Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is located in Richmond, Surrey. Not quite Dorset, we know, but sometimes we do like to venture a little further afield! Charlotte and I first visited Kew back in 2017 and I enjoyed it so much I’ve been back every years since; so definitely worth a post in my eyes.

If you weren’t already aware, Kew Gardens (formally known as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) is a botanic garden in southwest London and, according to the internet, is home to "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world.”

The Palm House

The Palm House

I was lucky enough to receive an annual membership for my birthday, which allows entry for myself and a plus one, which is pretty handy! Membership costs £71 annually. It also includes discounted bookings for certain events such as Christmas at Kew, but more on that later. If you don’t think you’ll get the use out of a membership, then general admission starts from £16.50 for an adult ticket.

Getting there

If you’re travelling from Dorset, then we’d recommend getting the train, as there’s no car park and limited parking around the area. If you’re travelling with South Western Railway, you can catch the train into Clapham Junction and change there for a train to Richmond (approx 10 minutes.) It’s then a short 15 / 20 minute walk from Richmond station.

Kew Gardens station is on the Richmond brand of the District Line and the London Overground. It’s probably best to head over the the Kew site to work out the best way of getting there, depending on your location.

Things to see…

There’s so much to see at Kew, whether you simply want to take stroll around the gardens stopping to smell the flowers, or transport yourself to another continent with their indoor rainforest, there’s enough to keep us coming back time and time again! An extensivel list of what to see can be found over on the Kew website, but here’s just a few of our favourite picks.

Palm House

The Palm House is probably the most recognisable location at Kew. Essentially an indoor rainforest, it’s hot and humid, but filled with a vast variety of tropical plants. Many of the plants are endangered, some even extinct in the wild! If you can stand the humidity for long enough, you can climb the spiral staircase to the balcony for an overheard view.

Rose Garden

One for the flower fans, the Rose Garden is home to 170 different species of roses. You can’t miss it, as it’s situated right in front (or behind, depending on which way you look at it) the Palm House. The roses smell absolutely wonderful and, if you’re thinking of your Instagram feed, make for a pretty beautiful photo opportunity.

Treetop Walkway

Get up-close to Kew’s trees with a stroll across the treetop walkway. It’s 18 metres above ground, so not ridiculously high, but maybe not one for those who don’t like heights! From up here, you can even see a glimpse of various London buildings – which is an interesting contrast between the greenery of Kew Gardens (and one I love!)

Fern looking out from the Treetop Walkway

Fern looking out from the Treetop Walkway

Temperate House

The world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, Temperate House, re-opened in 2018 after a five-year renovation process! Temperate House is filled with 1,500 species of plants from around the world (mainly Africa, Australia, Asia etc.) all of which need to be kept over a temperature of 10 degrees to survive.

Christmas at Kew

Whilst we’ve only ever visited Kew during the warmer months, it is open all year round; although opening hours vary throughout the year. Throughout November – January you can enjoy Christmas at Kew. Bookings are actually open already, which may sound ridiculous but it does sell out quickly! We still need to pick a date for our trip this year, so will report back once we’ve been.

Where to eat

Whether you’re after a full on meal or just fancy some tea and cake, there’s a good variety of places to grab a bite to eat. The Orangery (not to be confused with an actual orangery) is a personal favourite, offering plenty of choice from hot lunches to delicious cakes. You can find the full list of places to eat here.

Of course, if you don’t fancy paying full prices you’re more than welcome to take your own picnic with you and enjoy it on one of the many grassy areas. There are also various stations around the gardens to re-fill your water bottles – a godsend on a hot day!

Visited Kew Gardens? We'd love to see your photos, so make sure to tag us @deardorset and use #deardorset!

Kew Gardens Palm house

Good to know…

- Nearest stations are Kew Gardens (District Line), Richmond (National Rail and District Line)

- No car park but limited on-street parking on surrounding roads

- Adult tickets from £16.50

- Various food and dining options

Stourhead

Known for its idyllic beauty, iconic Palladian architecture and being both home to the source of the River Stour and the famous landscape garden, Stourhead is a must-see. It doesn’t matter when you visit in the year as the place comes alive with each season – you won’t be disappointed.

It’s part of the National Trust so admission is free for members. You can find out more about opening times and ticket prices on the National Trust website.

Looking out across the lake at the Palladian Bridge and the Temple of Apollo.

Looking out across the lake at the Palladian Bridge and the Temple of Apollo.

A brief history…

The Stourhead estate is home to centuries of history, having been passed down through generations of the Hoare family. The house and gardens that we can explore today were originally built in the 18th century under the watch of Henry Hoare, a banker from London.

The estate is essentially split into two halves with Stourton village at the centre. The first half which is close to the entrance is the stately home, also known as the ‘country villa’. Visiting this first is the perfect way to start your visit – step back in time and explore the property that’s rich with history, art and architecture. The building has been restored twice, once due to neglect and the second time was sadly due to a fire. After the restoration was complete the National Trust took over the care and maintenance of Stourhead and it’s been open to the public ever since.

