Please sign in to post.

England's Gardens. Need a top 10 list.

We've been planning a trip to England for three years now.... of course the plague got in the way,

We had our list of gardens to visit. We have already seen the Kew and Hampton.

After many hours of YouTube we are now confused as to what gardens to see. You can't throw a stick with out some body profiling a small estate garden on Youtube. There are TOO many. Mostly interested in easy to get to,
by train or bus, ....gardens for day trips out of London with a mansion tour to it also.

What are your top ten gardens,, excluding Kew and Hampon Court, within a day trip from London?

Thank you in advance. :) .

Posted by
6803 posts

Syon House
Queen Mary’s Garden Regents Park
Richmond Park Isabella Plantation
Kyto Garden
Eltham Palace
Hampstead Hill pergola
Brockwell Park and Gardens
Chiswick House and Gardens

Posted by
3789 posts

Monty Don is British television's prime cheerleader for gardening. He has studied gardens around the world and is always frightfully keen. The link to YouTube here is more about history than a tour guide but it should make the dirt under your fingernails quiver with the excitement of what is waiting for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqtfpUCinjg

YouTube has lots more of his material, for free.

Posted by
5746 posts

While you’re in London, don’t miss the Chelsea Physic Garden, on the north bank of the Thames. Tickets and info at https://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/ .

Also in town, without needing a day trip, are Regent’s Park, Soho Square Gardens, and the unexpected little garden/park at Manchester Square, across the street from the Wallace Collection mansion.

Posted by
774 posts

We have watched all the Monty Don's. We do like his stuff, but, he gets exclusive access, not like a common tourist would have. :)

Posted by
5962 posts

My top 10 would be

Hidcote in Gloucestershire
Sissinghurst in Kent
RHS Wisley near Guildford
RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire
RHS Hyde Hall in Essex combined with Beth Chatto’s garden for dry gardens
Bressingham in Norfolk
Whalton Manor in Northumberland
Leonardslee in Sussex for azaleas and rhododendrons
Sheffield Park in Sussex for autumn colour
Alnwick Castle water garden in Northumberland

Most of these aren’t within easy reach of London, but Wisley, Essex, Sissinghurst and Sheffield Park would be possible. The list maybe useful for a future trip when you can get out of London.

Check out the ngs.org.uk website for local gardens that are open for charity as we have visited some lovely places through this scheme, but they are usually only open once or twice a year. They often offer tea and homemade cakes too.

Posted by
28786 posts

In addition to all those top hitters above, Kensington Garden, behind the Palace of the same name (excellent interiors and special shows) and adjacent to the west side of Hyde Park, also a lovely place (watch out for the horses).

See if you can spot the parrots in Hyde Park - look near the Serpentine.

You can combine a steam train (normal train from Victoria to East Grinstead) from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park with a fab lake and incredible autumn colour.

Posted by
5903 posts

Returning to the OP specifications, the terms "Top 10" and "easy to get to" are not very compatible. The reason there are a host of tour-company and university-travel "English Garden Tours" is that the best ones are not easy to get to, and even with a car, may be far from each other.

We resolved to get to Sissinghurst without a car (from London), but the taxis from the train station proved expensive, and the whole excursion took most of the day. We felt it was worth it, but for those with a packed vacation schedule, it's not a slam-dunk. We also had to deal with cryptic off-peak rail travel rules, and the need to reserve a taxi in the face of school-transport-hour contracts held by the taxi companies. It's a project.

I'd note that there is a Blue Guide book on English Gardens, but it has hundreds of entries.

Posted by
1004 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Let me give one more vote for the Chelsea Physic Garden. Look up the history behind this garden. It is more of a laboratory or medical research garden used by many famous people. If you know remember anything from high school science classes this is like touching scientific history. This is not your 'pretty flower' garden. Although it is lovely. A second reason is that they have a restaurant on site that serves up some nice food at reasonable prices. So it gives you a break to get off your feet.

wayn e iNWI

Posted by
774 posts

This an aside from the original question, but we have looked at about 40 some odd estates in the UK, and to tell you the truth, I'm beginning to feel a small sense of irritation at the extreme social and wealth/power stratification that existed, and still exists in the UK and Europe. These Dukes and Earls and Lords, were just obscene with the size and scope of even their "Hunting Lodges." And you see a Youtube on one grand manor, and then learn that this was just one of several grand manors, that the family had that has been passed down the generations. Modesty just wasn't a concept, to that upper class, that by Title had been awarded vast tracks of land, and controlled land rents of the surrounding villagers.

