tend to prefer Sevenoaks but Tunbridge Wells is better for shopping etc. Not to keen on Tonbridge.
Sevenoaks villages are lovely (Otford, Seal, Shoreham etc) and fairly easy to get to sevenoaks - Otford is 6 min train or bus away (train involves long walk up hill to sevenoaks town)
Hi I grew up in Tunbridge Wells and so have been through the school sytem fairly recently (U6th 2005). My mum is a teacher and has taught in lots of the schools in TW and Tonbridge.
There are some really great state primaries - the 2 best when I was young were St James and Claremont so I would recommend looking at these areas. There is 1 girls grammar school (TWGGS) and 2 boys grammar schools (Skinners and TW Grammar School for Boys also known as Tech) in T Wells which all get good results. I went to TWGGS and my brother to Tech. Otherwise you have 2 faith schools and a school which used to be failing but has been taken over by Skinners (Kent Academy).
TW not good if you are not religious and your children not academic - there are no decent non faith non grammars and our next door neighbours had to move to a different town/county for this reason.
Tonbridge has 2 girls grammars (TGGS and Weald) and 1 boys grammar (Judd), a good girls secondary modern called Hillview and some other schools can't think of them right now.
Do either of you need to commute to London for work? If so I would advise either T Wells or Sevenoaks but not Tonbridge. I had to commute for a year 2 yrs ago and I could always get a seat at T Wells but by Tonbridge train full and yet journey is still quite long. Sevenoaks journey is short enough that it doesn't matter if you have to stand. If you need cheaper housing in T Wells look at High Brooms / Southborough areas.
As mentioned Sevenoaks has no grammars at the moment so children from there get the train down to Tonbridge or TW but I think this may make it harder to get a place in the school since they consider distance from the school as well as 11+ result.
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have, I know all 3 areas well.
Oh I forgot to answer your Qs:
IYO what would be the best area for assess to good primary and secondary schools?
Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge (but not sure about Tonbridge primaries). Sevenoaks prob has good primaries but atm no great secondaries.
How is the public transport for getting around town (is it essential to have a car?)
TW small enough that you can walk everywhere - I could walk to town, walk to school, walk to swimming/gym etc. In fact that was probably why I never bothered learning to drive. Train to London. Bus to Brighton. As mentioned a car is useful to get out into countryside for family days out.
Where could the children go for extra-curricular activities such as ballet, tap and piano?
These sorts of activities are available all over town (I had piano teacher up the road, dancing in a centre in town and dancing in a secondary school building). There is a good rugby club and football club and nice sports centre for swimming and other classes.
What is there to for family fun days out?
Groombridge Place is amazing for children, I still want to go to the enchanted forest now.
Penhurst Place has a great adventure playground.
High Rocks, Scotney Castle, Hever castle, 100 Acre wood - Ashdown forest, the common, dunorlan park, pantiles, train down to Hastings, drive or bus to Brighton, drive to Camber Sands, walk round RSPB woods, Knowle deer park in Sevenoaks, general sorrounding countryside is lovely for walks/ guide camp etc, Bewl if you are into sailing. And of course you can catch train up to London for a family day out.
Stay put, we're already flooded with people fleeing London.
Seriously, there are some good points made here and some not-so-good points.
On education, depends what you're looking for. If you want grammar schools, don't go to Sevenoaks because there aren't any. I can't tell you much about the schools in Sevenoaks, since the only one I know is Sevenoaks School (the public school), and I don't have fond memories.
IMO Tonbridge's schools are better than Tunbridge Wells. Tunbridge Wells is pretty good, but it doesn't have the range of schools of Tonbridge.
Tonbridge's main industry is education - something like 9,000 schoolkids go through the town every day to one of the half-dozen grammars, or the 6th form college, or the tech college, or Tonbridge school, which is one of the best public schools in the country.
Bear in mind that entry to grammars is through the 11+.
