The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

14th July 2017

A day out at a formal garden is a chance to reconnect with nature, take some time out from the stresses of the daily grind, and to steal some cunning ideas for your own patch of ground.

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

14th July 2017

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

14th July 2017

Don’t expect high octane thrills, but do anticipate a chance for gentle strolls, picnicking in the sun, and some great butterfly spotting opportunities. Gardens are places that the entire family, young and old, can enjoy, and these are some of the finest, free, plant-spotting places in the country

1. ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN, EDINBURGH
First established in 1670, the 72 acres of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens are packed with unusual and rare plants. Just one mile from the city centre, the lush series of gardens and planted areas are a tranquil, blissful place in which to spend an hour or so. Take in the Scottish Heath Garden, which recreates the highlands in the heart of the capital, the Rock Garden, home to alpine plants, the Chinese Hillside, with spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and a waterfall, or the garden’s two enormous fossilised trees. There’s also a restaurant, cafe and coffee bar (the Terrace cafe with its views across the city is our favourite). Admittance to the garden is free, but you’ll have to pay to enter the spectacular glasshouse with ten different climactic zones (it’s worth it!) rbge.org.uk/the-gardens/edinburgh/visitor-information

2. APPULDURCOME HOUSE, THE ISLE OF WIGHT
Designed by Capability Brown, the gardens surrounding the now-derelict shell of the 18th century Appuldurcome House on the Isle of Wight are a beautiful place to run around and explore, with dramatic views to drink in. Come in the spring to wander around swathes of bluebells, or in high summer for a perfect picnic. The house itself is a dramatic ruin ripe for poking around (there’s even a cellar to poke around), although it really is just a shell. There are no facilities here, so bring your own food and pop kids behind a tree for a wee. If you have some money in your pocket and a hankering to see some birds of prey, there’s a falconry centre next door. Closed from October to April. english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/appuldurcombe-house

3. THE YORKSHIRE LAVENDER GARDENS
The gorgeous aroma of purple flowers fills the air at this 60 acre site, making for a relaxed, calming environment. Learn about the therapeutic powers of lavender, see different varieties in all shades from stunning silver, to bruised purple and sea green, and enjoy modern takes on planting these very traditional flowers. Despite the plant’s grannyish connotations, there’s lots here for kids to do, with a huge snakes and ladders game, a deer park, lavender maze, wibbly wobbly way, meadows to explore and a cricket-themed sculpture park, and plenty of space on which to run around on and wear themselves out. Visit during high summer to see (and smell) the lavender in full bloom. No picnics. yorkshirelavender.com

4. GARDEN OF ST JOHN’S LODGE, LONDON
London is a surprisingly green, plant-filled city. There are hundreds of parks and gardens, big and small to choose from. But our top-secret favourite is the Garden of St John’s Lodge hidden in Regent’s Park. It’s a little hard to find – you go through a small gate near the park office on the Inner Circle – and you might think it’s private (the lodge itself belongs to the Sultan of Brunei), but push open the gate, wander inside and discover a beautifully kept series of circular gardens, complete with magical statues, lily ponds, and hedges to hide behind. Even in the height of summer, you may have it to yourself – it’s a magical-feeling place, a genteel oasis in the middle of a chaotic city. It’s not a place for running around – it was designed as a garden ‘fit for meditation’, so take boisterous kids to one of the three playgrounds in the main park to let off steam before you go in. royalparks.org.uk

5. NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM, STAFFORDSHIRE
With over 300 memorials, each with a story to tell, the National Arboretum in Staffordshire is a wonderful place for kids to explore. It’s also a good starting point for discussions about war, sacrifice, and learning lessons from history – the blank spaces on the Armed Forces Memorial are particularly thought-provoking. Hire an animal trail or World War 1 Memorial trail to uncover secret sides of the tributes or just wander and uncover the mysteries of the place as you go. As well as the memorials, there is plenty else to explore – the 150 acre site hosts over 30,000 trees, full of creatures and insects. There’s also a children’s woodland and activity area. On certain days you can hire pond-dipping equipment (or bring your own) to help you find mini beasts lurking in the wildlife pond. thenma.org.uk

Share this with friends

Sign up for the weekly digest email

loading