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Garden visits with kids: Easton Walled Gardens

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 18 Feb 2011 at 02:49 PM

 I could never be a contestant on The Apprentice.  This is partly because I still retain a semblance of humanity and could also never refer to myself as 'Dawn Isaac - The Brand' but mostly because I'm very, very bad at selling. Yet last week, I must have been on fire because, somehow, I persuaded the entire family that what they really wanted to do on Saturday afternoon was "go to a garden and look at snowdrops". 

Admittedly, I had to assure them we'd be back in time for both the Rugby and Total Wipeout (remarkably similar visual spectacles by the way), but incredibly they went for it.  It was almost on a par with Chris selling that woman an evening dress made of second hand ties.

The snowdrops in question were at Easton Walled Gardens, a few miles north of Stamford and only about five minutes off the A1.  The estate has been in the Cholmeley family since 1592, and yet, in many ways this is a very young garden.  The original hall was requisitioned for the Royal Artillery in the Second World War, which must be a akin to giving the family china to an overexcited three year old.  As a result, the place had to be pulled down in 1951 and a decade or so later, the gardens too were left to their own devices.

This neglect was halted a decade ago when Ursula Cholmoney took on the reinstatement and redevelopment of the gardens and what we visited on Saturday is her vision and dedication combined with the hard work of her small team of gardeners.

The Best Bits for Kids...

Freedom

DSC_0070 I'm not sure I've ever seen a website that declares: "We are not precious about the gardens and like children to enjoy themselves" but I wish there were more. In essence, this is the best part of all.  You can bring your children to run around, explore the gardens and let off steam without worry.  I can vouch for the authenticity of this statement as we bumped into Ursula as we were walking through the woodland pathways and she even said I shouldn't worry if the children picked a few flowers (I chose not to repeat this to the boys...).

The Terraces

DSC_0062 For the adults, there is a fine set of stone steps, for the children there are terraces of grass which, apparently, must be climbed and run down again and again, preferably screaming 'loooook aaaat meeeee'.

Turf Maze

DSC_0095 Well more of a positive labyrinth really (pedantic, moi?) and a simple construct, but always good for younger children, plus, when viewed from above, a dead ringer for Sideshow Bob (according to Reuben anyway),

Enormous Hedge with Inviting Archway

DSC_0074 Watch as whole children are consumed.

Yew Tunnel

Because it's dark (apparently too dark for my camera to function properly) and offers plenty of trunks to hide behind

A swing...

DSC_0121 ...big enough for three. Sort of.

Bird Viewing Areas...

...for the young twitchers

Huge slices of cake...

...for everyone

There are lots of other areas which will be at their best later in the year, so we plan to return a few times over the coming months.  Entry costs £5.75 (£5.50 for snowdrop weeks) per adult and £1.50 per child but we decided it was worth paying around £30 for a family membership meaning we can visit as many times as we like this year.

The gardens are open from March to October, 11am-4pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and for Sundays in November plus it's open every day for snowdrops from February 12th until this Sunday (20th).

And the kids verdict?  Oscar (5), unprompted, said "I really liked that nice garden" but then he can be a bit of a creep at times...  Ava (7), who is much less likely to sugar the pill, declared "I had a fun time today... which is good because I thought it was going to be really dull."

Maybe my sales pitch needs some work after all.

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