I took my little sister to Hall Place in Bexley a few weeks ago. She seems to enjoy the sensory experience of being outdoors, whether it's a beach or a park, and Hall Place has some beautiful gardens and a cafe that is usually packed. The gardens are free to visit, and the grounds were full of families enjoying the sunshine.
There is an exhibition of Quentin Blake's art for hospitals on display until the end of the summer, included in the price of admission to the house. Quentin grew up in nearby Sidcup; I went to the same secondary school as he did, and he drew the cover of the school yearbook when our headmaster retired!
My sister took this photo of some pansies near the glasshouse.
Here's the bigger picture.
There's a wonderful timeline along a path, with key events in history and labels telling you where certain plants came from.
There were apple blossom trees, and confetti of blossom decorating the grass.
There were irises and tulips, beautiful wisteria, and some incredible-smelling clematis next to a checkerboard tower. Garden clematis is such a wonder when you are used to the unscented, wholesale varieties.
You can't miss the topiary giants, based on the symbols of the United Kingdom. I'm only familiar with the lion and the unicorn because of Orwell's essay, but there are also other symbols: a griffin, a white lion, a white horse, a greyhound, a black bull, a falcon, and a red dragon. Aha - that's where pubs get their names from!
And lastly, here are the rose garden and the cut flower plot. They promise colour and scent in the summer.
We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official – the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the “nice cup of tea”.
George Orwell, The Lion and The Unicorn