Good places to take children near Sevenoaks, Kent…
It’s already been ten years since the re-invention of the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens. C4’s Country House Rescue helped initiate this and inspire the family at Riverhill House (on the ‘big’ hill up to Sevenoaks) to make their inheritance work for them today.
Having driven past countless times it’s been very interesting to follow the progress of their big project and ten years has flown by. I popped in again at the beginning of June (without children) to have a wander. There are twelve acres of historic gardens to view with the addition of the newly renovated Edwardian rock garden (this, once matured will be a lovely shaded fernery with the dramatic background of rock outcrops and dark pools).
The land is, as you might expect, on a hill. So pushchairs and wheelchairs are limited to the café and walled gardens. You can just come for a coffee and some cake without paying an entry fee but be aware that are slopes that need some care from the moment you drive up the carpark. Also, bring your wellies, although if you forget there are some pairs you can borrow by the café.
Riverhill Gardens now offers a mix of walks, an adventure play area, extensive views down across the Weald of Kent , a lovely walled garden that looked absolutely beautiful when I visited last week, peonies and alliums fighting to see who could look more gorgeous and a contemporary water feature in an area that has been landscaped into cascading grass steps (used as a theatre in summer, see website). Less for children, more for contemplation. The walled rose garden was at its peak too, frothy and fragrant with views to the south.
Children can enjoy an adventure play area and as you walk up to the chestnut wood (where there is a bluebell trail in spring) you can follow the yeti burrow (perhaps see a glimpse of him on certain days, see website for details) and play dens in the matrix of chestnut branches formed into many different structures, all sizes and shapes that hug the hill up to ‘Little Everest’ viewpoint. I have no idea how busy this becomes in the holidays or half term but it looked the sort of woodland where children would really enjoy themselves for an hour if they went with some friends.
Below the most northerly point of the gardens lies the Himalayan Hedge Maze and wild flower walk. The maze is maturing so if you are very small you will be able to see everyone’s legs but for the 7 year old plus range it looks fun and will only get better.
What I liked about Riverhill Gardens were the differing areas that you come across, the terrain means that you’re using up lots of energy and the gardens cater for children and adults alike. The café went untested but I know it does get busy at peak times.
There are children’s activities to join in with all through the summer holidays and some summer events including open air theatre in the walled garden, welly fitness walks, Jazz for Dads on Father’s day, bunny hunts and a bluebell festival to name a few.
It’s pretty impressive that the family have done so much since the C4 programme and reinvented the gardens into a place that nearly everyone can enjoy.
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Rhododendrons or Azaleas as plants but that really doesn’t matter. As well as keeping the yeti happy the family continue to develop the gardens with the help of the visitors….It’s all happening ‘on the big hill’.