The second half of the estate is the b-e-a-utiful landscaped gardens, which I’ll get on to…

Stourhead in film

Stourhead was used as the location for some iconic scenes in Pride and Prejudice (2005) – the one starring Keira Knightly as Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. The first location used was the Temple of Apollo; in this scene they had been walking in the rain (v romantic…) and ended up sheltering from it at a beautiful temple. Here he proposes and subsequently offends her entire family, she responds with “no” (although, a little more eloquently) and runs off over a bridge. The Palladian bridge is location number two – it’s the perfect setting for such an emotional scene and gives me (Charlotte) goosebumps just thinking about it. I could go on and on, but let’s get back on track!

The world-famous gardens

Along with the Temple of Apollo and the Palladian Bridge there’s also the Temple of Flora, the Pantheon, the Grotto and the Gothic Cottage to explore. It feels very much like something from The Secret Garden, and i’m totally onboard with that. Every time I visit, I feel like i’m a kid again and just want to run off and investigate every corner.

The secluded gardens are very classically designed, with a huge (and I mean HUUUGE) nod to Greek mythology and architecture. The lake walk takes you around each of the areas on a circular trail so you shouldn’t get lost. The plants and trees on the walk are absolutely stunning too, with a mixture of local and exotic species. It’s a real work of art – a living painting before your eyes.

Stourhead is one of my most favourite places in the world. I know it’s quite a bold statement, but once you’ve experienced the beauty and tranquility of Stourhead you’ll get the bug too.

Where to eat

Now for the good stuff… At Stourhead you’re quite spoiled for choice when it comes to where and what to eat. For starters (unintentional pun) there’s a National Trust owned restaurant at the entrance where you can sit down and have a bite to eat. They sell all the usual goodies like sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soup, crisps, cakes and scones to name a few things. There’s also a kiosk outside that sells quick nibbles like pasties, ice cream and hot/cold drinks. Great for if you’re hungry but want to get exploring!

Once inside the grounds of Stourhead there’s the Spread Eagle Inn – we’ve not eaten here, but from the menu it looks quite fancy, yet reasonably priced (it’s not owned by the National Trust). In the quad that the Inn is based, there’s also an ice cream parlour that we’d recommend. We’ve tried it out a few times… you know, just to make sure.

As you should know by now, Fern and I are regulars with BYOP (bring your own picnic), and there are plenty of spots to stop and take in the tranquil views. Don’t forget to bring a picnic mat though as there aren’t too many benches.

As most of the paths are accessible, deciding on what to wear to walk in is pretty easy – whatever you’re comfortable in and whatever the weather is – so whether that’s walking boots or sandals you should be just fine. We wouldn’t recommend heels though, there are some cobbled paths and hills to walk up and down too.

Visited Stourhead? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

Fern+sitting+in+the+sun+near+the+Gothic+cottage

Good to know…

- Parking charge for non-members

- Prices start from £8.70 (child) without a NT membership

- Options for food

The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool is tucked away in-between Wareham and Swanage (trips for another blog post) – it’s a tranquil haven just off the main holiday route to Corfe Castle. It’s a place that neither of us have explored, and was perfect for a day off that we’ve had marked in our diaries for a while.

Once home to a clay mining pit, the space now offers a unique and beautiful attraction. The name doesn’t leave much to the imagination – Blue Pool – but there’s defintiely more to it than meets the eye. The colour of the water changes and seems to transition between a variety of blues and greens. In short, this phenomenon happens when light hits tiny clay particles that are in the water.

The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool

Finding blue pool

We brazenly decided (or rather I, Charlotte, insisted) on not using a sat nav to find the Blue Pool, hoping to rely on sign posting from Wareham and my local knowledge that had seemingly appeared over night. The sign posting was relatively minimal, but did the job.

It’s worth noting that the Blue Pool is independently owned, there's a £7.50 admission fee (including access to the café). And don’t stress about bringing cash as they accept card payments. Tickets aren’t time limited so you can enjoy exploring the trails around the Blue Pool at your own pace – there’s also a plant centre near the entrance, a museum, the Wareham Bears and a gift shop.

picking the route

Walking around there are two routes to choose from, although you can mix between them if you like, we definitely didn’t stick to any one path. One option is fully accessible taking a longer route around and avoiding all the steps – even though you can’t get as close to the pool in some areas, the view is still extraordinary. There are lots of benches too (aka picnic opportunities), we often found ourselves wandering from one bench to another taking in the view from different angles.

The café offers a variety of hot and cold food options that cater to most dietary requirements (gluten and dairy free available), as well as kids lunches and homemade cakes and scones (obviously cream before jam).

