Outdoor adventures await those who wander into the forest land at Groombridge Place. A favourite retreat of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Groombridge is the perfect mixture of formal gardens and myriad woodland paths, where visitors are given leave to explore the grounds. Both adults and children will find plenty to see and do at Groombridge and we easily spent a long afternoon happily uncovering the surprise attractions hidden among the manicured hedgerows of the gardens and the wild trees of the Enchanted Wood.
Groombridge House is rich in its historical roots with the current house built in 1662. The house remains private but can be viewed from the formal gardens with information plaques dotted around the grounds, revealing some of the location’s past.
The formal gardens at Groombridge display a range of themes, each with its own story. The designers intended to bring some of the inside feel to the outside world and visitors see this captured beautifully with each adjoining area. The Oriental garden features colourful examples of Japanese maple trees, whilst the scents of the White Rose garden can be smelt on approach. Seek out the cleverly named Drunken garden and the dappled shade of the pretty Secret Garden, a favourite with Phillip Packer, the courtier of Charles II who was responsible for the rebuilding of Groombridge Place and its gardens in the 1600s.
After all of this, hungry guests can tuck into coffee and cake at the licensed bar and cafe or enjoy a picnic of their own in the family area. This is a favourite area of the resident peacocks and they are wonderfully at home amongst the visitors. Close by are the pony, donkey and Zedonk munching away in their paddock (it is a real animal I promise you) along with the Raptor Centre and the entrance to the nearby field where Birds of Prey displays take place (Summer season only). The Raptor centre is the largest conservation centre for Birds of Prey in the South East of England and is home to falcons, eagles, hawks and owls, do catch a display if you can.
Once you have stocked up on energy, its time to get back to nature and discover the magic of the Enchanted woods. Take a canal boat ride or stroll down the bank side path to Crusoe’s Pirate Ship, the first of many attraction filled glades that both adults and children will enjoy. The most challenging attraction is the newly opened 350 metre long treetop walk that allows visitors of all ages to climb to the dizzying heights of 20 metres high. For someone as acrophobically challenged as I, this was still not an impossible task and the views of the tree-top Ashdown Forest are absolutely worth the the climb. Other attractions in the Enchanted Wood include Crusoe’s Pirate ship, zip wires, bridges and giant tree swings suitable for all the family and so much fun! For those after a more leisurely walk through the forest, the twisting paths offer a relaxing experience with the natural sounds of the woodland along with the ground’s fallow deer herd to keep company with.
Groombridge Place has so much to offer its guests. It is such a surprise treat to come across a place like this and I can’t recommend it enough to all. Families, friends, couples and those simply wishing to take a piece of time out will find plenty to pique their interest in this.
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