For primary age children there's a good range of schools but you have to be really careful where you buy because catchment areas are tricksy. Check the details on the house to see which catchment area you're in. The best one in Tonbridge is supposed to be Woodlands. There are also plenty of private primary (prep) schools, most of which offer entrance to the public schools as well as 11+ training.
On connections to London, Sevenoaks is your best bet. 25ish minutes to London Bridge. Something like 1 in 4 of the people who live in Sevenoaks travel up to London every day. Tonbridge is second best, since it has two main lines (Ashford/Canterbury and Hastings) running through it, about 35 mins to CharingX. Tunbridge Wells is the worst of the three, about 50 mins train journey.
On house prices, Tonbridge is your best bet. You'll pay half what you would in Sevenoaks for an identical house. Tonbridge isn't rough or unpleasant, but it isn't a place you'd want to shop apart from the Waitrose and a couple of newer shops (nice coffee place, new butchers, couple of nice restaurants and gastropubs). You'll still be paying £250k for a 3-bed 60s semi, though.
For sheer up-your-own-arseholeness, Tunbridge Wells takes the cake and eats it all.
You will need a car. This isn't London.
Thank you very much cogitosum, happypigeon, and flatpackhamster for your info on the subject - the jury is still out here!
If this helps at all we moved from East London to Kent over ten years ago for all the usual reasons. We didn't know anyone here, so beforehand we spent quite a bit of time exploring the area on family days out visiting local beauty spots, heritage sites, trying out activities and the shopping centres etc. (We did the same in Essex.) This was fun in itself but also gave us an idea of what it would be like living here. For our needs at the time (ease of commute, access to schools, cost of housing etc), we chose south Tonbridge and are really happy here - we've certainly never looked back. Schooling is a complex issue in Kent with the grammar versus secondary modern/high school debate. We've had experience of grammar and non grammar and have been impressed with both. I hesitate making particular recommendations, because every child (and parent) is different. Anyway, happy hunting and I hope you love your move wherever it is and when the time comes.
We are in Bromley and are seriously considering Tonbridge. Still have some research to do, but a move down South looks very likely
Sevenoaks and TW are great but IMO, except for a bit of posh reputation, there is really not anything worth mentioning that Tonbridge does not offer and Sevenoaks or TW do. Despite that prices in Tonbridge are still decent but not sure for how long. With prices already very high in Sevenoaks and TW, I am sure Tonbridge prices with catch them up as Tonbridge offers as much as they do. There are some primary schools in Tonbridge (like Cage Green) which are not Ofsted reputed but are making improvemnts (from what I have heard). Others (woodlands, St margarets, stocks green) are as good (maybe better) as they are in Sevenoaks and TW. Secondary schools are as good (maybe better) in Tonbridge anyway. Also being midway between Sevenoaks and TW, you can make quick trips to both places if you wish to. Tonbridge high strret has every thing including a castle, a station, waitrose, sainsbury, iceland, starbucks, nero, excellent butchery, proper wine shops, chemists, big park, swimmin pool, a river..........
Villages around Tonbridge are also attrative. esp Hildenborough (which has two good primaries). Leigh and Underriver are great as well.
Commute wise, you have hildenborough and tonbridge stations, half an hour to london bridge!!
Think about sevenoaks if budget is not a concern. Think about TW if commute is also not a concern. Otherwise Tonbridge/Hildenborough are great options. But the prices have started to heat up here as well.
Hi, I've just seen this thread and realise my comments are probably going to be unhelpful but I just wanted to add them in case they're not! We were in your situation just over a year ago and somehow ended up moving to a small village called Bonnington, about 10 minutes from Ashford. I know everyone sneers at Ashford but we cannot believe how lucky we are to be living in this beautiful part of the country. It is quite rural where we are but we are close to Tenterden, Rye, Ashford, Hythe. The schools here are in abundance and there is so much to do for children in and around the area it's ridiculous. I didn't think that life in the country would be busier than life in London but somehow it is! Anyway, good luck.
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