Although David Austin Plant Centre is a commercial venture it's possible to have a delightful day there without necessarily putting your hand in your pocket. Though I'd defy anyone to come away without a beautiful rose or two.
In this day and age it's rare to come across an attraction that doesn't demand a fee. Believe me, David Austin could quite easily ask you to shell out a fiver or so and it'd still be an extremely good deal. As it's free entrance to the gardens and they don't frown upon you enjoying your own picnic, it's almost unique.
And unique is a word I'd use again to describe this two acre oasis. In fact it's difficult to believe it is just two acres (about the size of a football pitch). You can easily spend a few hours here strolling and relaxing. The national collection of roses is housed at Albrighton, over 700 of them, and it's abundantly obvious the gardeners know exactly what they're doing. The roses are simply a riot of colour and scent and everywhere you look they assail the senses. They cover the ground, climb over walls, pergolas, arches, blend seamlessly into each other – you hardly know where to look. Then there's beautiful sculptures that complement the flowers and sympathetic planting of box hedge and lavender that sets them off to perfection.
It's such a gorgeous setting you envy the folk who work there.
We've been several times although we find it quite a trek. Albrighton isn't the easiest place to get to and the last few hundred yards are the worst of all. The plant centre is down a narrow track and I wouldn't relish going there at peak times in a large vehicle, I can well imagine having to reverse up a good distance, maybe more than once. The car parking is good though once you navigate this difficult stretch.
We've enjoyed both a hearty picnic among the flowers (seating is plentiful and varied) and meals in the quite pretty tea rooms. Food is available 9.30 until 4.30, the opening hours of the garden are 9 – 5 seven days a week. Meals are served on crockery depicting, surprise surprise, English roses and we've had no complaints. Prices are what you'd expect in a well kept garden centre – A homemade cheese scone served with a wedge of cheese and chutney will set you back £3.95, a Ploughman's Lunch of Mature cheddar cheese and Shropshire home baked ham, chutney, balsamic onions and a fresh baked bread roll £8.95. And the tea rooms are licensed if you fancy a glass of wine when conditions are amenable.
Needless to say there's a vast array of roses on offer as well as other plants and expert advice is readily available. David Austin Roses aren't the cheapest, expect to pay around £14, but they tend to be very free flowering and disease resistant. And I think when you've enjoyed the benefits of the hard work and the know-how the team at Albrighton has put in to make the place so attractive, it isn't difficult to divvy up an extra pound or two for something that will bring years of pleasure.
I'd definitely recommend a morning or afternoon at this garden centre, especially if you're in the area and looking for a unique and serene spot to enjoy a bite to eat. I guarantee you'll be back.