Last year I re-joined the RHS and ventured to Hyde Hall in Essex for the first time.
On this #1 visit it was cold and windy and we wondered why we had spent 90 minutes driving through what appeared to be largely industrial wasteland on the outskirts of East London, leading us into Essex, to get there. What we saw comprised bleak fields, a small area of formal garden on the top of a hill and a small allotment. We wandered about the hellebores. Not a patch on Wisley. We couldn’t understand its purpose in the RHS repertoire. It was unwelcoming, given its windy position and so many open spaces through which the visitor must move in order to reach another disjointed section. I can’t find in my records a single photograph that I kept other than the one below (gotta spy a robin).
I returned in the summer, on a hot day when Hyde Hall was hosting a flower fayre, determined to give it a second chance. On this second visit, I took the train and then cycled on an easily manageable route, right up to the front door (avoiding the v.long queue of cars, the occupants of which were parking a good 15 minutes away in a field). Cycling during any RHS events is wise, as the queues for the car park are notorious (and extremely lengthy, forcing drivers to park a long walk away).
On my second visit, I did find something to salvage our initial view of Hyde Hall. Both a dry (drought-tolerant) garden and a grass garden, complimented by a secluded tropical haven, both of the latter far away from the crowds who were buying from the plant stalls (many of the them the same as I had seen at RHS Wisley only a few weeks before).
However, this doesn’t mean that I’ll rush back to Hyde Hall in a hurry. Like RHS Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall also doesn’t live up to Wisely, or what I remember of RHS Rosemoor (which I’ve only visited once in 2008, but I recall it having a wonderful cottage garden). I’m looking forward to the Salford RHS Bridgewater garden opening in 2019. Will it excite and inspire me?
Which is your favourite RHS main garden?
When visited: March and August 2016