After a morning exploring the indoor delights of Hampton Court Palace, we were pleased to be heading outside to explore the grounds and gardens. With 60 acres of lovely riverside gardens time though was at a premium for us and stamina was required.
Our first port of call was the famous maze. Son was super excited about this – let’s just say we were a little underwhelmed. The maze was more than a bit straggly and bare, you could actually see everybody else through the sparse hedges and we found the centre in a matter of minutes. Fair to say this wasn’t really a challenge and Longleat it was not. However the fact it is the oldest maze in the country – designed in 1689 – and probably the most visited made me feel a little more forgiving.
A stroll around the formal gardens more than made up for the maze disappointment – simply stunning with colour and beauty everywhere. A walk down to the Thames to take in the magnificent gates is a must and we just sauntered, ice-creams in hand taking in the glorious views.
Henry VIII designed the tennis courts – a keen player – and when we looked inside there was a game going on. We didn’t linger too long, signs warned to be quiet when a match was underway, Son was struggling with the quiet bit.
A highlight for me was the Great Fountain and the Privy Garden, laid out as it was originally designed in 1702. The Pond Gardens are flower rather than fish filled nowadays but also a lovely spot.
In Henry’s day apparently you could tell a wealthy house by the number of chimneys – I read somewhere Hampton Court was said to have enough chimneys for every day of the year.
Last but not least we found the Great Vine, planted in 1768 by Capability Brown and thought to be the oldest in the world. Huge is an understatement here, inside the greenhouse we saw the vine itself and were amazed that the area of soil outside is where the roots extend, nothing else is planted there to avoid competition for water and nutrients with the Great Vine.
We lingered in the grounds right up until closing time. Totally exhausted at the end of the day but definitely worth the pain – the palace and the interior provided a fascinating morning but exploring these grandest of gardens was simply sublime. An experience I would highly recommend.