We do spend a lot of time up at our local arboretum Hillier and there is so many reasons why we still come back and enjoy it every single time.
All the years we’ve been members of Hillier Arboretum we still can manage to find a different way to walk around the site, there are so many different routes and directions which is great considering these times of social distancing. The paths are wide enough to share (albeit a little hop on to the grass!) There is one route which is one way and that’s the Winter Garden, because the pathways are just wide enough for two but the signage is well marked.
HIllier staff are currently putting in new paths in the gardens too, William has already noticed and pointed this out to me telling me, “it will be another great place to explore mummy!” All the ways that you can go in different directions, either on the main path or off the path a bit and there’s also the Rhododendron Woodland which is on the other side of Jermyns Lane. However be careful when visiting this garden firstly because you have to cross a main road and secondly take a map or use your phone navigation as we got lost the first time we did it, William loved the adventure!) They have a list of gardens along with a printable map on their website or alternatively you can get one at the entrance.
There are routes that go through the woods that make William feel like we’re on a bear hunt or (more recently) a mission which involves going through areas where we ‘power up’. (spinning around behind the trees and getting special powers to you and I)…his imagination is wild. Being at an outdoor setting preschool is fuelling his love for nature.
Unfortunately because of Covid-19 the Pavilion restaurant (situated by the entrance) has been closed until recently, but now refreshments are available to take away with a large wooden seating outside. We can get my favourite ice cream there New Forest ice cream, now the weather is getting nicer. But previously on chillier days we’ve enjoyed their hot chocolate.
They currently have a temporary cafe open; The ‘Tilia cafe’ serving hot and cold food and drinks (personally I recommend the sausage rolls!) They are due to have the new restaurant opening soon designed by Tom Stuart-Smith (in the next couple of months perhaps) which we are all looking forward to visiting. I may have to just visit there on my own one day just to sit enjoy the food in the peace and quiet so I can just enjoy it just a little bit more. The new restaurant is part of Jermyns House, which is a beautiful house located just the other side of the Centenary Border and opposite Magnolia Avenue (all sign posted). I have many memories from my childhood of rolling down Magnolia Avenue whilst waiting for my mum and dad to get a drink from Jermyns House, or just laying on the grass.
We do love having picnics, either with our own food or getting sandwiches there. There are lots of spaces available to sit, although we do know one little boy who likes the logs that are available to sit on. I do prefer to buy something there, not because I’m lazy but mainly because their food is good and William most of the time will see the food there and decide that he doesn’t want the sandwiches lovingly made by mummy or daddy, even though he chose the filling! It is nice to have the option though.
Whilst there the children are able to express themselves by playing their own orchestrated music using the xylophone or bamboo chimes and it’s a lovely sound in the distance whilst walking around the gardens realising that the children are having so much fun playing music (or making noise as some parents would phrase it!)
I haven’t been to one yet, but it is something I’m hoping to do when William can have sleep overs at the grandparents but Hillier do one off music events. They hold a ‘Last night at the proms’ event in July which I have been told is amazing, I have previously looked on their website and it does get sold out very quickly, so apparently it’s popular too! They do a lot of events looking at their website, and I think I’ll be booking something up because it’s too good opportunity to miss!
They do have a couple of play areas for the kiddiwinks, more really for the preschool and school age children. When we first started to go there William just wanted to walk everywhere and wasn’t bothered about the play areas he was a bit too little but now he goes and throws himself into the climbing sliding and swinging and loves to go on the walkway and pretend he’s Indiana Jones.
There is an education area not far from the entrance/exit to the arboretum, a large area which is used by the children when they attend on school visits and also by holiday clubs. Lovely to look around and the children have an opportunity to learn things, water the veggies in the gardens and also (as we do sometimes) ‘role play.’ This usually involves us sitting down and being told what to do because William is the teacher and we are the pupils, there’s that imagination being used again!
One of the few places that we can sit quietly for a ‘special’ specific reason (in my favourite spot where there’s a conveniently placed chair), and when it happens Williams face lights up because he’s so happy to see Robin the Robin (not named by me I hastened to add)
We are sometimes lucky enough to be provided with entertainment of Williams singing whilst walking around, being there makes him so happy that he does a little hum and sometimes a few songs that involve names of trees or flowers which is so lovely to hear and also makes a nice change to listening to him chattering non stop about what super powers he’s giving us that day and what we need to do to ‘win’ them and who we’re defeating by using them!
It’s somewhere we all feel safe and being able to escape from this crazy world, I personally enjoy it because it’s a place to relax and get away from the busy hustle and bustle nowadays it is also somewhere where you can go to forget about what is actually currently happening in the outside world. You still have the realisation of covid because there’s social distancing and requests to wear masks in places like the cafe and toilets understandably of course but it’s very relaxed and clean there.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens