The secret gardens
If you're looking to get the kids outside this half-term, head to the stunning gardens at Ramster Hall near Chiddingfold - kids are free and there's a lovely teahouse serving homemade treats.
Hey you. Over there. Yes, you. C’mon over here and lean in close because I’m going to let you in on a fabulous secret. I think you’ll love it. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.
Ever been to Ramster Gardens? I went last week, and they’re stunning – particularly at this time of year when the leaves are starting to turn and the light takes on that gorgeous autumn glow.
They gardens are not open all year round – these are the private gardens belonging to Malcolm and Rosie Glaister who live at Ramster Hall, which has been in Rosie’s family for four generations. However, they’re open from Sat 14 until Sun 29 Oct, and then again next spring when the fabulous collection of rhododendrons will be at their best.
The gardens are set on 25 acres of woodland with lakes and a beautiful combination of trees and shrubs. There are proper paths which twist and turn to reveal lovely surprises – sculptures, pretty lakes, formal plantings, rare trees and shrubs – and also make the gardens seem bigger than they actually are.
I didn’t have my kids on tow on the day I went, which made for a gorgeously peaceful walk and gave me plenty of time to look closely at the plantings and check the names of some unusual trees (I’m a bit of a swot like that).
But this is a garden that kids are going to love as much as the grown ups. It’s a haven of hiding spots and beautifully gnarled trees. The sculptures dotted throughout the gardens add to the fantasy.
And since we’re talking about kids, it’s worth mentioning that kids under the age of 16 get free entry, and there are kids activities including scavenger hunts and colouring.
In the autumn, you’ll find may trees ablaze with colour, and the lovely crunching of leaves under foot. In the spring though, this garden really comes into its own with magnificent displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, as well as a stunning carpet of bluebells. The spring 2018 opening will be from 17 March until 10 June.
And you needn’t leave Fido at home. Dogs are welcome on a lead. There’s also a tearoom which serves tea and coffee, as well as sandwiches and traditional handmade cakes and scones.
On a practical note, there’s plenty of parking and the gardens are really accessible and fairly level. It’s an easy walk.
Ramster Hall, although a private family home, is stunning too, and is available to hire as a wedding venue or for corporate events. You’ll catch a glimpse while you’re wandering through the trees, and will no doubt wonder at what a gorgeous place this must be to live.
Ramster Hall and Gardens is open from Sat 14 Oct – Sun 29 Oct, daily from 10am to 4pm. Entry is £7 for adults, and free for kids aged 16 and over. Seasons tickets are available for £20 a person or £35 a couple. ramsterevents.com