Outdoor Attractions and Gardens reopening in Kent
We can’t be the only ones who are craving spring to properly arrive more than just in name, bringing with it the flowers, warmer weather and the easing of restrictions. From 29th March and 12th April and other future dates, many restrictions on gatherings and places are being eased meaning we can once again visit our favourite places. Read on for our summary of some of the best places take in the blossom filled gardens, vineyards and even goat walks and surfing.
Remember to always follow Government and local guidance. The reopening dates below are subject to change, check the attractions website before visiting. Find out more about the roadmap here.
Castles and Gardens
With many of our favourite castles and stately homes featuring plenty of stunning gardens, a number of English Heritage’s properties will be ready for visits from the 12th April. This means that iconic Dover Castle, Walmer Castle and The Home of Charles Darwin, Down House will be the perfect setting for a day out in the Garden of England. Many of them will also be offering takeaway refreshments so you have no worries on needing to pack another picnic! To view a full list of English Heritage’s open sites click here.
An icon of Kent, the Cathedral is unfortunately closed to visitors until 17th May, however the Precincts are remaining open as a tranquil space where people can meet up and take some time out. Set within the Cathedral Gates, the Precincts are a quiet haven where visitors can enjoy the spring-time planting or take in the stunning views of the exterior of the historic Cathedral.
For those of you planning your late Spring garden visits, Belmont House has a whole host of events taking place May onwards, from Herb Walks to the Meet the Head Gardener Tour – so not only will you be able to see and smell the fragrance of the garden you’ll enjoy the tales behind the garden too. If you want to even make a weekend of it, enjoy Bloom Stays Walnut Tree Cottage and Crow Cottage to stay on the estate!
The historic 11 acres of walled gardens at Penshurst Place are now open and welcoming visitors. While it may have been just over a year since your last visit, the gardens as they appear today remain largely unchanged since the design was adopted in the 1560s by Sir Henry. Today, the gardens provide seasonal displays of colour and fragrance throughout the year, with highlights including the 100 metre Peony Border, Union Flag design garden and ornate Italian Garden. If you’re looking for something more, Penshurst Place can also provide guided tours with the Head Gardener.
Godinton House and Gardens
Springtime is the time to be at Godinton House and Gardens, as the iconic tulips, the apple and cherry trees start to blossom, and you won’t need to wait much longer. From the 30th March the gardens reopen to the public, just be sure to pre-book so you don’t miss your slot. If you are planning for later in the year, then remember the 4th June as the House itself will also reopen to visitors, who can discover over 600 years of history.
Franciscan Gardens Canterbury
A hideaway to escape from the hustle and bustle of Canterbury, the Franciscan Gardens will be opening in May 2021. With the aid of a lottery grant towards some works, the gardens will be for the first time opening a small shop for people to access the gardens and Greyfriars Chapel where you can watch the River Stour flow past and breathe in the history, which began on the site in 1267.
While locals have been able to enjoy Leeds Castle during lockdown, the rest of us have been left longing to see the ‘Loveliest Castle in the world’. Fortunately, when lockdown is eased, the gardens are just going to be bursting into spring colour, and from the 12th April you’ll be able to see the Bird of Prey display, get lost in the Maze, and the Grotto will also reopen. If you can’t wait until the 17th May when the castle will reopen, you can stay in one of their self-catering holiday cottages!
With daffodils in the grounds at Spring almost as iconic as the history of the castle itself, Hever Castle is undoubtedly one we've missed visiting. Throughout the next few months you'll have many good reasons to visit; from the 29th March visitors can once again enjoy the grounds, playgrounds and grab a take away refreshment. As we get into April, the vivid tulips are expected to peak around the 19-25th, and you can stay on the grounds and enjoy the Royal sophistication that you've maybe not been getting at your own home!
With the trip to the vineyards of Burgundy or Provence potentially put on hold, you’ll have no trouble getting your wine fix in Kent. Gusbourne is offering visitors a picnic to enjoy at their Boot Hill vineyard, which includes a bottle of Gusbourne Brut Reserve and a fine selection of artisan cheese and charcuterie, local fruit and homemade bread – just remember to pre-book! If you’re after a drop in tasting, the vineyard has an outside bar with table service for drop-in tastings and wine by the glass from 12th April.
You may be able to take a little time out and head into nature, but what about getting really involved with nature? The Wild Kitchen’s huge list of foraging events starting 1st May are the perfect remedy for those wishing to taste nature as well as be in it – from Edible Seashore to Asparagus by Bike a day out never tasted so good.
Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats
According to scientific research, we can all learn a little from goats in that when we smile it makes them happy! If you’d like to test the theory yourself, head to the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats and meet the 137 goats that live on site. You can help the charity, which like many others has been hit by the pandemic, by doing something you may not expect such as taking a goat on a walk!
Being out and along the coastline is one of the things many of us fortunate enough to do living in Kent. One of our most popular towns is Folkestone, and if you are looking for something that’s open year round, take a trail around Folkestone Artworks. Being totally free and accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year it’s the perfect way to get some culture. The changing exhibition currently includes Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono and more.
Seaside in Thanet
As we’ve mentioned, while we may not be able to head to Provence for the wine, you may also have missed out on going to Portugal or California for some surf. However again, we’re able to help! In Thanet, head over to the Kent Surf School where you can take part in surfing or the popular SUP (Stand up Paddle. Although, if you want to take to the water, but in the comfort of boat, take a trip with Sea Searcher to see seals in their natural habitat.
If you love the idea of taking to the water, but you’d like to be a little less worried about the tides, Canoe Wild could be for you. From day rentals of canoes and SUP, right through to lessons on each of those, you’ll be sailing up and down the Stour smoothly in no time. Just be sure to keep an eye on the wildlife too, as you can spot fish below, to cows in the fields and those springtime flowers.
Outdoors in Dover
While we may think of Dover as being a coastal hotspot, this time we’re telling you to stay on dry land! The dramatic backdropped Samphire Hoe provides your springtime fix by popping wildflowers, including the rare Early Spider Orchid, which make for colourful surroundings as you wander along the paths amongst the chalk grassland habitat. Look up to the skies to see the kestrels circling, look out to sea at the distant views of France - this unique country park is a fabulous place to be in Spring, or at any time of the year.
If you are looking for your retail fix, and one that is open air, then Westwood Cross is the place to go. With big name brands, some of which have their largest stores right here, it’s the one stop place where you can enjoy all of things we’ve missed – from clothes to a range of dining. Not only will they have the stores and restaurants, but there’ll be pop up parks with seating so people can have their food and drink outside as well as additional seating in a park environment.