Friday 27 October 2017

Capel Manor Gardens: Autumn Splendour, Holly Mazes and Secret Gardens

Someone recommended Capel Manor Gardens to me some time ago and it sat on my list of places to visit some time with the kids.  This week we made plans to go to either Northala Fields which a friend recommended or Southend-on-Sea.  I love to set eyes on the ocean and sit a while and let it soothe me into a stupor.  

We decided to visit Capel Manor Gardens first and spend an hour or two there and then head to either Northala Fields or Southend-on-Sea depending on the weather.  It only took us about half an hour to get there from East London and there was plenty of car parking.  We arrived quite early and it was quite.  Tickets cost £6 adults, £3 children and £15 family, we spent £18 total which is fantastic for us considering some places end up costing close to £100 or more for the family.

Capel Manor College is a Georgian Manor house which is now in use as a college.  It teaches courses in animal management, garden design, floristry, Arboriculture, saddlery and countryside management and environmental conservation.  The grounds of the college are open to the public.  Students tend the gardens and care for the animals and we could see them busy at work during our visit.

The kids were excited to see the animals first, so we made our way to Capel Manor Animal Adventures first (separate post).  From there we made our way round the numerous gardens: The Queen Mother garden, Japanese Gardens, Trial Gardens (for testing our ideas for events and competitions)

Part of the Queen Mother garden:

I'd never seem purple berries before, these were very pretty and I later found they are called Callicarpa or Beauty Berry:

I thought there was something that Mediterranean about these gardens and later fund they are the Italianate Garden and Maze.  We walked through a number of sectioned off and beautifully designed gardens until we got to the maze which is made from holly.  The centre has a viewing tower.  The kids got there before us and shouted out instructions to get us through the maze and to them.
On the way back out, I suggested leaving them to direct us back out, but they were off the tower and back out of the maze long before hubby and I.

On arriving at the Gardens, the very kind and helpful lady at the ticket desk handed my children maps of the gardens with a game at the back.  They had to find six locations with a different stamp at each and collect the six stamps.  They could choose a medal on completing the game and bringing it back.

Lots of places we visit have these kinds of activities, but they are often complex or tricky and the children lose interest.  This game was simple and engaging enough for the little ones to join in and to wake the competitive spirit in the older ones.

The gardens led to a wooded walk in which lay the Fairy Gardens.  These were full of art, objects and interesting displays.  I love places like this, the greenery, the peace and secluded spots.  Plus I don't have to tell the children to stop running, stop making so much noise or stop touching (or hubby for that matter who seems to leap back into his childhood every time he sees a tree alhamdulillah).

Once out of the woods we came back to a further series of buildings and gardens including the stables, the Manor House Gardens and a Cactus House.

Around every other corner we would find another secluded little garden or corner:

We came across this Faith Garden which explores the place of nature and horticulture in different world faiths.  There is a section for different faiths including a bed with five Mediterranean cypress grown to represent the five pillars of Islam.  A sign explained that these trees are often found in Muslim graveyards.

On the other end of the site from all of the animals and formal gardens was a lake and tucked away ruins, temple and amphitheatre.  The kids had a great time running around the wide grassy amphitheatre and clowning around on its stage.

We managed to circle around to new spots more than once and I wonder how many places we missed out, I didn't see the Koi Pond, Sunflower Street, the Scented Pelargonium House and I think we might have missed the 17th Century Walled Garden.  The please was big enough and there was so much to see that we didn't realise at the time.

There was even a series of model front and back gardens each with a different design.  It’s strange how much we enjoyed poking around through the model gardens, it kind of actually felt like we were nosing around in people's front gardens and shouldn't really be there.

We had a lovely day and spent a few hours in the Gardens.  We ended up being there long enough that we didn't go anywhere else.  The staff were helpful and both of the receptionists that dealt with us were kind and helpful.  Even the gift shop and restaurant were reasonably priced which is never usually the case.

Somewhere I would definitely go again with family, perhaps returning during one of the events held at the venue (lambing anyone?).

See also:
Capel Manor Gardens: Animal Adventures

No comments:

Post a Comment