We all love seeing the grandeur of places. .Yet, underneath that grandeur, and splendor, is a social order that must have been fairly brutal. I wonder why there weren't more civil wars.

Posted by
774 posts

The history became so much more convoluted when we visited Europe. The histories are different than that told in the USA. You see the side that is their national belief to maintain..... a best face. And its a different one than our standard narrative. Travel can be confusing at times for us. Cause you thought you knew something, and then find out that that something is almost entirely a different story from an other perspective. . :) Why would Ben Franklin, hang out in the Royal Courts of France, as much as he did? I think he liked it. The colonies were a play thing to the royalties of Europe. And though in the US Civil War, all these counties became neutral, even though private companies , could do what they wanted in the interest of providing much needed cotton to the textile industries. This is the history we never learned, from the US educational system. And sort of muted in the conversation of the support of these grand estates, many of which were dependent on the production of cotton textiles.

Posted by
97 posts

And there’s Great Dexter, Christopher Lloyd’s wonderful garden in Sussex

Posted by
5903 posts

Well, Francis, I shouldn't use fiction as history, but the Granthams' distress after WW I is a good description of what happened to most of the estates. And I don't need to lecture an American about the tracks of Colonial slavery, continued long after abolition on the island of England. And, while the Fricks and Morgans of the US (our royalty, without a peerage, just the Pinkertons to break the union ... ) bought up French, German, and Italian treasures being sold off by declining dignitaries, it was a little later in Britain, so the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery got more than American collectors, for taxes.

Posted by
774 posts

It does seem like the National Trust, created, in 1895, was an answer to an already declining aristocracy. And somehow the property owners could negotiate what became pubic and what was retained as private, In the sense that the gardens were opened, yet sections of these Grand Estates remained private, with a sectioned off area that was open to the public, for a fee of course, and the family could then avoid the Estate Tax. I do wonder why Downton Abby never brought it up as a possible option, or why Shrimpy didn't sign on, and had to sell their estate in its entirety. Highclere, IS NOT a National Trust Property, and still owned out right, by George Herbert and his wife Fiona, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvonand. :)

Posted by
344 posts

Hi Francis,
Back in May-June we visited a number of gardens. In no particular order, our faves were:

Hidcote and its neighbour Kiftsgate. We luckily had the latter to ourselves after a brief summer shower chased a busload away. That resulted in no other visitors for the two hours til closing. Some folks had warned us that Hidcote was too commercial and touristy, but we experienced nothing but wonder there, with cheerful friendly staff and a wide variety of quality attractions.

Kew was excellent too. We'd bought memberships in order to get in early at 8 am (also included free mailings of their superb magazine). That meant far fewer visitors til the regular 10 am opening. It was an annual school visit day, with dozens of school groups of every age. we met one class of 6 yr olds from Battersea PS. We were told by their chaperone that those kids' grandparents had once been the young voices heard singing the famed chorus ("WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION!") on the Pink Floyd hit 'Another Brick in the Wall'. We also chatted with a gardener gal there who was mere hours away from her retirement from working at Kew.

Another pair that impressed were the Isabella plantation at Richmond park, plus the Golders Hill garden next to Hampstead Heath. The latter has a wonderful pergola, plus proximity to the actual village of Hampstead. The former is well worth the hike, which takes one through the remote woodland of Richmond Park proper (*making news just now given its having turned unusually dry due to lack of water).
If in Chipping Campden, there exists a pair of lesser-known, B-league gardens that nonetheless make for brief interesting tours. One is the tiny Ernest Wilson memorial garden at the top end near the main church. Some very rare items there. Also, the back gardens of the luxe hotel 'Cotswold House' are among the finest such quasi-private ones that we've ever visited. Small but wonderfully designed and maintained.
We will soon display our photos of all the above in our upcoming Trip Report, both here and also over on the Fodors forum.

I am done. The end.

Posted by
19 posts

If by chance you are planning to go in May of 2023, you may consider planning your trip around the annual Chelsea Flower Show in London set for May 23-27, 2023. Check this out and other national Royal Horticultural shows (Malvern, Hampton Court, etc.). You can buy tickets online. Those of you who have Brtibox or Prime Video can view Monty Don's shows (Gardeners World), including features from these RHS events to see if this is something you may be interested in. The RHS site also has a listing of their gardens and "partner" gardens you can visit for free if you are a member. Members receive a FABUBLOUS monthly magazine!

www.rhs.org.uk

Posted by
3087 posts

gregglamarsh, thanks for your post! Just full of great information! I'm looking forward to your trip report. Your trips are always so interesting and your destinations well-researched ahead of time (obviously). Well done!

