We visit Hever Castle, Penshurst Place and the Saville Gardens in Windsor Great Park. The tour also takes in some charming Old Rectory gardens. We end on the last day with a visit to The Gardens of the Rose near St. Albans, the home of the Royal National Rose Society. Floribunda Rose ― “Tickled Pink” at Hever Castle, Kent
Our base is the historic spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells where we stay at the Russell Hotel 80 London Road, TN1 1DZ tel. 01892 544833 close to “The Pantiles”, a pillared pedestrian precinct by the Chalybeate spring, paved in 1700. It was very popular in Georgian times when Richard “Beau” Nash organised the seasonal entertainments.
Flora’s small group tours typically have 5-7 of us in a comfortable 8 seater vehicle. Dr Sommerville plans and guides all tours, enthusiastically describing the plants, scenery and architecture which we encounter.
The price of this tour is £1150. This covers B&B for four nights in double or twin bedded rooms but not evening meal; all transport; garden entrance and personal guiding throughout.
Read a Flora traveller’s diary of a Rose Tour.
Three consecutive days [2 nights] may be selected from this tour for approximately half the price of the full tour.
Allowing time for everyone to reach the station or The Russell Hotel situated in the historic centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, we shall leave at 10.30am to visit Hever Castle, the girl-hood home of Anne Boleyn and remodelled by William Waldorf Aster in the early 1900s. He made a magnificent Italian garden, rose garden, herbaceous border and lake, all on a grand scale. The Castle and model historic building exhibition are well worth visiting too. After lunch we move on to Penshurst Place, a 14C house with beautiful gardens designed as large garden rooms. If there is time you should go round this very historic house and have tea. We return to the hotel about 5.30pm.
At 9am we meet a blue badge guide who will collect us from the Russell Hotel and take us on an hour’s tour of the historic centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells ending in the Pantiles where the car will pick us up and take us on to Pashley Manor garden where we have an early lunch. The old timbered house forms a backdrop for a lovely garden with modern statuary. In the afternoon we visit Sissinghurst Castle garden, one of the most famous English gardens made in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. [See our description of Sissinghurst Castle Garden]. We return to the hotel about 6pm.
At 9am we set off to Wakehurst Place in Sussex run jointly by the National Trust and Kew Gardens' "Place in the Country", now the home of the Millenium Seed Bank. We shall lunch there and in the afternoon visit Nymans gardens in Sussex belonging to the National Trust. Here, beside the ruins of a burnt-out Tudor-style house, is the garden designed in the early part of the 20C by a well known plantsman, Ludwig Messel. We shall return to the hotel about 6pm.
At 9am we leave for Wisley the main Royal Horticultural Society garden. One could spend days in this splendid impeccably maintained garden. There are trial plots, greenhouses, display gardens -including some winners from Chelsea-, woods, lakes and excellent bog gardens. We shall have lunch here and then move on to Polesden Lacy where we have tea, a Regency house belonging to the National Trust set in the beautiful hilly scenery of the North Chalk Downs. It has a lovely formal rose garden as well as impressive herbaceous borders There will be time to visit the splendid house, extensively remodelled in 1906 by Margaret Greville, a well-known Edwardian hostess. Her collection of fine paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver is displayed in the reception rooms and galleries, as it was at the time of her celebrated house parties.
Leaving The Russell Hotel with our luggage at 9 am we drive via the Dartford Thames Crossing to the Gardens of the Rose near St. Albans where we have coffee and lunch. Here are 20 acres of landscaped gardens containing 30, 000 roses in 1700 varieties growing among clematis and other herbaceous plants. In the Queen Mother’s Garden are the old varieties and there are also cultivation trial beds and the themed borders.
Later in the afternoon we move on to The Savill Gardens in Windsor Great Park. Sir Eric Savill, a royal gardener, first created his woodland garden in the 1930s under the watchful eyes of Kings and Queens. The Rose Garden, opened by H.M. the Queen in 2010, is a magnificent addition. Designed by Andrew Wilson, visitors can wander the swirls of rose beds and enjoy the perfume at its best from a walkway that rises into the centre of the Rose Garden. The restaurant closes at 5.30 pm and we then make our way a short distance to Heathrow airport to fly out or catch an Underground train to London Paddington.
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