Dating back to at least 1100 when it was owned by the Royal Manor of Dartford, Groombridge place has had a chequered history since and has associations with detah, debt and drama. The former stately home is spectacular from the outside and as such as been featured in many period productions, including Pride and Predjudice.
As with any formal home of this nature, the grounds and gardens which surround it are extensive, and since I did not visit the house itself, this review will focus on the grounds which I enjoyed with my husband and young daughter, a fiesty two-year old.
Cultivated extensively from the seventeeth century onwards, the gardens at Groombridge Place were once seen by very few people, but can now be enjoyed by many. Divided into specific named gardens, visitors can wander at leisure through the Knot Garden, the Peacock Walk and the White Garden among other spaces. It would be impossible to discuss at length the amount of different flora and fauna on display here, but each garden has unique characteristics and differs from the other in terms of its plants and design. The flowers are bright and colourful and the gardens were designed for fun, with fountains, steps and other features abounding.
From natural overhanging tress to pristine box hedging, and from forest flowers to pretty bedded ones, the contrasts here are incredible and make for an enjoyable stroll, even if you are not entirely keen on gardening, like me! My toddler enjoyed running riot here but there were better areas for her to explore further away from the main gardens.
As we wandered past friendly peacocks (cue squeals of delight from herself) we came to a shady walk down by a canal complete with a barge which takes you down the canal for the price of £1. Sadly the boat was not working when we were there, but it's a bit of a walk so I can imagine it's popular. After around 10 minutes walking, we came to the first part of the Enchanted Forest, which is a mystical area incorporating a large pirate themed playground, unusual dinosaur sculptures, a duck pond, and some colourful Romany caravans.
My daughter (and husband!) loved the large wooden pirate ship with its wobbly bridge and climbing areas, and it was hard to drag them away to continue our walk! Soon there were other attractions though, like the huge Koi Carp jumping from the water to compete with the ducks for food at the pond. As the walk continued uphill, my stubborn little girl got tired and refused to walk, resulting in our day going downhill as we resorted to carrying her. My husband had failed to pack the buggy, but if you have young children and want to explore the entire area, it really is a must.
We didn't spot any but apparantly deer and giant rabbits live in the forest and can often be seen by eager eyes. We did, however, manage to introduce ourselves to the resident Zeedonk - one of only two Zebra/Donkey crosses in the UK. And what a strange creature he was!
Due to our daughter's deteriorating mood, we perhaps missed certain parts of the walk and forest, and as stated earlier we skipped the house alltogether, but despite this we had an enjoyable morning and saw quite a bit. Towards the end of our walk we stumbled across the Birds of Prey Centre, which houses several species including owls, hawks and falcons and features flying shows at 12.30pm and 3.30pm, which again we just missed!
Before we left we did manage to sit down for a bit of a picnic we brought with us, and this was lovely thanks to the clean and well-managed picnic area by the main restaurant. Next time I would be keen to try the restaurant though as it looked really tempting. There is also a gift shop and an ice cream stand nearby.
For me the best thing about this place is that it offers something for everyone. You can take it at your own pace, so if you fancy a strenous walk, you can do it, but likewise if you want to sit and enjoy a bit of tranquility, that's fine too. There are attractions for children, but unlike some all-singing, all-dancing attractions, the ones here rely on a little bit of old-fashioned imagination. Equally it is a nice place for people without kids to enjoy.
All in all I was very impressed with Groombridge Place and can see myself returning, but I will make sure we are better equipped next time!
The house and gardens are located on the Kent and Sussex borders, near Tunbridge Wells. Admission prices are as follows;
Adults - £9.95 (£8.95 off peak)
Children - £8.45 (£7.45 off peak)
Senior Citizen - £8.45 (£7.45 off peak)
Family Tickets are also available.
Groom bridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest
I have had a great time when I visited Groom Bridge Place and Gardens a few years ago when my children were younger.
It is situated 4 miles from Tunbridge Wells on the road B2110 which is just off the A264 Tunbridge Wells/East Grinstead Road and it is on the borders of Kent and Sussex.
It will take you about 1 Hour & 15 minutes from the Centre of London. From Brighton about 45mins and from the Dartford Tunnel 40 mines so it is very easy to get to and not too long a journey either.
If you travel by car you will find that the Car Parking is free which in my mind a bonus is.
You can travel there by Public Transport and you can from London get a train from Charing Cross to Tunbridge Wells and from Tunbridge Wells to Groom bridge you will need to catch a Bus or you can use the Steam Train Service- Spa Valley Railway which arrives near Grooms bridge leaving you with about a 10 minute walk to Groom bridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest. This service is not in operation everyday so you will need to check the times and days it actually is running.
The Admission cost I think is very good value
Senior Citizen £7.45
Children 3-12 £7.45
Family Ticket £29.95
There is an extra charge of £1 for the Canal Boat Trip which is very peaceful and takes you into the Enchanted Forest.
Group visits can also be arranged and one would need to contact the Enquiry Office for more details of pricing.
I am very sorry to say that Dogs are not allowed unless they are dogs for the Blind/Deaf.
History in Brief
Groom Bridge was originally part of the Hundred of Somerden and was owned by the Royal Manor of Dartford in 1100.
In 1239 Lordship of Groom Bridge was granted permission to build Castle and Moat from William Russell.
Then in 1400 Thomas Waller of Lamberhurst purchased Groom Bridge.
It certainly changed ownership many times, the Trustees of Andrew de Condole acquired Groom Bridge in 1993 and then the gardens were opened and in 2001 it changed ownership once again but the Gardens and Forest remains open to the public.
There have been several film crews using Groom Bridge and in 2004 Pride & Prejudice was filmed there and in 1986 Draughtsman's Contract also was filmed there as well.
This is a wonderful place for children particularly the Enchanted Forest. You will follow the path where the Vineyards are to the top you will then find a door which then leads into the enchanted forest.
The forest is situated on the hillside which overlooks Groom Bridge Place.
Plenty to do and see. You will come across exciting playgrounds, strange looking animals and various fun activities to try.
For the less abled there are places to seat and while the time by absorbing the countryside around and observing the different plants which are growing in the forest.
On the animal front you may see a Zeedonk which there are only two in Great Britain which is a Zebra-Donkey crossed. They share the field which is near Chime Walk. In the Groms Village there are giant rabbits and the adult rabbits grow 60cms in height. Also you will come across goats and alpacas.
The gardens are amazing and you will be able to walk around the gardens using the Apostle Walk which is the central footpath through the gardens. It is called the Apostle Walk because it is bordered on each side by 12 drum yews which had survived from when they were first planted in 1674.
Oriental Garden has an herbaceous border and in July in particular on a fine day you will hear and see butterflies and bees flying amongst the beautiful array of flowers which are in full bloom.
In the Secret Garden there are Cherry trees and if you go in April/May you can walk through the Enchanted Forest when it is covered with Bluebells and that is amazing to see and it does remind you of a carpet.
White Garden where there are roses and wisteria growing and it is walled so that the wisteria can grow up the wall and what a lovely display that makes.
Black tulips grow in the Knot Gardens.
There is a Chessboard which is opposite Knot Gardens and this was first designed for people to relax and play games so all you Chess Lovers this may be the place for you to try out your skill of the game of chess.
So if you are looking for a different place to visit you will not go far wrong in going to Groom Bridge Place Gardens and the Enchanted Forest.