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Gardens for kids: Chateau Du Rivau

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 03 Nov 2011 at 11:37 AM



Sometimes I worry, we English don't really like children... or at least we English gardeners. I have seen "kids" mentioned in lists of "common garden pests", most places I visit spend half their budget on "Keep off the Grass" signs and public gardens appear to think a children's play area, usually secreted somewhere between the car park and toilets, is enough to placate the family audience.

To be fair, there are some notable exceptions. Easton Walled Gardens, for example, goes out of its way to encourage the rampaging of children across the grounds and some places, such as Hampton Court in Herefordshire or the Lost Gardens of Heligan, could almost have been created just to delight the smaller visitors.

I wondered if this was a worldwide phenomenon but at a Loire Valley gardens event a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by how often the owners referred to families and children in their talks and by the number of images of children I saw in their slides.

And then there was Le Rivau...

This was not a garden I'd heard of before but it is only 20 minutes from the world-famous Villandry and, if you are every travelling there with kids in tow, it would be the perfect place to combine horticulture and junior entertainment.

There are 14 gardens, the names of which alone would be enough to draw in most young children: the Rapunzel Garden, the Enchanted Forest, Tom Thumb's Garden, the Perfumed Path, the Fairies' Border; the Love Potion Garden. And all these are set against the backdrop of a chateau which would not look out of place in the opening of a Disney movie.

In addition, the garden also functions as an outdoor sculpture park with intriguing creations including giant watering cans, pierced trees and even five pairs of enormous legs running through woods. 

But all this is not a theme park.  It's a real garden with plenty of plants and planting to interest the keenest of gardeners, it's just that they haven't forgotten that children are allowed to be excited too.

Perhaps we need to adopt a similar attitude here?

Princesse Raiponce


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