“ Address: Woodmansterne Lane / Wallington / Surrey / SM6 0SU „
My friend and I have been visiting Woodcote Green for nearly thirty years. We always come away feeling that we've had a real treat. There is such a great selection of plants, both common and unusual, and there is always a pleasant and knowledgeable member of staff to talk about the latter.Sometimes I phone to see if a certain plant is available, and this service is also very good.For many years we thought the only thing missing was a little cafe. Now of course we can not only have a drink but a beautifully cooked lunch.This is everything we could ask for in a graden centre.Thank you all so much for making happy days out for two old friends.
One of the first things you'll notice if you visit, is how impressively large Woodcote garden centre is. Just the drive up to the car park must be over 100 yards. That then gives you some inkling of the scale of the garden centre, as the length of the drive is also roughly the length of the indoor part of the centre which runs the full length of the right hand side as you enter.
If you're groaning at the thought of a gardening Ikea, don't worry. Any similarities to that Swedish store finish at the size. Ikea may have bargains, with many people willing to travel long distances to view the flat packed furniture, but on a scale of love to hate, it couldn't be more different from this independent business. For a start, it's so much easier to exit this garden centre.
* Plenty of reasons to visit *
I haven't seen any full sized plane trees for sale here, but I have been tempted by their smaller conifers, most recently a Goldcrest conifer. At £3.99, the price was probably in line with other centres, but Woodcote stock a good selection of conifers and evergreen shrubs, and they're all in very good condition to my untrained eye.
Or railway sleepers, to be exact. Their landscaping centre, which is accessed via a separate entrance at the far end of the car park, is huge. We bought our fencing around 5 years ago from a local timber yard, but Woodcote sell the same rather stylish panels and at a similar price as I recall.
One nice touch is their Express Drive thru which is a separate adjacent exit where bags of compost and the like can get loaded straight on to your car just before you leave, saving you from having to push heavy items to your car in one of those impossible-to-navigate trolleys.
For a garden centre, the car park is a good size with what must be nearly 200 spaces here. Of course not a reason to visit in itself, but knowing that they have adequate parking makes my journey easier.
* The green scene *
Their raison d'etre, after all. If their outdoor plant centre were no good, it would be pointless visiting here. As I have a few favourite sections I visit every time, such as the evergreens and seasonal plants, I know quite well where everything is. A first time visitor would find it well laid out though, with good clear signs for the various areas.
It would be unfair to compare any 'ordinary' garden centre with the likes of our nearest RHS garden centre say, at Wisley. While I do enjoy going to Wisley, and I've bought many plants there, the RHS must have some of the country's best qualified staff at their green finger tips, not to mention the sheer size of the estate, which naturally makes their range of plants for sale far more extensive than here.
Woodcote does compare very favourably with other local garden centres though. In terms of value for money, their plants are very reasonably priced. This is probably partly due to them being grown on site, in a large nursery to the left of the garden centre, which must help keep costs down.
There are probably three garden centres nearer to my home than Woodcote, all of which are Wyevale stores. I tend to find they stock pretty much the same basic plants in all three centres, with a larger selection in the biggest store. I would say Woodcote stock a far larger range of roses and fruit trees than I've seen outside of Wisley. While their range of plants is impressive, the size of the outdoor part of the centre pales into insignificance once you step back inside.
* Inside... *
on a sunny day is lovely as they have very high glass ceilinged roofs Aside from plants, they have an admirable pet section too. I'll often stock up on both cat and dog food when I'm here. Not only do they stock food which is not widely available, but sometimes it's slightly cheaper here too. A example is the dog food I get, Naturediet. It's not only a couple of pence cheaper per carton here than at Pets at home, but sold in a much more convivial atmosphere. Likewise my cat's food, which I haven't seen stocked elsewhere outside of pet shops.
A browse further down the main aisle will take you to an Edinburgh Woollen Mill concession, or for those wanting new china, it might be worth looking at their lovely Cath Kidston range. They also stock some Spode china although it's too expensive for me to even touch never mind buy.
