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12 flower-filled day trips from London

Make the most of the warm weather with a trip to one of these picturesque English gardens, woodlands and flower farms

Mottisfont, Hampshire
National Trust Images/Clive Nichols
By Emma Vince |
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We’re lucky to have so many parks and green spaces on our doorstep in London. But if you’ve visited Kew Gardens more times than you can count, and the sellers at Columbia Road flower market know you by name, perhaps it’s time to venture further afield to get your floral kicks. Fortunately, there are plenty of places within day-tripping reach of the capital. From rambling rose gardens and exotic glasshouses to woodland walks and PYO flower farms, these blooming beautiful day trips will bring out the floriculturist in each of us (oh, and they’ll make amazing Instagram fodder too…).

RECOMMENDED: The best day trips from London

Day trips from London for flower lovers

1
Flowers at Sissinghurst Castle

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

The gardens at Sissinghurst are the stuff of poetry. Quite literally. Planted by poet Vita Sackville-West way back when, they’re now some of the most famous in England. Each garden has its own colour scheme, from the cottage garden in reds and yellows, the purple border with its mix of blues, pinks and lilacs and the white garden with gladioli, dahlias and anemones in – you guessed it – white. From May irises flash to life in their brief flowering window, turning the gardens into a sea of colour.

Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London. Or 1hr from Charing Cross to Staplehurst, then bus.

From £9.90 in winter, £13.80 9 Mar - 31 Oct. £3 parking for non-members. nationaltrust.org.uk.

2

Pashley Manor Gardens, East Sussex

If you’re looking for a quintessential English country garden, look no further than Pashley with its walled historic garden, perfect lawn and Grade I listed country house backdrop. You’ll find flowers galore all over its 11 acres. If you have a favourite bloom (and who doesn’t) it also holds special floral events through the seasons to celebrate whichever flower is in abundance. Stop in for its Tulip Festival in spring, Special Rose Week in June (you’ll find more than 100 varieties) or Dahlia Days in late summer.

Getting there: 1hr 30min drive from London. Or, a 1hr 15min train from Charing Cross to Etchingham station or 1hr from London Bridge to Wadhurst station, and then taxi.

From £11. www.pashleymanorgardens.com

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3
Mottisfont, Hampshire

Mottisfont, Hampshire

Everything at Mottisfont is quite literally coming up roses. This National Trust property is home to a world-famous walled rose garden that comes to life from June in a heady riot of fragrance and colour. There are thousands of varieties on display, from pre-1900 old-fashioned blooms to delicate Chinese tea roses. Unlike modern species, these roses only bloom once a year, so head there in summer to catch them in the act. Borders of just-as-sweet peonies, geraniums, lilies, phlox and climbing clematis complete the floral fantasia.

Getting here: 2hr drive from London. Or 1hr 51min train from Waterloo to Mottisfont & Dunbridge station via Southampton.

From £15.80 with gift aid. Find out more at nationaltrust.org.uk.

4

The Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex

If you’re into baking, you’ll have heard of Mary Berry. And if you’re into plants, you’ll probably recognise the name Beth Chatto OBE. Over the years, Chatto, who passed away in May 2018, transformed this Essex garden from boggy wasteland to horticultural haven. What the garden lacks in size – it’s just seven acres – it makes up for in beauty. In its midst, you’ll find the gravel garden: home to lush floral displays despite the fact that it a) used to be a car park and b) is never watered. It’s the perfect place to find inspiration for a houseplant that you’ll inevitably neglect. And because flowers and cake go together so well, end your visit in the airy tearoom with a slice of something homemade.

Getting here: 1hr 45min drive from London, or the train from London Liverpool Street to Colchester Town (1hr 15 mins). From Colchester Town you can get the number 76 First Bus.

From £4.50-£8.45 depending on season. Find out more at bethchatto.co.uk.

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5
Picasa

Winkworth Arboretum

Arboretums are usually all about the trees, but Winkworth comes alive with jewel-coloured flowers every spring too. Head to its Azalea Steps, lined with cascading flowers (azaleas, natch) flowing down the hillside along the stairs and down to the lake. Planted here during the Second World War, the azaleas are nearing eighty years old, and they still burst into beautiful colour every year. The flowers are at their most vibrant in spring, but visit in autumn for fiery foliage, or in winter for a stroll among the snowdrops.

Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London. Or a 50min train from Waterloo to Godalming station, then bus.

From £9.05. nationaltrust.org.uk.

6
Wakehurst, West Sussex

Wakehurst, West Sussex

Calling all Kew Gardens lovers; the Wakehurst estate was developed by London’s very own big-name botanic gardens, so it’ll come as no surprise that it’s made our list. Across its expansive 500 acres (compared with Kew’s 300), you’ll find ornamental gardens, a nature reserve, woodlands, a mansion and the Millennium Seed Bank, the world’s biggest wild seed conservation project. Admire flora from both hemispheres: floating waterlilies and bright rhododendrons in the mansion garden, a tangle of fragrant roses in the walled garden and orchids surrounded by grasses and palms in the monocotyledon border. Err, Kew who?

Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London, or 45min train from London Bridge to Haywards Heath, then 272 bus.

From £12.95. Find out more at kew.org/wakehurst.

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7
Blooming Green, Kent

Blooming Green, Kent

Ever pictured yourself wandering through a meadow, scooping wildflowers into your arms? Haven’t we all. Now’s the chance to make that bucolic daydream a reality. This fruit farm specialises in seasonal, organic flowers and opens its gates to pick-your-own visitors every Friday afternoon between 12-4pm, from July to October. If you’ve ever been to a farm to pick your own strawberries, then you’ll know the deal. No need to book, simply grab a PYO container and take your pick of the bunch. They’ll even wrap up your field-fresh flowers so they’ll last the journey home. Dreams do come true.

Getting here: 1hr 30min drive from London, or 1hr 35min train to Marden then 27 bus.

Admission free, £15 for a PYO container. Find out more at bloominggreenflowers.co.uk.

8
RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

As a botanic destination, the RHS’s flagship garden Wisley has it all. Impressive glasshouse? Check: Wisley’s cathedral-like structure houses temperate to tropical plants. A rose garden? Easy: the romantic Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden is filled with more than 4,000 blooms. You can also tick off a rock garden, exotic garden, walled garden, conifer lawn, bonsai walk, alpine meadow, orchard, Mediterranean terrace, fruit and herb garden, an arboretum and a charming cottage garden blossoming with lilac, roses and lavender. With orchids in April, fuchsias in July and chrysanthemums in November, you’re guaranteed flower power all year round too.

Getting here: 1hr drive from London. Or 27min train from Waterloo to West Byfleet then taxi.

From £15.95 including gift aid. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.

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9
Hyde Hall, Essex

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

If you find yourself chasing down London’s wisteria-clad townhouses every spring, head east to discover this 360-acre rural idyll. Enter the Hilltop Garden through a pretty pergola cloaked in wisteria and clematis before wandering along the terrace. It’s the perfect escape from busy city life. You can while away a few hours (or the whole day) sitting in the sun, admiring flowers in every colour of the rainbow. Don’t miss the Woodland Garden: its floral credentials include rare species of camellia, rhododendron and magnolia. Lush.

Getting here: 1hr 22min drive from London, or 50min train from Liverpool Street to South Woodham Ferrers via Wickford, then taxi.

From £12.65 including gift aid. Find out more at rhs.org.uk.

10
Bluebell Walk
Photograph: Arlington Bluebell Walk

Arlington Bluebell Walk and Farm Trail, Sussex

Swapping the swarms on a Central line platform for a sea of vibrant bluebells might sound far fetched, but that’s the reality every spring at Arlington. Once you’ve left the confines of the M25, you can enjoy a sweet stroll through an ancient oak wood, with a blue floral carpet under foot. Bluebells bloom depending on soil temperature, so the dates of the walks are in the hands of Mother Nature each year. On some trails, the flowers are joined by a display of white wood anemones creating an almost magical floral vista. And relax…

Getting here: 2hr 30min drive from London, or 1hr 18min train from London Victoria to Berwick then 42 bus.

From £6. The trail is closed for the year but will reopen in 2019. Find out more at bluebellwalk.co.uk.

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