The seven wonders are closer than you think!

Posted on: 20 June 2014 by Diane Priestley

Retired or semi-retired couples can enjoy interesting day trips through the week instead of being chained to the desk, as Diane Priestley discovered!

Groombridge Place

A “wonderful” mid-week treat for outdoorsy Over 50s is exploring the Seven Wonders of the Weald! You don’t need to traverse the world to discover these marvels; they are as close as the beautiful southeast county of Kent, on the High Weald, officially recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

My husband and I enjoyed a jaunt to two of the awe-inspiring Wonders: Groombridge Place in Royal Tunbridge Wells and nearby Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst, the newest additions to the stunning line-up of Weald Wonders.

Groombridge offers mature-aged visitors the tranquillity and fascination of strolling through beautiful, award-winning walled gardens with elegant statues and water features surrounding the impressive 17th century manor house.

The magical, well-tended gardens are dazzling with the colours and fragrance of roses, wisteria, tulips and pink cherry blossom and much more. The Apostle Walk, bordered on each side by 12 drum yews, dates back to the original planting in 1674.

The delightful White Rose Garden, featuring over 20 varieties of white rose, commemorates the 200-year ownership of the estate by the Waller family while the Secret Garden is a reflective sanctuary of azaleas overhanging a tinkling stream.

Groombridge PlaceAfter roaming the gardens, we took a leisurely boat ride on the canal with cheery boatman Nick to view some of the more adventurous attractions, ideal if you are entertaining the grandchildren. The kids can play on giant tree swings, explore Crusoe’s World and compete on the giant chess set.

The grandkids will love the animals including peacocks, goats, alpacas, Shetland ponies, the world famous zedonk (half donkey, half zebra) and wild deer in the 220 acres of forest, carpeted in bluebells in the spring.

Perhaps the most exciting attraction for all ages is the Birds of Prey display featuring eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. The spectacular shows are staged twice daily Tuesday to Sunday and Bank holiday Mondays.

After all that action, you will be ready to relax and dine at the friendly restaurant and browse the shop, full of interesting home wares and locally grown wines.

Scotney Castle

Replenished with a hearty Ploughman’s lunch and refreshing Biddenden apple juice, we drove to the next intriguing attraction, Scotney Castle. The 14th century moated castle, prized by the National Trust, is recognised as the fairytale image on chocolate boxes, surrounded by romantic gardens.

The glorious wild gardens are a magnificent example of the ‘picturesque style’; bursting with vegetation of varied colours, shapes and sizes over many levels. Keen gardeners will be in heaven! We were lucky to be shown around by Head Gardener, Richard, who has worked at Scotney Castle for 32 years.

Scotney Castle gardensAnd visitors who come prepared for a decent walk can explore no less that 770 acres of enchanting woodland and venture inside the original castle, now considered an extravagant “folly” to the new country house built in 1837 by the Hussey family. Visitors can also explore the eclectic rooms, which are full of family history and captivating tales.

We explored the walled garden that grows a luscious range of vegetables, fruits and flowers for the restaurant and house, inspiring everyone to grow their own!

We finished off a delightful day with afternoon cream tea in the charming tearoom, while planning a return trip to explore the vast woodlands. It would indeed take many visits to Scotney Castle to fully appreciate the beautiful gardens and fascinating castle.

And my husband and I have five more of the Seven Wonders of the Weald to explore over the summer; the Biddenden Vineyards, Marle Place Garden and Gallery, the Kent & East Sussex Railway,  Chiddingstone Castle and Gardens and the historical spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

As all these attractions are too much to do in one day, visitors from other parts of the UK and abroad can stay at a delightful Kent and Sussex Holiday Cottages.

Now that’s summer sorted! It’s hard to believe that these Seven Wonders are right on our doorstep in the idyllic Garden of England. How wonderful!

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