This thread is packed with great information from everyone who posted. Great lists from Claudia and Jennifer, excellent recommendations from everyone. I will be bookmarking and printing this thread for future use! Thanks everyone!

Posted by
774 posts

Though its 50 minutes away by train from London, I wonder why no one has mentioned Knole House. Are the gardens just too small to be of interest? It certainly has all we would want in a Grand Manor.

Thank everyone for the Fantastic suggestions!

Following Your suggestions and some from our own list, we have narrowed down to:

Sissinghurst
Great Dixter
Chelsea Physics Garden
Knole House
Hidcote Manson
Kiftsgate
Kensington Garden
Hever Castle
Haddon Hall
Hatfield House
and of course, Windsor. :)

Edit: Added Syon Park. Thank You Claudia!

One of our more perfect day trips, was to take the train to Kew Gardens, which you can't really see all of it, in one day, and then returned on a river boat back to London. :)

Posted by
28786 posts

never suggested Knole for two reasons.

Primarily, it is not a garden. There is a small one, but it is a house (a very old one) in a deer park. You asked for a top 10 and it doesn't meet the brief.

Secondarily, it never occurred to me - we visited several years ago and received such a strange welcome and cold reception from a member of the family that we didn't stay long and haven't been back despite driving nearby every time we go or come back from the Continent.

on the other hand, you may love the place

Posted by
774 posts

I did say "mostly interested in," with-in a day trip from London. :) Our now, planned itinerary starts in Edinburgh, three days, then York, three days, and then London for eight or nine days. :) If anyone has a must see garden in Edinburgh, or York, that would be wonderful, even though it is out side the original question. :)
I keep thinking that I can't drive a car in England. Which is okay, as it is a personal challenge to see just how well the public transportation systems work in Europe. So far, we have never been disappointed, though some of our solutions have been some what complex and edgy at times, in the sense, that one part has to work, to meet the next one. :)

Posted by
344 posts

You're welcome Rebecca.
Forgot to mention our own odd experience @ Snowshill. We went on back-to-back days, the first just to peruse the village itself, then the following to actually pay to visit the gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived in the parking lot a little too late. We hadn't even yet shut our car doors, when a male staffer rushed breathlessly out towards us. He explained that we really REALLY should not buy any tickets nor plan to tour coz 'by the time we reached highlights in the garden, it'd immediately be time to start our trek back to exit the site by closing time.'

Hmmmm...it was either a case of someone being kind (i.e. don't waste yer money--you'll only end up rushing through without peace') OR perhaps there was a hidden agenda: he was expected to be somewhere else promptly after locking up the premises?

Anyway, Francis surely has a wide variety of gardens to choose from now.
I am done. the petalz

Posted by
344 posts

A lesser-known Kew factoid.
Classic rock fans may want to know that the pub there called 'Tap on the Line' (which is located right outside the Kew tube stop) was once called 'The Flower & the Firkin'. That ancient pub was the place where Jimi Hendrix and his pair of new bandmates retired to celebrate in early January '67. They'd just an hour earlier had their group portrait taken at Kew Gardens by a fan-shutterbug. That iconic shot was the one used on the cover of their historic debut album.

Apparently, vast quantities of Afghan hash were smoked by the celebrators in the pub's own side-garden. The photographer recently remarked, "Thank God that we had a driver already set up to take us back into the city!"

I am done. the better bygone daze

Posted by
3087 posts

Gregg, thanks for the info on that ancient pub and the rock 'n' roll history of the place. I had visions of paisley shirts, bell-bottom jeans and psychedelic album covers, remembering that musical era!
1967--also remember buying the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album that year.
Thanks for the flashback and the memories.

Posted by
344 posts

(voice of a drunk Bob Hoskins)
"Cor Blimey Rebecca, 'twasn't me 'at 'wen 'a Knoles. Twas Nigel, innit!"

I am done. the near and far

Posted by
3087 posts

Gregg, you're right! I'm trying to give up coffee, and apparently it's taking it's toll on me! Thanks for the correction.

Posted by
5746 posts

Regarding Edinburgh, the grounds at Holyrood Palace, inside the gates, were very pleasant. Although not a massive garden site as I recall, it was well worthwhile stopping there for a visit.

Posted by
344 posts

Kew message to members:
In light of the sad news of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Kew Gardens and Wakehurst will be closed tomorrow, Friday 9 September, as a mark of respect.

Kew Gardens and Wakehurst will also be closed on the day of the state funeral.
Please check our website for the latest updates and information about visiting the Gardens.
Our thoughts and best wishes are with you all at this difficult time and we look forward to welcoming you back to our Gardens soon

I am done. The end.