I had never before visited a house featured on Country House Rescue after Channel 4 had departed. I did, however, remember Riverhill because I thought the owners (more specifically the wife of the current owner) stood a chance of making a good go of it – a former school teacher, she wanted to create a garden for children to explore from her husband’s great-great-great grandfather’s hillside folly full of rhododendrons, camellias and specimen trees.
The programme made it quite clear that Ed, the current owner, was the first family member for three generations to actually go out to work and earn money; his ancestors had spent their time reducing the fortune until the house had started to crumble and the gardens had become overgrown.
Generally, on Country House Rescue the owners ignore the advice given and are made to look a bit silly and lazy, but not the owners of Riverhill. Ruth said she was more impressed than she had ever been.
There is still a lot of to do, but after my visit I watched on 4OD the original Country House Rescue episode and in 4 years a lot has been achieved: there is a children’s play area, a fledgling maze, a much-improved café (although they need to create a separate space for the gift shop as it was hard to look at the wares due to the queue for the tea & cake which was blocking the ‘gifts’) and we even spotted a yeti in the garden. In the programme, this was Ed himself, and we wondered if he still dresses up or if they now have a local village boy who comes in for a couple of hours?
The day involved us and a 5 year old. It was very sunny and we started with Hever Castle. Last time I was at Hever it was pouring down so it was nice to see it in the sun. I was no more impressed though with the castle interior than I was last time and wouldn’t bother going inside.
By 2pm it was very very busy at Hever so I suggested a 15 minute drive to something quite different. While both Hever and Riverhill offer free entry to Historic Houses Association members, they are worlds apart. I can’t see that there is much to entertain adults at Riverhill beyond May-June (once the plants have stopped flowering) but the children will like it.
When visited: May 2013
Website: Hever Castle
Website: Riverhill Gardens
Theme tune: Your love keeps lifting me higher