RHS Garden Hyde Hall – A Blooming Good Day Out
Our latest readers’ day was a visit to the beautiful Essex countryside to explore RHS Garden Hyde Hall, and its many group offerings. Abbe Bates reports back.
A sunny day at the end of May saw nearly 30 readers and guests travel to RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford, to discover ideas for a group visit, and to learn about the exciting additions made this year to celebrate the garden’s 25th year.
We started the day with a delicious lunch in the Activity Barn, which readers had an exclusive first peek at. This event space will be available to hire for groups and sits above the garden, with far-reaching views across the Essex countryside from floor to ceiling windows, and an outside deck space for al fresco entertaining. School groups have a new education centre and outdoor learning area.
A new restaurant has also recently opened and we sampled the menu as part of our lunch of either a hake, lamb or salad dish. Both set and à la carte options are available for groups. After a short talk about the garden from Horticultural Team Leader Andy Hellman, the group was split in two for a short highlights tour of the site with enthusiastic volunteer guides (there are 200 volunteers altogether!), including the new Global Growth Vegetable Garden with an impressive greenhouse, and the interesting Dry Garden, along with the story of previous owner Helen Robinson, who went from novice gardener to RHS medal holder.
We returned to the Activity Barn for tea and coffee, accompanied by a wonderful spread of cakes. Sue Carter, Marketing, PR & Events Manager, told us about the attraction’s ‘Field to Fork’ scheme involving local produce grown in the garden and used in the dishes served in the restaurant. Melissa Hackney, Groups Sales and Marketing Manager for RHS, the world’s largest gardening charity, explained further about groups deals and updated us about the new Winter Garden at Hyde Hall, and the three other sites run by the RHS – Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon and Harlow Carr in Harrogate and plans for a fifth garden, Bridgewater, in Greater Manchester.
Afterwards, it was off to see some of the recent additions to the building. The Royal Albert Hall underwent an extensive redevelopment from 1998 to 2004, with several more storeys added under the basement level. In particular, this allowed the creation of a new loading bay – which has enabled the Hall to host larger shows such as Cirque du Soleil. We also saw the current excavation work that will create more room for offices, heating systems and dressing rooms.
There was time to explore the garden further at our own leisure before setting off for home.
“The gardens are delightful and the lunch provided surprised everyone, I think (certainly on the table I was sitting on) – I’ve never had that kind of quality from a restaurant that was part of a venue, rather than a stand alone restaurant. No wonder the main part seemed full when we walked through to our dining area! Will definitely be arranging a trip there.”
Jackie Ames, Unity 70
“Just to say a big thank you for inviting me to this very lovely event. Everything was perfect – beautiful lunch, sunshine and a fabulous guide who took us round the gardens. Will certainly be recommending this.”
Sylvia Mason, Ultimate Global Meetings