Thursday, 17 April 2014

Slow down, garden - I need to take stock

It's the Easter holidays, and with a house full of teenage boys and their friends, I frequently escape to the garden to regain my equilibrium, or head out for a walk in the deliciously scented bluebell woods with my willing hound.  The garden needs to slow down, as this beautiful warm weather has accelerated growth so fast, including the wisteria and ferns that are unfurling day by day.  I want to prolong the colour and weather for as long as possible.  It's easy to forget about the flooding not so long ago; I picked up the last of the plastic bottles in the fields left behind by the flood water earlier this year before the grass grows too long to see them.

Annie, I love your photos of Wisley - what a magnificent, grown-up place it looks!  And, as for that glass house...  I'm aiming to visit a few local gardens this year close to me and I'll be reporting back over the coming months. For this week's How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show celebrates its 30th anniversary!

We have teamed up with the organisers of the Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show to offer 10 lucky Playground followers a chance to win a pair of tickets to this fantastic show.  Set in the picturesque surrounds Penshurst Place, Tonbridge from 3-5 May 2014, visitors can spend a day exploring the best that British craftspeople have to offer.  

More than 200 exhibitors
will be showing why handmade is best with beautiful and unusual gifts that you won’t find on the high street.  The Good Food Live area is also a must-visit for foodies! 

With Workshops, demonstrations, awe-inspiring features and live music, it’s a perfect day out for all the family. Take time out of your day to enjoy the fantastic show garden, face painting, bouncy castles and play area that children will love!  Come rain or shine, there is something for everyone at the Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show.

Simply email your name and full contact details (including address) under the heading Craft & Design Show to by the end of Wednesday 23rd April 2014: we'll draw the winners at random & post the tickets in plenty of time.  (Please note that the tickets do not include entry to the house and gardens.)

Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show
Penshurst Place, Tonbridge, Kent
3 - 5 May 2014
Open 09.30 - 17.30 (17.00 Friday)

Adult £7.50 (Advance £5.50)
Senior £6.50 (Advance £4.50)
Child under 16 free if accompanied by parent - otherwise £3
BUY 10 ADULT OR SENIOR TICKETS Get One Adult Free (In advance only)
Buy tickets online at or phone Ticket Hotline 01425 277988
Follow us on Twitter @thecraftshows & find us on Facebook - ICHF Events

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Chiddingstone Castle

Chiddingstone Castle has plenty of Easter Family Fun on offer until Monday 22nd April on days when the Castle is open to visitors (Sunday to Wednesday with a special opening on  Good Friday).

Children can enjoy playing 'Hunt the Easter Chick' all around the Castle and Exhibition Rooms.  And for every competitor there'll be a little chocolate Easter egg as a prize!  Free event with normal admission.

This is a fun way to see all the wonderful exhibitions at the Castle which has recently been awarded the title of a fully accredited museum.

This unique country house which dates back to the 16th Century offers a very special visitor experience with the chance to explore the house and also enjoy 35 acres of beautiful grounds and gardens which surround the Castle, including an impressive lake and Grade II listed Orangery.  The museum has fascinating collections of Japanese, Ancient Egyptian, Buddhist, Stuart and Jacobite artefacts – all brought together by the late antiquarian, Denys Eyre Bower, who owned the Castle from 1955 - 1977.  Visitors can also discover the recreated Victorian rooms which provide an interesting ‘upstairs downstairs’ theme.

New this year is “The Streatfeild Room” which will give visitors a fascinating insight into the history of the village and life at the Castle under the Streatfeild family who lived there for 300 years.  New information panels are being produced, as well as a video which will be run on a loop on a TV in the new room. 

A new garden is also planned for 2014.  The exciting ‘Fields of Eternity’ in the grounds have been designed to enhance the imagination for many generations – a microcosm of Ancient Egypt where visitors can learn about life and the environment in 2000BC by exploring carefully prepared paths of grasses, wild flowers and crops laid out as if the River Nile, with its tributaries leading to ‘tombs’ and exciting discoveries.  This experience will encourage visitors, young and old alike, to link the landscape of Ancient Egypt with the Castle’s own unique collection of artefacts from that time.  To create this remarkable treasure trail, the correct seeds will have been sourced and sown at the right times – wheat seeds first discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen will be used!  The new garden will be officially launched on 13 July 2014, when there will also be the opportunity to handle some Ancient Egyptian antiquities with the Castle’s Curator, Maria Esain.

The Castle also houses a Community Archive Room, where local residents/historical groups etc. are more than welcome to come and research the history of their homes, land or the village from the extensive archive that was created by John Donald and catalogued by Bob Golds.  Visits are by appointment only with Maria Esain – 01892 872747 or

The delightful Tea Room, with indoor and outdoor seating, serves light lunches and traditional cream teas, and there is a well-stocked Gift Shop located in the former Well Tower.

For enquiries regarding year-round bookings for weddings, corporate events, private functions, school groups, group visits, tea parties etc., please call 01892 872746.

For more information on any aspect of the Castle, visit, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest or call 01892 870347.

Chiddingstone Castle is open Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 April to the end of October.

Normal Castle admission: Adults £8, Children under 5 FREE, Children 5 to 13 £4, Families (2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 3 children) £21.50, Adult Season Ticket £12, Family Season Ticket (2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 3 children) £32. Please note there is an honesty box in the car park with a suggested donation of £2.

