Exbury Gardens near Southampton, Hampshire lies just to the east of Beaulieu. It belongs to the Rothschild family. We decided to visit and see what this 200 acre, renowned garden had to offer.
Arriving around 11 am on a warm sunny day, and parking in the spacious car park, we proceeded to the ticket office, manned by 2 members of staff. The initial contact in the reception area did not get off to a good start! The female member was assisting with someone who was part of large group of visitors, while the male staff member just 'hovered' around. Another couple joined the queue behind us, but still the young man did not address us. Seemingly, he was only taking cash payments, but it would have been proper to inform the people waiting, instead of not addressing them.
Then, apparently our RHS tickets we had were only valid for free entry at the beginning and end of the main opening season. An adult ticket cost us £11, although we should have been told that it was £10 with £1 added on for a voluntary charity donation. Having paid our dues we started out with the aid of a garden layout map.
The first impression was lack of 'colour.' Rothschild apparently had a great love of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, shrubs and rare types of trees. Had we visited in May, it would have been spectacular … just a mass of wonderful colours. However, we were in the third week of June and all the flowers were over. Even so, there was a wonderful sense of tranquillity strolling through the myriad pathways and trees. It is certainly a fine woodland garden.
When you reach the estuary there is a wonderful view and you can sit and watch the boats sail past with ducks and other birds just beyond the tall reeds in the forefront of the private Beaulieu River.
The popular narrow gauge steam railway in the north east corner of the gardens takes visitors on a 20 minute journey through the Summer Lane Garden with its herbaceous perennials and grasses. Features include a bridge, viaduct, and tunnel.
From 14th April – 6th July there is a 'Four Seasons Art Exhibition' taking place in The Gallery. Well worth a visit.
The facilities at Exbury include a gift shop, plant sales, restaurant and tearooms.
An enjoyable day, just wish we had seen it in all its glory!