Newest Review: ... town of Chelmsford and is a 20 minute drive from here. The directions as supplied by the website are From the M25: Leave the M25 at jun... more
Reflections Of A Garden From All Perpectives.
RHS Garden Hyde Hall (Essex)
Member Name: Machair1
RHS Garden Hyde Hall (Essex)
Date: 17/05/09, updated on 18/05/09 (70 review reads)
Advantages: Enviromentally caring and some stunning plants and views
Disadvantages: Slightly hilly so may be difficult for wheelchairs though not impossible.
Hyde Hall Gardens are in Essex close to where I live, and are one of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens which are open to the public. Entry to the gardens is free if you are a member, but non members have to pay £5.50 to enter per person. Children are £2 each. Currently it is possible to visit by using a buy one ticket get one free offer, which is currently being offered through Rachel's Organic Milk which we buy on a weekly basis.
Located in the small village of Rettendon the opening times are
Open every day except Christmas Day
November to December 10am-4pm
In all cases last admission is an hour before closing time
As I have a severely disabled mum I have been much more aware of this when visiting places, because it is clear to me that some venues are just not suitable to push anyone in a wheelchair and enjoy it.
The gardens are steep in places and they do have some wheelchairs for borrowing, but you must call them in advance if you want to borrow one. Any carer who is with a disabled wheelchair user is admitted free, which is a nice gesture, and I have found the disabled toilets which are adjacent to the main toilets to be clean and well maintained.
It is possible to enter all the main areas if you are a wheelchair user, such as the café in the barn, and the shop, but in my opinion the steep paths together with the small shop area mean that someone like my father would find this a bit of a struggle. Having said that it is possible to push the chair to some beautiful viewing points, and as long as you allow plenty of time you will be rewarded with some beautiful sights of wildlife, plants and panoramic vistas over the undulating meadows which surround the gardens.
My advice would be not to choose busy times such as bank holidays and Sunday afternoons if you have a disabled person in your group, but to actually go towards the end of the day when the solitude and the peace will envelope you, and offer some freedom from having to manoeuvre a chair around crowds
How To Get There
As mentioned earlier this garden is in Rettendon and the sign posts are copious especially on the A130 southbound which is near to the gardens. This is about 8 miles from the town of Chelmsford and is a 20 minute drive from here.
The directions as supplied by the website are
From the M25:
Leave the M25 at junction 29 for A127 (signed Southend). From the A127 exit onto the A132 (signed Wickford/South Woodham Ferrers).
Or leave the A12 at junction 17, then at the roundabout take the second exit for the A130 (signed Southend/Basildon)
From the A130 Rettendon Turnpike roundabout follow the tourist attraction flower symbols towards South Woodham Ferrers on the A132. At the Shaw Farm roundabout turn into Willow Grove/Creephedge Lane.
The address of the gardens is
Essex CM3 8AT
Tel 01245 400256.
Sadly public transport access is somewhat of a let down with the nearest bus stop a mile away, and the railway stations of Wickford and Chelmsford being 5 and 8 miles away respectively. If using this route you would have to get a taxi to complete the journey.
At the gardens parking is clearly laid out and there is adequate space on normal days, I have my doubts about busy times but I would avoid these anyway if you want to experience the garden at its best. The approach road to the gardens is gravel and very noisy as the car types scrape over it.
The History Of The Gardens
You have to bear in mind with these gardens that they are in their infancy in terms of maturity and what they have to offer. This is because it was only in 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson bought the place and then all it had to offer were 6 trees growing on the top of a windswept hill, and so everything you see has developed on from these days when there was literally nothing there.
The site was dry cold and windy and this area gets very little annual rainfall so the entire site was, and still is, a challenge to gardening. The site had prior to this been a farm over many centuries, so it had become a dumping ground for all sorts of agricultural rubbish, and was at the time an almost impossible task to make anything of it.
The house on the site dates back to Tudor times and Mrs Robinson discovered the remnants of an old Tudor stable floor, and this was subsequently excavated to become a natural pavement garden.
The site was donated to the RHS in 1993 and by then Mrs Robinson had certainly made strides into creating a superb garden, with herbaceous borders, and vegetable plots, and so it was a framework which in recent years has become a treasure for the RHS.
They inherited 320 acres of which about 25 acres were cultivated, and their aim is to increase the cultivated areas to at least 60. Essex has very little prime land like this so it is now an extremely valuable asset, both in monetary terms, but also in terms of providing the public with an escape from the built up areas, which are creeping ever closer to the fields and meadows in the county, as the demand for housing gets greater and greater.
The shop and entrance hut are manned by volunteers who are devoted to the gardens and to the preservation of them for all to enjoy.
Work is currently underway to create a new visitor centre due to open in July 2009.
Walking through the gardens is easier if you ask in the information centre for a free little guide, which shows you several routes which you can pick out depending on your stamina and time available. There is a recycling box for these as you leave, so they can be handed out again, meaning that you are allowed to have these free of charge.
Nothing is too strenuous but the paths do meander through some gradients and through some spectacular little gardens which have been thoughtfully planted to be of interest through all the seasons. This is reflected in some of the events they hold such as the rose weekend which will celebrate a time when all the roses are in full bloom in June.
Everything has been planted with wildlife in mind, and this is the thing which appeals to me more than anything. The bird boxes and bird feeders sit in little nooks, and are helping to support these in their breeding seasons. There are ladybird houses and squirrel feeders, as well as bee hives, and certainly there are areas which have been purposely left to be on the wild side allowing natural plants to flourish so you won't see formality everywhere you look.
There are beautiful ponds with ducks and carp on which giant water lilies float, and the refection of these on a sunny days is absolutely beautiful. There are wooden bridges and hidden nooks in which an abundance of plants grow which are all clearly labelled so that if you see something you like you can possibly identify it, and buy a plant of the same group from the shop which is a very pleasant finale to your stay.
There is a very well respected barn eatery on the premises which fills up for lunch very quickly, so again if you are planning to eat there then arrive early. Meals are very good indeed with main courses between £6 to £8 and a lovely selection of cakes and drinks which you can buy from the servery. I particularly like the choice here and the use of local businesses to supply their needs. There is local beer and rose petal and blackberry wine, as well as many fair trade products. You really can have a lovely meal here and the quality is excellent. It is also possible to sit outside on sunny days on tables provided.
A special note here. They ask that you do not eat picnics around the garden but only in the car park area, I think this is really important as it keeps the garden clear from rubbish and preserves their natural ambience, without the crisp packets and ice cream wrappers.
A Place Of Reflection
Having walked all around the gardens it is possible to sit for a while and take in the scenery and the views which are very beautiful especially so in early summer. We saw hares scampering across the horizon and the yellows and greens of the undulating meadows which cocoon these gardens were a pleasant place to sit and rest for a while. The day was a mixture of sunshine and clouds so the colours were ever changing as the light reflected on the fields, sometimes illuminating them, bathing them in a golden glow. The views are reminiscent of a landcape painting from a bygone era, as the landscape is bereft of houses but rich in meadows, pastures, and natural beauty everywhere you look.
I think that although this is probably not the most spectacular open garden in terms of plants I have been to, it is an oasis of peace and the marriage they have made between careful planting in tandem with nature, together with a concern for the environment means that this will continue to be a place of beauty and solace in an agitated world.
This review is also published in Ciao by myself under the user name Violet1278.
Summary: A beautiful oasis in the heart of Essex
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