Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
If you enjoy plants and trees you will have no doubt heard at least of some of the well known Royal Horticultural Society gardens that are open to the public , RHS Wisley, Surrey, RHS Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire & RHS Rosemoor, Devon to name but a few. One that we hadn’t been to before was RHS Hyde Hall in Essex and it had long been on our list to visit, so we were very pleased to be invited by them, in conjunction with Visit Essex https://www.visitessex.com/, to view their version of a festive light trail.
We have done a quite a few of the light trails around the South East in the past and they can be either be very themed, or aimed at children, or have additional activities to do. The trail at Hyde Hall is all about highlighting the beauty of the plants. The tickets are timed, so you have plenty of space to walk around, and getting in was quick and easy with short queues and several desks open to check ticket validity. On entering the garden, you could take a narrower left path or a very wide open track straight ahead. Both are hard compacted gravel, so are suitable for most abilities, but anyone with severe mobility problems can still see the beauty of the trail by continuing along the flat wide track at the bottom, whereas the left hand path winds its way upwards in a zig zag through the trees and plants. The borders and trees are all lit with contrasting lights, creating a jaw dropping display as you meander through the garden. Only part of the garden is in the trail, you can’t wander around the whole garden for instance, but there is plenty to see. The lights are strategically placed to highlight all the different colour and shaped leaves on the trail and the oranges, reds and purples made it feel almost autumnal.
Around half way there is a lake with food stalls next to it and plenty of outdoor seating. The stalls are full of festive and warming fayre such as German bratwurst and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, the wind was pretty chilly though, so we decided to eat in the restaurant at the end of the trail. The second part of the garden is all at low level, but has some fabulous views of the lit hillside that formed the first part of the trail, and there is a viewpoint where you could stop and take photographs. This second part had several living willow sculptures, which were absolutely stunning, and we spent quite a while looking at the natural works of art. The trail isn’t very long, maybe 40 minutes at an average walking speed, but you could make it much longer with a stop at the food stalls. Instead, we went for the warmth of the indoor restaurant, via the beautifully stocked shop, where we had a feast of ginormous baked potatoes and warm drinks. Prices were reasonable at £7-8.00 for a main meal, and they were delicious and served quickly even though it was very busy. Whilst we were eating, we could see a choir singing outside, but unfortunately could not hear them through the glass. We felt this would work better if the choir were actually inside the garden so you could take time to enjoy it, not at the entrance, where you just passed them by.
We took our eight year old and he really enjoyed it, as he loves plants, but I would say it’s probably more aimed at adults as there are not any specific child themed activities, its all about the allure of the gardens. It’s absolutely perfect for an evening’s wander followed by a warm drink and some music to get you in the festive spirit. We had a lovely evening at Glow RHS Hyde Hall, and don’t forget to check out the Visit Essex website for more festive things to see and do in the area.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Entrance fee adults; £7.95 RHS members £12.95 for non members, children; members (5–16) £3.95, non members £6.95; children under 5 free. Glow dates as as follows : Wednesdays – Saturdays only from 10 November – 18 December; then Tuesday 21 – Thursday 23 December and Wednesday 29 December – Saturday 1 January
Times: 5pm to 9pm. Last entry to the garden 7.30pm
Ticket information : https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/hyde-hall/whats-on/hyde-hall-glow