Outing Reports 2022

2022 saw a return to a full programme of outings for our members - 7 in total - and personal reports of these events are given below.   Take a look at some of the photographs taken by our members.

1st April - Blenheim Palace

What a wonderful day we had for our first coach trip of the year, sunshine and blue skies! Blenheim Palace lies in the former Royal Park of Woodstock, the parkland was gifted to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne as a reward for victory in the Battle of Blenheim (1704). It took 28 years to complete and cost nearly £300,000. Birth place of Winston Churchill (1874), now the private home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, it was opened to the public in April 1950 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

There was so much to see: 2 miles of yew tree paths in the Marlborough maze, exotic butterflies, water gardens, Churchill and stables exhibitions and, of course, the palace itself.

Entrance to the palace is through the Great Hall. State rooms run the length of the south front of the Palace. The first state room has the “Quit Rent” standard: a small standard with 3 French fleur de lys. Although on royal land, Blenheim is a non royal palace. Every year a few days before 13 August, the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim, a new Quit Rent standard is taken to Windsor Castle. If this is not done title to the palace will be lost and it will revert to the Crown!

The Saloon, still used for entertaining, is the main reception room; the Duke and family dine here on Christmas day. The library, at 183 feet, is thought to be the longest room in England and houses over 10,000 books including 1st editions by Dickens and Winston Churchill. Its statue of Queen Anne in white marble is said to flatter her; she was as round as she was tall (under 5 feet) and on her death weighed over 20 stones!

Blenheim’s landscape gardeners include Henry Wise, Vanborough and Capability Brown who designed the grand cascades. The pump house at the foot of the cascades filters lake water through sand to provide water for parts of the palace.

The Churchill garden opened in 2015, the 50th anniversary of his death. It comprises a 90m long path (1m for each year of his life) depicting milestone dates in his life.

Secret Garden: by 1954 the 7th Duke, Churchill’s grandfather, decided the family needed a private garden away from the public and a 3 acre plot was agreed. Renovated in 2004 as part of the celebrations to mark the 300 year anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim it has been designed to have colour year round; truly a garden for all seasons.

18th May - Arundel and Leonardslee Gardens

We had wonderful weather, sunny but not too hot. We were delayed in our arrival at Arundel by a series of incredibly badly timed traffic lights around Worthing. This was a pity, because I could have spent a whole day in the extensive castle and its gardens overlooking and abutting the town. After a quick skip around the hilly grounds surrounding the castle, there was time for a quick lunch, a whizz around the town and a visit to the small but interesting local museum, before returning to the coach. No chance of seeing the cathedral or leisurely savouring the river.

Leonardslee was even more extensive. The previous owner had not only closed it to the public but had neglected it. Now it is open again, it is huge and stunning, especially at this time of year. It is famous for its rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, but this season was early so much of the glories of the tree rhododendrons were seen only as a carpet of petals on the ground. The main colour was provided by azaleas in all the shades of the rainbow. There are also champion trees such as sequoia 200 feet tall, and a Cornish rhododendron 35feet tall.

The Dolls House Museum has traditional Doll’s house rooms but also pub scenes, shops and traditional crafts views around the centre. Then the outer display cabinets contain rural buildings and scenes from bygone ages: farms, stables and houses, thatching and sawing, all amazingly detailed.

Again, a whole day would have hardly sufficed to see the lakes, the woods,the sculpture, the vineyard, the wallabies and the rock garden. So, I contented myself with a leisurely ice-cream whilst resting my wear limbs. Thank you, Diana, for organising such a glorious day.

12th July - Tunbridge Wells and Hever Castle

First thing that made the journey so inviting and pleasant was the interesting facts about Tunbridge Wells from Martin with lots of funny jokes.

We had a very good journey from Upminster to Tunbridge Wells, and well worth a visit was lovely Calverley Grounds with beautiful gardens and outside eating area. which a few club members we saw enjoyed. Also a worth a visit was Hoopers Department Store for any husband to spend £400 on a handbag for their wife.

We all had an eventful journey to Hever Castle firstly a very large lorry trying to get under a small bridge then a very tight squeeze between a furniture van and a line of trees which Warren our lovely driver managed superbly, which we were asked to breath in.

Also again a well informed Martin explained facts about Hever Castle on the way.

Inside Hever Castle the oak panelling and ceilings and furniture were amazing.

Walking inside the castle with the earphone audio explaining so well the history and facts about the castle was brilliant and  the thoughts of Henry VIII walking and talking where we were felt very strange and felt a privilege to be there.  The grounds and maze and large fish in the moat were so well kept.

The food area and cafe where they served fantastic sausage rolls couldn’t be faulted. 

Everyone I spoke to enjoyed the day and a return trip would be welcomed. We had a very good journey home and a big thanks to Diana and the committee for running our club so well.

