Kent Attractions: Great Days Out in Kent
Another week had passed by and I was looking for somewhere new in Kent to visit at the weekend. As a big fan of stately homes and beautiful gardens, I am always on the lookout for a hidden gem that I haven’t visited before and this time my luck was in. Godinton House and Gardens, nestled in the Kent countryside near Ashford, ticked all the boxes and was the perfect place for a day out in Kent.
The gardens were designed in the early 1900s by Sir Reginald Blomfield, a prolific 20th-century British garden designer and architect. His vision was to design them in an Italianate theme to complement the Jacobean styling of the Godinton House.
Godinton House itself dates back to the 1300s and in 600 years has only had three different families and their ancestors as owners, the last one living at Godinton until 1996.
Covid-19 Safety Measures
Due to Covid-19, all tickets were timed, and I eagerly arrived for my one o’clock slot, just as the gardens had opened for the day. Godinton House tours are suspended; however, the 14th-century exterior of this historic house is very imposing and provides a superb backdrop for photographs.
Toilets are open, and a small tea-room in the stable block, with seating outside only, is available for refreshments. We made full use of this facility and had tea and ginger cake while enjoying the stunning view of the ancient parkland that surrounds Godinton House and Gardens.
From September 2020, there will be no timed tickets, and visitors may buy tickets on arrival keeping in mind the 2m guidelines at all times.
Art at Godinton House and Gardens
A strict one-way route was in place, and our first stop was to wander through the box topiary hedges. We came across the mythological Statue of Pan, God of the Wild, which was quite striking.
Pan is one of several permanent statues around the gardens, and each year a Godinton House Sculpture event takes place with artists displaying their works around the garden.
Unfortunately, we had just missed the 2020 sculpture display, however, there were still a few unsold pieces scattered around the estate to admire.
There are many historic houses and gardens in Kent, but in my opinion, Godinton House has one of the best gardens in Kent, and so it seems a natural place for art and nature to meet on an annual basis.
The Herbaceous Borders
The 12 acres of extensive gardens are designed in individual areas, each with different planting styles.
We followed the one-way route down to the herbaceous borders, capturing shots of the magnificent Jacobean-style house on our way. This area was beautifully planted with lavenders, roses, ornamental trees and shrubs, creating a visually stunning space.
Can you spot the ceramic rose amongst the border? I thought this was a charming idea and saw that there were several different ceramic flower types dotted in the foliage.
A bee collecting nectar from an “Artichoke flower.”
The Lily Pond
Following down from the herbaceous borders, we came to the beautiful lily pond. It was enchanting with the sun glistening across the water.
Another statue stands at the far end of the pond, and there are two seating areas to spend a moment of contemplation in this serene setting.
With beautiful views like this one, it was hard to leave this area, but we couldn’t wait to discover the other parts of these beautiful Kent gardens.
Heading across the expanse of the main lawn, historically used for tennis and croquet, we checked out the sculpture known as “Tempesta,” meaning storm in Italian.
The art piece is by Emily Young, described as “Britain’s greatest living stone sculptor”, and is made from marble salvaged from an abandoned quarry in Italy.
The Wild Garden
Moving away from Tempesta, we made our way over to the wild garden and the mighty sweet chestnut trees, complete with fruit waiting to shed its prickly shell and fall to the ground.
For me, this is the sign that the Autumn months are nearly upon us, and images of sweet chestnuts roasting on an open fire at Christmas spring to mind.
Another surprise we had in the wild garden was to come across another lily pond, a smaller, natural version with lily pads, bulrushes, and a duck shelter.
Whenever I see a lily pad, it reminds me of a trip I took to see Monet’s Garden in Giverny, and I half expect a frog or a toad to be sitting on one of the leaves!
The countryside views were terrific as we walked towards the walled garden and they led us to another charming seating area complete with another statue.
The Walled Garden
The walled garden invited us in through its white wooden lattice doorway and presented us with a traditional Kent oasthouse. An expansive range of vegetable and flower plots alongside fruit trees filled the walled garden.
There was no admittance to the glasshouse on this visit due to Covid-19, but a peek through the windows showed a plethora of plants being grown inside. The centrepiece water feature was another tiny lily pond – this time, complete with a frog!
The walled garden showcases gardening techniques such as growing certain flower species near to vegetables to help with insect pest control, very ingenious.
Can you see the pumpkin patch coming to life?
A door in the wall invited us to go through to the tranquil Italian Garden complete with its central water feature and Roman statues.
We took a seat beneath the vine-clad arbour and immersed ourselves in the aromas and the sights of this beautiful garden. From butterflies and dragonflies to the red-breasted robin, all happy to share their space with visitors.
The day was coming to a close, and we had been in the gardens for around three hours; however, you could spend all day here and not tire of its offerings.
I spotted a bronze sculpture just outside of the Italian garden but I am not sure whether it terrified or delighted me with its realism. It felt as if her eyes might open at any moment. I wonder what you think?
Moving on to the Godinton House topiary trees, they reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, and I imagined the Queen of Hearts playing croquet on the manicured lawns that we had crossed earlier in the day.
Godinton Rose Garden
Making our way out, we passed through the rose garden, which I believe in the height of summer is spectacular for both colour and scent.
As we were heading into the Autumn months, we didn’t get to experience the roses in their full glory, so there is only one answer to that; a return next year to visit these beautiful gardens in Kent!
And fingers crossed that in 2021 the indoor tour will be back in full swing so that visitors can, once again, discover the 600 years of Godinton House history.
Need to Know Information
Godinton House and Gardens Opening Hours, Admissions and Directions
I received complimentary tickets to Godinton House Gardens; however, all opinions about this visit are my own.