RHS Wisley to meet up with my sister-in-law and her children E and L. We had packed a picnic and were planning a bit of a walk around and a lunchtime stop to play and eat.
While we waited a few minutes for my SIL to arrive, I took this picture of J. Doesn't she look lovely among the flowers :)
My SIL is not a member of RHS so I was going to admit her as my guest and we would pay for my eldest, J, to get in along with her cousins who are 10 and 8. What a surprise when we got to the gate. "Children are free of charge in school holidays" the lady informed me. I could have fallen over backwards! In these days where nearly every place cashes in on school holidays by upping prices and/or cutting back on activities offered, here is a beautiful area that is making families welcome. Much appreciated I can tell you in the tough times we are having. It made me realise again what an excellent choice I had made by becoming a member of RHS :)
I picked up a guide and a couple of I-Spy books for the children - which I highly recommend. The books are packed with things to find as you walk around the garden. Not only does this include flowers and plants but also birds, insects and even activities being undertaken by the groundspeople such as mowing or raking. Somewhat to my surprise, these little books were a huge hit with the gang.
S was a bit concerned about the ducklings. You may recall that last time we visited Wisley, there was a mother duck and her very cute ducklings waddling around that caused untold terror to S and N. Of course, S was therefore quite worried they would be around still. I assured her that the ducklings were now more likely full grown ducks so fear not.
N was having a good toddle around on her reins (always handy in crowds) and the pushchair was being used primarily as a carrier of bags, cardigans and picnic.
The first thing that caught the attention of the gang were the fish. They were popping up out of the water much to N's amusement. In fact, trying to get her to leave this area was hard work! She was only encouraged away by the offer of being able to stand on a little bridge and look at the fish at even closer range. As you can see, it was very popular with all the children (I was on pushchair guarding duty).
We carried on our walk (many shouts of excitement were being raised as things in the I-Spy books were spotted) up towards the glasshouse. It was at this point that S said she was hungry, followed swiftly by "So am I" from the others. C and I decided to opt to go straight for the picnic near the pagoda so off we went.
Blankets laid out, food at the ready and the picnic was eaten. Very nice too it was sitting in the sunshine. Lots of families with children around and quite a few 'new mums' by the look of it. There was croquet going on, balls and frisbies everywhere (including ours). It is nice that RHS do not allow scooters as whilst S really enjoys going on hers, dodging them with small people and pushchairs can be hard work so at least all the paths were easily negotiable. Food over with and the children decided to play. The bigger ones went off to play hide and seek, with S and N enjoying 'hiding' under this tree.
The only problem with N is that although she is 19 months old, she could give Usain Bolt a run for his money (pardon the pun) in the sprinting stakes. One second she's next to you and the next across the field. Running in a long dress is not my strong point but I did have to sprint after her a few times. I bet the Olympics could make a new sport of that!
S came racing back with L informing me that "There's a heron mummy!" over near the water. Apparently this was a very scary bird and she was absolutely not going to go anywhere near the lake again. Oh dear, that's where we are off to next. I'll just keep quiet then.
A good hour of play was had and then we decided to move off. Here is where it all went wrong for S. She had enjoyed watching the fish from the bridge but a little way from here was a lovely spot where you could feed the fish and they almost came out of the water!
Suddenly, S decided fish were very scary. She did not like the way they were moving trying to get back into the lake and certainly did not want to be splashed by them. Aren't kids strange?! In the garden she can run around soaked to the skin being splashed by us or N and yet a fish flicks its tail and she's in bits. Go figure. She hid behind the bench while we watched the fish being fed. When someone in the crowd that had gathered there said the heron was just around the corner, she cried. I honestly don't know what to say about that. My 3 1/2 year old is scared of fish, ducklings and a heron, to name but a few things (the list gets bigger by the day!). I'm putting it down to a 'phase' as us parents tend to do.
N, on the other hand, had to be held tightly by her reins. No way was she going to hold hands with me with all this excitement going on. She was shouting "Fish!" all the time. I'm not sure if she was more interested in the fish or the food that was being thrown though ;-)
We carried on a bit and spotted people eating ice cream. Ahhh...there was a cafe nearby and it was warm so it had to be ice cream all round. I have to say it was extremely yummy and the single scoop was huge!
An elderly couple stopped and smiled saying "That is almost as big as her. She won't eat all that will she?". I laughed and assured them she would have a good go. She ate everything but the cone!
We headed off to the wild garden to have a final walk around before we had to part company. We didn't get very far. There was a large tree that had real climbing potential and, naturally, the gang went straight for it.
You may think that this was a pretty large tree to climb but let me assure you, whatever J can do, S and N can do too! Here is N illustrating that no ropes were used or required :)
After about 30 minutes, C and I tried to urge the gang on to another area. We made it as far as the other side of the path where this 'wicker' sculptures were. Can you imagine my horror when the bigger ones started to swing off of them? I could imagine the headlines "Family barred for life from RHS due to destruction of sculptures". The shame of it. After a frantic "Get off you lot" from C and I, it was pointed out to us by J that they had solid metal bars inside of them and were not likely to break. Phew. The headlines faded away.
This whole area reminded me of something out of 'Alice in Wonderland'. I'm not really sure why but it seemed kind of Mad Hatter to me. We first saw this some time ago when we were geocaching around Wisley as the public footpath cuts through the gardens and we spotted this as we went past.
Having spent a few minutes here, we made a vain attempt to carry on the walk but were thwarted by the gang all heading back to the original 'climbing tree' which is where we stayed for the rest of the time until we left.
A lovely day out for us all. The gang were totally exhausted when we left and I, for one, had N fast asleep before we'd left the car park and S not far off. I think even J was a bit tired out.
Can't wait for the sun to shine again and we'll be back to explore more of this wonderful garden.
(All comments are my own and I have not been sponsored or asked to write this article - we just love this place!)