When she was thirteen, Edith Nesbit stayed for a time in the village of Penshurst, near Sevenoaks. In My School Days, her memoir of childhood, which was serialised in The Girl’s Own Paper from October 1896 to September 1897, she wrote:
I wandered up through Penshurst churchyard, and through a little wicket-gate into the park, where the splendour of a blaze of buttercups, burst upon me. The may-trees were silver-white, the skylarks singing overhead; I sat down under a white may-tree. The spirit of the spring breathed softly round me, and when I got up to go back I was in love and charity with all men and all women except Mrs. ——-.
“I am sorry if I have been naughty,” I said to my sister; “I didn’t mean to be, but-“ “That will do,” she said, skillfully stopping my confidences; “now I do hope you are going to try and be a good girl, and not make dear mamma unhappy.”
“I will be good,” I said; “ oh, I will indeed! “ And as long as I stayed among the golden buttercups and silver may-bushes, I believe I was moderately good.
Penshurst is situated six miles south of Sevenoaks, in a valley on the northern slopes of the Kentish Weald. This picturesque region of South East England lies between the parallel chalk escarpments of the North and South Downs at the confluence of the River Medway and the River Eden. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has been recognised as a conservation zone with protected woodlands and fields.
The village of Penshurst developed around Penshurst Place, the ancestral home of the Sidney family, which was owned for a time by Henry VIII. Records date back to 1346. The ‘little wicket-gate’ that Nesbit mentions is a private gate in the garden walls of Penshurst Place that leads to eleven acres of beautifully laid out Elizabethan gardens with fountains, ancient trees, woodland and heraldic topiary.
There are two walking trails across the estate, the Parkland and the Riverside Walks. Regional cycle route no. 12 from Tonbridge to Penshurst Place, which is mostly off road, also goes through the estate. Cycle from Penshurst Place to Tonbridge Castle with this Guide