The Garden of England is known for its splendour of nature and stunning coastal views, with many areas in Kent often being an ideal escape from city life, whilst still having so much to see and do. We highlight some of the county’s exceptional places – you may know them, but for many, they are hidden gems. Enjoy these peaceful spots and natural landscapes, where you can explore history and heritage, walk with animals, climb rocks, visit fairylands, and so much more. Our highlights help you appreciate Kent for exactly what makes it so special.
By Sophie Bland
Opening Hours: Grounds – Daily 9am-5pm
The Friars is set in 40 acres and has been home to a small community of Carmelite Friars since 1242, though they were forced to leave during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, returning in 1949. Visitors can enjoy the medieval buildings, walk around the grounds including the Peace Garden and Rosary Way, as well as feed the birds at the duck pond, take the heritage trail or visit the chapels. There is also a pottery on site.
Opening Hours: Tuesday & Thursday to Sunday 10:30am-12.30pm & 1.30pm- 3:30pm, sometimes opein on Monday and Wednesday
Price: Adult: £8.25/Child: £4.95/Concession – OAP, Disabled or Carer: £4.95. Experiences: From £27.50
A small, rustic, family-run, farm animal attraction devoted entirely to micro and miniature animals, where you can arrange to feed and take them for a walk. Animals include micro pigs, miniature donkeys, teddy bear sheep, miniature chickens, ducks and alpacas. Huckleberry Woods is a wild, back to nature type of place that is located in a small private orchard, where you should expect charming and understated rather than large, slick and commercial, according to the owners. With only a few people booked in at any one time, a visit here is a personal affair offering an hour or two of peace and time to relax with the animals. There is also a small play area for children.
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10.15am until dusk. Sometimes closed, please check before visiting
Price: High Rocks: £5/Children under 13 years: £3. Rock Climbing (18+ years only) – pre-booking only: £12
Advisory Notes: Anyone under the age of 18 has to be accompanied by an adult
Found down a quiet country lane, not a far drive from Tunbridge Wells Town Centre, The High Rocks are an impressive sight and steeped in history dating back millions of years. Acres of stunning sandstone rocks interlinked with 11 bridges provide a scenic walk in a tranquil woodland setting. Once a stone age camp, the Rocks are now a National Monument. These historic rocks, which belong to The High Rocks complex, have always been a constant source of wonder.
Opening Hours: April to October Tuesday to Saturday 11am-3pm
A small family run nursery passionate about environmental protection and bio-diversity. Specialising in bee, butterfly, moth and bat-friendly plants and habitats, Enchanted Gardens is one of only a few horticultural companies of this kind. As well as viewing the garden, you can also attend short courses there on pollinator-friendly gardening.
Lower Leas Costal Park
Opening Hours: Park: All hours, Car Park: 8am-8pm
Created in 1784, Lower Leas Coastal Park is an award-winning park featuring a 350-seat amphitheatre with free events in the Summer, the largest free adventure playground in the South East, a national cycle route, café and public art installations. Despite its achievements, we thought Lower Leas Coastal Park was worth a mention in this blog as you wouldn’t want to miss out on everything it has to offer by heading straight into town without a walk through the park beforehand. Split into three recreational zones, there is the wild zone for wildlife where visitors can have picnics and BBQs. Located in the centre of the park is the fun zone and playground, which features climbing walls, a shipwreck, a toddlers construction area, sand diggers, rocking boats, slides, towers and tunnels.
Gardens & Tea House
Opening Hours: Open until 17th October 2022 Friday to Sunday & Bank Holidays 2pm-6pm
Groups are welcome to visit for guided tours at other times by appointment
Boldshaves Garden is part of a secluded private estate surrounded by ancient woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the eastern edge of the Kent Weald. The garden is part terraced, south-facing, with a walled garden containing a variety of semi-hardy and southern hemisphere plants; a Camellia dell; herbaceous borders, an Italian Garden; a garden planted up in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; a vegetable garden; a wide variety of old-fashioned English roses; and a herb garden for both culinary and medicinal herbs. The ancient woodland which borders it is accessible throughout the year with woodland anemones and bluebells in Spring. In April and May, the sound of nightingales throughout their mating season is worth a visit on its own.
Rare Breeds Centre
Woodchurch, near Ashford
Opening Hours: Winter – Prebooking online only. Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4.30pm. Meet the Animals Barn 10am-4pm
Price: Member: Free. Non-Gift Aid/Gift Aid – Adult: £11.77/£12.95/Senior: £10/£11/Child – 3 years +: £10/£11/Child – under 3 years: Free/Family – 2 adults & 2 children: £38.75/£42.65/Carer: Free. Falconry Experience: From £16. Memberships also available
At the Rare Breeds Centre in Woodchurch, near Ashford, this 100-acre farm has a variety of fun activities including a Discovery Garden, Creepy Crawly World, tractor rides, play parks, and even pig racing plus lots, lots more. Visitors can enjoy meet the animals sessions, bird of prey displays featuring falconry and owls, and keep feet firmly off the ground in the Mysterious Marsh Adventure Trail with wooden bridges, tyre swings and ropes to navigate.