Chiddingstone Castle is located on the outskirts of Chiddingstone, and is best approached via the B2027 road from Tonbridge to Penshurst, turn into Mill Lane when you reach Bough Beech and keep straight for one mile.

The main exhibition rooms are fully accessible and on the ground floor.  The new Streatfeild Room is located on the first floor and regrettably there is no lift. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Easter Fun at Groombridge Place

The daffodils may be fading, but visitors to Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells during the Easter holidays can enjoy a whole day of entertainment including all the additional Easter activities which are planned until 21 April 2014.  

There will be a bouncy inflatable fun with ‘Pillow Bash’ and ‘Gladiator Dual’, Easter Puppet Shows, an Easter Egg Hunt in the Maze, Pig Races, Fete Games including ‘Splat the Rat’, ‘Bucket and Balls’, ‘Tin Can Alley’ and meet and greet by the Radio Groombridge presenters.  

Visitors can also enjoy spring colour in the award winning walled gardens where peacocks roam and play on the giant chess set.  Choose to take a scenic canal boat or 10 minute walk to the children’s play area where everyone can explore Crusoe’s World and the Forest with its tepees and giant tree wings.  Don’t miss the exciting board walk behind the vineyard with its zip wire and rope swing.   Look out for the unusual animals at Groombridge including a Zeedonk which is half donkey and half zebra.  The birds of prey displays take place every day (except Mondays but including Bank Holiday Monday).

The formal walled gardens are designed as a series of rooms and many have water features, topiary and statues.  Visitors can discover the formal Knot and Oriental Garden, a Secret Garden, the White Rose Garden and the wonderfully named Drunken Garden, a favourite of the famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   Groombridge Place is the setting for the first part of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's world famous Sherlock Holmes Novel Valley of Fear where Groombridge Place is renamed Birlstone Manor.  A recreated study at the entrance to the gardens gives an insight into the life of the author.

Groombridge Place Manor House and its elegant 17th century gardens were used as a location for the 2005 film 'Pride and Prejudice'.

The Peacock Bistro offers hot and cold lunches or cream teas and has indoor and outdoor seating.

The well-stocked gift shop is open daily and there is free parking.

Admission:  Off Peak:  Adults £8.95, Senior Citizens £7.45, Children (3-12 years) £7.45, Family Tickets (2 Adults + 2 Children) £29.95

Peak: Adults £9.95, Senior Citizens £8.45, Children (3-12 years) £8.45, Family Tickets (2 Adults + 2 Children) £33.95

roombridge Place is open daily from 31 March to 2 November 2014.  Further information at or call 01892 861 444.

Groombridge Place is located in the village of Groombridge, 4 miles south west of Tunbridge Wells on the B2110, which is just off the A264 Tunbridge Wells/ East Grinstead road on the Kent and East Sussex county border.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A carpet of camellia petals

My elderly neighbour has the most amazing red camellia on a front corner of her house.  Gardening is still very much part of her life: she's eighty five and I always listen to her words of wisdom.  The frost often attacks the camellias down here in the valley, but even my own pale pink version has managed to do it's thing.  I think of camellias as shrubs for grown-ups, not necessarily an old lady's shrub, but they are not really a young person's plant: more something for the mature gardener and I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle.  Camellias are something I've come to appreciate and like magnolias, they have an exotic feel to them and a certain frailty too.  The petals look so pretty carpeting the ground, the edges starting to fade and wither, slightly tinged with brown.  The combination of pale pink petals and forget-me-nots also has a certain appeal.

I've been trying to capture the woodpecker on the bird feeder.  I can see him pecking away at the nuts now, but he'll be gone by the time I've got the camera out and leaned out of the window.  Not so shy are the blue tits who are constantly busy around the feeder and always happy to pose.

For this week's How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thursday, 27 March 2014


This week's How Does Your Garden Grow? had to be about 'daffs'.  The local stately home Groombridge Place has a magnificent display of daffodils at its entrance and along the driveway.  I was visiting my friend Nancy's florist and she told me that I absolutely must go and see the daffodils across the road.  How right she was.

Groombridge is a small village just south of Tunbridge Wells.  We are incredibly lucky to have a bakery, Post Office, florist, a couple of pubs, osteopath, cricket club, a steam railway station, asparagus farm, various farm shops nearby, primary school, pre-school, village hall offering a huge variety of classes and activities for all ages and friendly mini market that is open all hours.

Anyway, enough of Groombridge and more of the daffs: the mass planting makes such an impact, it takes your breath away.

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Flowers for Mother's Day

I’ve been out and about delivering magazines and stopped off at Bloomingperfect, an independent florist in Groombridge.  Nancy’s main business is wedding flowers and she also keeps a lovely shop at the bottom of the Groombridge Hill, just next door to The Crown pub on The Green.

Do consider buying from an independent local trader and head on down to Nancy’s divine smelling shop for your Mother’s Day flowers.  She has a great choice of arrangements to suit all pockets, from little pots packed full of Muscari to hand tied vintage style arrangements in jam jars, as well as grand bouquets.

The Black and White Shop
The Green
Tunbridge Wells
Kent TN3 9QH
01892 860305