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England in May ‘22

Two traveling couples are interested in gardening in particular, and English history in general. This will be first trip to England, beginning in London and staying primarily in the southern 1/3rd of the island. Staying about 2 weeks..... any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

Posted by
26060 posts

If you mean that you would like to visit spectacular gardens, and that you will have a car, you are starting in the right place.

Depending on the weather though, you may find May one month too early.

Then again I may be still living through the coldest and wettest Spring in English history. Visited a wonderful stately home garden here in Northamptonshire yesterday and the borders just aren't really going at all. Plenty of green leaves but no flowers. It was disappointing, and here we are in June. I did see three "black" tulips just hanging on in the woods and a few bluebells.

On the 13th of May I was in the Cotswolds to visit my parents' graves on my Mother's birthday and the Wisteria was certainly out, but again no flowers.

Then again if you had been here one year ago we had the hottest May in history. One extreme to another these days thanks to global warming.

Do you prefer landscape gardens or flower gardens? Do you prefer themed "rooms" or borders?

England, and southern England is up to the eyebrows in fabulous gardens so before I go wheeling off a long list, all of which I know well, can you give me a lead - type of garden, will you be willing to buy a National Trust visitor membership (hint - the correct answer for many bonus points is "yes", and that will go a long way for your hunting of history too), will you have a car, and how do you define the southern third?

Will that include Cornwall and Devon, both a very long way from London but most definitely in the bottom third. Will it include the Cotswolds (where Snowshill and Hidcote and Kiftsgate are among the runners and riders) or Cambridgeshire or Northamptonshire?

What sort of history?
American history (George Washington's father's house is in Northamptonshire)?
World War Two - if so, from the British or American or Canadian point of view?
British history - the Norman conquest, the Anglo Saxons, older than that, the middle ages, the kings and queens?

Sorry for so many questions but your question is so broad. If you can narrow it down, and I know you only have 2 weeks and 4 folks, but if you could it would help ever so much - and the the answers can be laser focussed on you....

Posted by
19200 posts

Do you plan to rent a car for part of the trip? There are many, many lovely gardens in the UK; some are awkward to reach without your own wheels.

For places accessible by train, it will be worth checking out the 2-for-1 offers. Kew Gardens has participated in the past. For folks traveling in multiples of two, the savings can be substantial. All visitors have to have a ticket purchased at a train station to take advantage of the 2-for-1 deals. A one-week TFL travel card (valid on the Underground and on buses) is sufficient, but it must have been purchased at a train station ticket counter.

Participating sights can change, so there's no need to get deeply into specific offers right now; just compare the list of offers to the list of places you plan to see next February/March.

I'm no expert on gardens, and I've never had a car at my disposal in the UK, but here are four places I found interesting; all can be reached by public transportation. All but the first are some distance from London. I'm certain you needn't go that far to fill your time. All of these are quite expensive (but do check the 2-for-1 offers if taking the train).

  • Kew Gardens, Richmond (London suburbs)
  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan (Cornwall)
  • The Eden Project, Bodelva (Cornwall)
  • Bodnant Gardens, Colwyn Bay (Northern Wales)
Posted by
1289 posts

If you’re going to be in London, Tentative dates for 2022 Chelsea Flower Show are May 24-28. The RHS emailed the dates when I asked in January but they are subject to change. If you’re interested follow their website
Nearby is the Chelsea Physic Garden. London has a Garden Museum in the Lambeth neighborhood. You can Google both.

Posted by
3547 posts

Monty Don has been Britisih television's guide to gardening for years. His intimate style stops just short of gush and his enthusiasm is hard to resist. He talks about landscaping history as if he was there and peeking over Mother Nature's shoulder. Some of his series on Britain and elsewhere, including the USA, have run on public broadcasters in the US and Canada. Easier, a number of his documentaries can be seen on YouTube for free; this one, for example --

Posted by
11 posts

Nigel, really appreciate your input.
As for "southern one third" we tentatively were planning to fly into London and the drive for two weeks, generally south, southwest, and then to the Cotswolds.
I'd say our interests are more flower gardens.
Yes, to the National Trust pass.
As for history, I know this is VERY broad, but all of the topics you reference sound good.
Thank you!

Posted by
11 posts

acraven- we appreciate your time and ideas, particularly about the train passes. Kew is definitely on our list.

Posted by
1770 posts

You might also look at to get some ideas about the countless options you have. It was helpful to us on our last driving trip which we planned mainly around stately homes and gardens. We bought this membership on this trip as it covered the properties we were interested in that were not National Trust. Your biggest problem may be the abundance of choices. A wonderful time awaits! Safe travels.

Posted by
5701 posts

Kew, Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, Ham House, Holland Park, Kyoto Gardens, Hampton Court are some I’ve enjoyed. All near London.

Make a list, research 2 for 1 offers on line in case as some of the above locales charge admission…

FYI Kew can take hours to enjoy. Plan accordingly.

As you are first time visitors start researching Timeout London and the Londonist website at least 3 months before you depart. You may find events, gallery shows, museum offerings, theatre productions, that you’d like to see.