Even more to explore

Kids go free with a paying adult, and there’s lots for them to do. From fairy trails to a choice of play areas there's something to keep them busy and entertained. Back at the main building the gift shop displays the Wareham Bears. This sweet and unexpected exhibition shows dressed teddy bears in an assortment of scenarios, whether that’s at home or working at the Maltings or the Green Grocer. Each little bear comes with their own quirky story, which even had us laughing.

Even though the pool looks enticing you can’t swim, or even dip your toes in it. From the surface it looks quite shallow but is actually quite deep and dangerous.

The Blue Pool is open from 9am daily, March-November (inclusive).

Visited the Blue Pool? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

Blue+Pool+map.jpg

Good to know…

- Parking

- £7.50 adult ticket (concessions available)

- Tea room and toilets

- Dog friendly

Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay

Nestled in the depths of South Dorset, somewhere between Lulworth and Kimmeridge is Tyneham village. It was evacuated in WW2 for military use and the villagers were promised that they could return once the war had ended. Sadly, this didn’t happen and it’s still owned and used by the Ministry of Defence.

Worbarrow Bay

Worbarrow Bay

What to expect

I’ve been going to Tyneham for years now and it was something I really wanted to share with Fern. There’s something so special and untouched about the place – it’s far from main roads and has next to no phone signal (which is perfect for a digital detox day). And like most of the walks I go on, there’s usually some good dog watching to be had. It’s the perfect Dorset Day out.

To get to the hidden entrance of the village you have to drive on some quite narrow and winding roads. Depending on which way you’re coming from, there’s a viewpoint at the top of Whiteway Hill that I would definitely recommend pulling into – it’s an incredible view and perfect for some landscape shots. Take care driving into Tyneham from the awkward turning, it’s single file but with plenty of areas to pull in and let other cars pass. 

Walking around the peaceful ruins of what was once someone’s home, or visiting the school house where lessons once took place is quite haunting. You can’t help but wonder about how slow life was out here in a very isolated and rural Dorset, and how challenging leaving this all behind must have been. Amongst the empty buildings are signs of wildlife, and colour. In the springtime, the flowers take over and the smell of wild garlic is everywhere (if that’s your thing).

Worbarrow Bay

About a 15 minute walk away – if you’re speedy like Fern and I – from the village is the stunning Worbarrow Bay. You should take something warm to put on as it can get very windy out on the exposed coast. If you choose to ignore this advice, don’t say we didn’t warn you! 

My favourite time of year for exploring this part of the trip is in Autumn/very early spring when the sea is covered with mist. You can get lost in the blues and the peaceful sound of the waves lapping at the shore. On our last visit I decided to take a brisk walk up Worbarrow Tout (the big hill to the left if you’re looking out to sea) to see what all the fuss was about. The view was worth the walk, and i’m not being melodramatic (okay, maybe a tiny bit…) by saying I felt like I was at the edge of the world. On a side note, wear something more practical than converse on your feet if you’re going to head up the Tout. I found out the hard way after losing my footing and falling flat on my bottom. 

Bring your own picnic (BYOP)

On the way back to Tyneham, you can take the signposted short walk through the woods which will bring you back to the village via the main picnic spot. If like us, you need to be fed and watered regularly (nothing beats a good cup of Early Grey IMO) you’ll need to bring your own supplies as there isn’t a shop or café nearby. You can dine “al fresco” either by the ruins – there are plenty of picnic benches dotted about – or back on the pebbled beach. If it’s raining you might have to opt for a car picnic, which Fern and I secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy.

Even though Tyneham is a live firing range it’s open most weekends, but it’s always worth checking when it’s open before heading over.

Visited Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

A7D58FF9-3628-437A-B09D-A84EB765823B.jpg

Good to know…

- £2 parking donation

- Free entry

- BYOP (bring your own picnic)

- Toilets

Hello

Hello and welcome to Dear Dorset. It’s taken a little bit of time, but our blog is finally here! To keep it brief, we’re going to be sharing our trips around the south coast – where to go, what to do and, most importantly, where you can get a good cup of tea!

If you’re not already following us on Instagram, you can find us @deardorset. And if you want to find out a little more, keep on scrolling down.

97A01C12-2859-44FA-B729-F5972EA07DED.JPG

Having met in 2016 through work, Charlotte was appalled to find out that Fern had (despite having moved to Christchurch at the age of 6) visited very little of the south coast as an adult. So, armed with one National Trust membership, a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II and, more often than not, a picnic, we started to explore. Three years, multiple days out and a lot of photos later, we decided it was about time we started sharing our trips through more than the odd Story on our personal Instagram accounts. And so, Dear Dorset was born!

We’ll be using this space to share guides to some of our favourite places in Dorset and further afield! As well as pretty photos, we’re hoping to offer handy insights such as where to park, what to pack, when you should opt for wellies over trainers and any other things we think you might need to know.

We’re excited to get started!