17th August - Chesham and Cliveden

Who in the Horticultural Society had upset the Clerk of the Weather so much, that having endured 2 months of drought, the forecast for the trip was thunder, lightning and rain? However, it was fine all day, then when we were but 10 minutes on the way home, the heavens opened and it continued raining to within a few miles of Upminster, so delaying the journey back. But a small price to pay for a lovely day.

Chesham is a town of contrasts. The shabby suburbs reflect the town’s industrial past. There are, by contrast, a range of unusual shops, a wonderful market, an old town and the Lowndes Park with its waterfowl lake near the centre.

The map shows South Buckinghamshire much built up, but one would not have guessed it from the rural route that Stuart took us on the way to Cliveden. Cliveden is a huge estate with gardens dotted here and there, needing sturdy legs or the estate buggy. The long border was planted with a trillion white begonias, box borders, sculpture, topiary and many plants beside. The ‘hot’ bed in front of the house was a spectacular mixture of red, yellow, orange and purple, while the ‘cool’ bed on the other side was planted with white, blue and pink flowers, The view at the rear of the house down to the Thames overlooked the formal parterre. There was a rose garden, an oriental water garden, the Thames-side views and much else, too much in a day to see all of it. The house itself is a jumble of buildings, not open to the public in summer, being used by the National Trust as a hotel, despite generous donations from the Astor family for its upkeep.

Thank you, Diana, for another wonderful outing.

15th September - Alresford and the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

I am a relatively new member of U&DHS and this was only my fourth outing. As on previous occasions it proved to be most enjoyable, and we were blessed with fine weather, though thankfully we were spared the extreme temperature experienced in July.

After a longer than usual coach drive our first stop was in Alresford which, in many respects, was a step back in time to the Georgian period. Coming from Upminster and neighbouring towns, with their over-familiar supermarkets, coffee shops and nail bars, it was encouraging to find so many independent shops selling everything from antiques and china to books and crafts of all kinds.

For me the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens were the highlight of the day. It was my first visit to these gardens and there were delights and surprises at every turn. The layout of the gardens and the labelling of the plants were exceptionally good and, despite our being on the cusp of autumn, most of the plants were still in full bloom. I was amazed at the variety and beauty of the flowers, from the common to the exotic, and the fact that the gardens are home to 14 National Collections and the largest collection of champion trees in the whole of the U.K. and Ireland.

One area is designated the Centenary Border but “border” hardly does justice to the long avenue flanked by numerous varieties of flowers and shrubs. As in all the areas, the care and maintenance in evidence here were exemplary. Possibly my favourite part of the gardens was the Himalayan Valley. It was like walking through a completely different world, full of exotic flowers and numerous bamboos, those famously versatile plants. Nearby was the remarkably moving Gurkha Memorial, which was as beautiful as it was unexpected.

Entertainers, particularly comedians, have a saying: “Leave them wanting more.” I certainly wanted to see more, as it was impossible to see every facet of these wonderful gardens in one visit and a return, perhaps in springtime, is something I would enjoy.

In every respect this was a most enjoyable and rewarding outing for which thanks are due to the organisers and to the leader of the group.

20th October - RHS Hyde Hall

Well the trip did not start well when the heavens opened and everyone as they were getting onto the coach were drenched through. However everyone appeared to have a smile on their faces and appeared to have a good time. The raffle on the coach or the £10 voucher off if you spent £25 in the RHS shop may have had something to do with it.

October is a great time to visit Hyde Hall to admire their tree and plant collections. The autumn colour form a striking backdrop to the grasses and late flowering perennials. The star of the show at Hyde Hall is their champion ash tree Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’ with its crimson leaves. There are mature specimens of oak, ash and birch where every you looked.

The vegetable garden had a great display of pumpkins and squash laid out following a competition held earlier in the month at Hyde Hall. There were seasonal crops such as Jerusalem artichokes and sweet potatoes. As you wandered into the glasshouse, to avoid the heavy showers, there was a dazzling selection of chilli peppers from mellow to super hot.

As we wandered around the herbaceous gardens, between the rain showers, there were shades of purple, yellow and orange bursting out from the borders. The rose gardens had some beautiful roses out in bloom.

The “dry garden” was not so dry when we visited but it still looked splendid with its ornamental grasses.

The Winter Garden is full of colour and texture and is a garden not to be enjoyed just in winter, the trees contrast with the radiant red, orange and yellow foliage of the dogwoods. Striking seedheads come to the fore. If only our gardens looked liked this all year round. We can only dream!

As the coach was pulling back into Upminster the sun started to come out and the sky turned blue. Never mind we still had a great outing. Our thanks to Diana for organising all of the outings throughout the year.