* The coffee shop *
Ever seen a flash mob of pensioners wanting a cup of tea? Then come here on a Sunday morning. It's always very busy, and not without reason; certainly the sandwiches I've had here are fresh and taste delicious although I think the food is slightly overpriced so I tend to have one of their hot chocolate Royale for £2.99, which comes with cream, marshmallows and a nice biscuit.
It seems to be the kind of place where people meet their friends to catch up or families meet and read their Sunday papers over some food, but despite that, I've always been able to find a vacant table. Unless you're really hungry, or planning to meet some friends, a better idea might be to get a coffee or tea 'to go' which you can walk around with.
* The staff... *
are very responsive. On my last visit, at the checkouts only 3 of the 5 or 6 tills were open and most of the customers seemed to have trolleys full of goodies. One of the staff on the adjacent customer services desk was quick to open up a further till there, which helped.
I've noticed the staff working in the coffee shop are always quick to keep the tables clean and remove any rubbish from the previous diners too, which is nice to see.
* Community spirit *
Woodcote seem keen to leave a good impression with their nearest neighbours. Every Friday for around five hours, one of the local fishmongers has a stall here selling a variety of fish. I've never been able to visit on a weekday, but it's a good initiative and obviously popular as it's been running for a while now.
Once a month they host a farmers market in the grounds too, which always pulls the crowds in. The cynical might say it's just a ploy to get people through their doors, so they're tempted to spend money in the garden centre as well as the market, but it's still nice to see a largish independent business supporting other smaller ones.
And they do have a link with the RHS, albeit tenuous, in that they sponsor their local council's entry in the annual Britain in Bloom competition that the RHS run. Financially, they also raise money for a local wildlife charity, the Riverside Animal Centre, which is based nearby.
* The King of Clubs? *
Like all the canniest stores, they have their own version of a loyalty scheme. I joined online and immediately got a voucher to download for a free mister spray the next time I was in the Centre. A free plant mister, and a pink one at that, what's not to like? There isn't a card to carry around with you, but they do send newsletters by email every so often, which sometimes have discount coupons inside.
* Any downsides? *
My main one is that they've recently stopped letting customers bring their dogs in with them. I've often taken my dog with me, until this Spring, when we saw a notice at the entrance stating that they've changed their policy and now only guide dogs are admitted. They have however thoughtfully provided a dog water bowl by the entrance, which took the sting out of it.
Yankee Candles, the modern day Marmite. There are those, certainly judging by Ciao reviews, who love them. Others like me have never been tempted to buy them. Until my last visit to Woodcote. Yes! Woodcote don't just stock them, they have a large display area dedicated to the waxy range. Aside from a department store nearer me which has a much smaller range, this is the first place where I've seen them for sale. It's easy enough to avoid them though, the centre is so large.
They close at 6pm on weekdays. If they were to extend their opening times, I, like many others, would be able to visit in the evening rather than at the weekend.
* Worth visiting? *
A round trip of over 10 miles - usually in slow moving traffic - doesn't warrant a visit very often, but when I do go I've always been pleased I've made the effort. There aren't that many independent garden centres nearby, less so those that stock the kind of things I buy such as cat and dog food, not to mention candles.
For those in north Surrey or south London I would certainly recommend a visit. It's not really far from the A23, so anyone further afield who is willing to take a little detour might find it worth their while.
Unfortunately there isn't a great deal else of interest to see in the local neighbourhood of Wallington if you were to visit. It's hard to imagine that the sprawling conurbation it is now was once little more than a village surrounded by fields and meadows over 100 years ago. Back then, Wallington was best known for growing and producing lavender and it's oil. If you drive up the busy Stafford Road to get to Woodcote as I do, you'll find it hard to miss the large sculpture of a lavender plant by the road which is just about the only reminder of its green and pleasant past.
Woodcote Green Nurseries
020 8647 6838