Pegwell Bay Country Park
Opening Hours: Daily 9am Dusk or 9pm (whichever is earlier)
Nature and coastal views in perfect harmony at Pegwell Bay Country Park has great views of Sandwich and Deal and the park acts as the entrance to the Sandwich & Pegwell Nature Reserve, where you can find rare flora, fauna and wildlife. There is a public bird hide, a children’s play area and events including a weekly parkrun.
Reuthe’s The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am-4.30pm
Price: Entry: From £3/Fairytale Forest Hunt: From £3/1-2-1 Alpaca Trek: £99
This is a magical 11 acre ancient woodland, with a range of flowers and plants, including rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and conifers. Regular events are held there throughout the year to celebrate the festivities of each season, as well as an ongoing Farmers and Crafts Market. Lots of activities and adventures on offer too including a Children’s Survival Camp, BMX trails, Fairytale Forest Hunts, alpaca treks, discos and lots more.
Opening Hours: Bewl Water: 8am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Car park entry closes at 5pm, exit gate closes at 8pm. Adventure Playground: 8am-5pm
Aqua Park- Reopens April 2022: Various Dates, 9am–6pm. Bewl Water Laser Challenge: Weekends, half terms and Summer Holidays, 10am-4pm
Price: Parking and admission: £5, Aqua Park: £20 /Family – groups of up to 6: £120 – 1 hour – includes wetsuit and buoyancy vest. Bewl Water Laser Challenge: 1 player – 8 years +: £15. Annual or day memberships available for Sailing and Windsurfing, annual for Paddle boarding and Canoeing
It may be tucked away in the beautiful Wealden countryside, yet Bewl Water is the largest stretch of open water in the South East, with a reservoir which can hold more than 31,000 million litres of water. The site is set in 800 acres of outstanding natural beauty and is the perfect place to walk, cycle and exercise, with take away drinks and snacks available too. Also on offer are a wide range of leisure and recreational activities. These include the Aqua Park inflatable fun, Laser Challenge, soft play and play areas, plus lots of lovely open spaces and miles of paths to enjoy.
Jeskyns Community Woodland
Opening Hours: All times. Car Park Daily 7am-dusk
Price: Free entry. Parking – members free, or pay & display
With 5 walking trails, play areas, cycling paths in this 360 acre newly planted woodlands, meadows, and orchards is a wonderful places to visit. It also has a Fairy and Elf Village to explore, which little ones can find through the gate in the sandpit play area. There are also horse riding trails, Gruffalo sculptures and regular events too.
Mount Ephraim Gardens
April and September Wednesdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays 11am and 5pm Last entry 4pm
Price: Garden entry Adults: £7/Children – aged 4-16 years: £2.50/Children – 3 years and under: Free/Family Tickets – 2 adults + 2+ children: £17/Carers: Free/Wheelchair users: £1. Season tickets available
Also found down country lanes is Mount Ephraim Gardens are set in 10 acres of gardens open to the public, with terraces of fragrant roses leading to a small lake and woodland area overlooking orchards. Picnic by the lake, explore the Japanese Rock Garden and Water Garden, as well as the Arboretum. A wide collection of spring bulbs and many beautiful mature trees are other highlights. The estate also offers accommodation for guests, and is available to hire for weddings and private events.
Solley’s Ice Cream Parlour
Opening Hours: 2nd April to August Monday to Friday 11am-4pm Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm
Price: Farm Entry: Free. Tractor Rides: £2.50. Under 3 years: Free
Solley’s has been producing real dairy ice cream on the family farm for over 3 decades, using Channel Island milk and cream, with over 15 flavours of ice cream to choose from, all made on the farm. Solley’s Ice Cream Parlour offers farm trails which allow you explore and find out more about wildlife on the farm. The farm trails are open 7 days a week throughout the Summer, with the walks ranging from 15 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Surrounded by beautiful Kent countryside with plenty of footpaths that cross the farm and nearby cycle routes, you can download their routes, or pick up a leaflet when there.
Price: Adult: £8.95/Child – under 12 years: £6.95/Senior: £6.95/Group of 4 people with at least 1 child under 12 years: £25/Pre-walking infants: Free/Accompanying registered carer: Free
Groombridge Place is a 17th Century moated country estate with plenty to explore, such as lined forest paths, water pools, giant tree swings, wooden bridges, and daily bird displays. There are six unique areas of gardens, laid out with something to enjoy for each season. It also includes wooden play areas, an enchanted forest, giant chess, and boat trips too. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the Estate as a setting for his Sherlock Holmes story, The Valley of Fear, and felt that Groombridge Place was ‘the very essence of England’.
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