Outing Reports 2024

Another new season of outings to towns and gardens to explore.   Members' reports on these outings are given below. Also take a look at some of the photographs taken by some of our members.

Godalming and Ramster Gardens 25th April

On 25th April we set off for Godalming, in Surrey. It was an overcast start, but thankfully the day remained dry until 4pm. We had two hours to explore and have lunch.

Godalming is a very old, attractive town with narrow streets and has many historic buildings and shops. In the past it was an old coaching town between London and the south. The River Wey was used to transport leather goods and textiles. A building called The Pepper Pot (due to its shape), was once the town hall dating from 1842. We found a very interesting museum with a section on the history of the town and art galleries. It also had a visitor information point. We discovered two people associated with Godalming: Jack Phillips, who was the wireless operator on the Titanic who bravely kept signalling until the ship went down; and Dick Turpin, who was known to stay in the Old White Inn.

Then it was time to get back on the coach and head towards Ramster Garden, near Chiddingford. It is a very large mature garden, which was first laid out in 1890. It started life as an oak wooded area. Some lovely trees remain – they are tall, strong and knarled. There are many unusual trees and plants brought from around the world.

Gauntlett Nurseries helped to plan and plant the garden with a Japanese theme. There were lots of rhododendrons in bloom displaying beautiful pink, white, peach and red flowers.

We were given a plan of the garden, which helped to guide us to the different areas of interest. We came across carved woodland animals nestled among the trees and shrubs, including a dragon depicting the Japanese theme. The many azaleas were all in flower – a stunning display. There were ponds with statues of herons in the water, surrounded by bamboos and colourful trees. We followed a woodland walk, but it was a bit rough underfoot. The daffodils and tulips were finished, but there were bluebells everywhere. We finished our visit with a trip to the tea house, before setting off home.

Eynsford and Emmetts Gardens 22nd May

After a hot and sunny weekend it was optimistic to believe that our trip to Eynsford and Emmetts Gardens would have the same weather pattern. The day dawned with heavy rain which lightened at the time of the coach pick-ups. Not the best start but the participants were not unduly dismayed. Our journey to the delightful picture postcard village of Eynsford was smooth and we were soon walking past beautiful timber-clad houses in the High Street towards the Norman Church of St Martins with its imposing spire. The River Darrent is crossed by an enchanting medieval bridge which allows pedestrians and small vehicles to pass over, larger and heavier traffic must use the adjacent ford.

The Plough Inn abutting the river helpfully provided a much needed shelter from the damp conditions and hot drinks were served to the majority of the members. After a short visit to the Norman Castle our journey continued to the National Trust Garden of Emmetts. With the weather improving, including some brief sunshine, our group, once through the entrance, proceeded up the hill to a very fine log cabin (reminders of the Wild West) which housed some potted history of the gardens. Passing through a display of light pink climbing roses at the entrance of the rose garden the stable café came into view. Two large umbrella awnings provided some welcome shelter from the heavy rain which now greeted us as we consumed our packed lunch with accompanying hot coffee Our meal completed, the sun then reappeared over this high point in the garden and we were treated to a fine view of the Weald of Kent of tree covered hills and valleys with the impressive Bough Beech Reservoir in the far distance. With meandering paths in all directions we strolled through the gardens which contained an abundance of Azaleas and Rhododendrons, both large and small and with a multitude of colours from the palest of whites to the deepest purples with many shades in between. Of particular interest of the many fine mature trees in the garden were three specimens, the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Arucaria Arucana) with limbs mimicking upturned arms, a Handkerchief Tree (Davidia Involucrata) and a Wedding Cake Tree (Cornus Controversa).

Our descent of the rockery garden was challenging, descending the slippery uneven rock path, but the sight of so many colourful plants from the impressive dark crimson acers to the tiniest rock plants was worth the effort. Time had flown by and we made our way back to the entrance by the downhill path with a short stop to look at a few second-hand books, one of which I was tempted to buy but didn’t. The rain had stated again and we were pleased to return to the comfort of the coach for the trouble free journey home. It was a most enjoyable day but despite the changeable and damp weather there were no complaints for a most enjoyable day out in the green and pleasant Kent countryside.

Market Harborough and Kelmarsh Hall Gardens 18th June

A week before the trip to Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens, Diana was informed that unfortunately the hall would not be open on the day due to filming. So, at short notice it was arranged to go to Market Harborough before visiting Kelmarsh Gardens. Kelmarsh refunded the entrance money and arranged for tea/coffee and biscuits to be made available when we arrived, free of charge. Members who had paid to go to the hall were refunded their Hall entrance money as they boarded the coach. Extra money to spend on the day.

I had never been to the historic town of Market Harborough but was pleasantly surprised to find a genuinely nice, clean, and friendly town. The coach dropped us outside the indoor market which had great stalls Then just outside you crossed the bridge which took you into the main shopping area with an assortment of different shops. Many on the coach commented on how they liked Market Harborough and how clean they found the place, including the toilets in the Market. No graffiti in sight.

St Dionysius Church steeple visible as you stepped off the coach. Inside the Church a beautiful stained-glass window. Nearby a museum displaying local history going back to the Iron Age.

At 1pm we proceeded to Kelmarsh Gardens approximately 10 minutes away from Market Harborough. After the driver of the coach managed to squeeze the coach through the very narrow opening gates, we were met by Molly, the representative of Kelmarsh Hall, who informed us that the hall was built in 1732 in Palladian Style. She then directed everyone to the free refreshments in the Sweet Peas Tearooms. Surrounding the hall was a working estate, grazing parklands, and Graded 2 Listed Gardens. There was a Walled Garden full of colour, Sunken Garden, topiary, rose gardens, woodlands, lake, herbaceous borders and for the young at heart a Fairy Walk in the woodlands. The weather stayed fine for the entire day, the journey back was not too bad, even the M25 was not as bad as expected.