The Leaping Hare never fails to impress but our previous visit to the gardens had shown them in need of some TLC. We learned later that a new head gardener was due to arrive. That has now achieved all that was required.
We had arranged to meet friends for lunch. Never a problem to arrive early: the shop is a splendid place to while away anything up to an hour. No bargain hunter’s delight, it nonetheless offers some interesting books, excellent greetings cards, clothes and ideas.
With fine weather there was a choice of tables outside as well as in the splendid barn. As we were going to spend plenty of time outdoors we sat inside. The menu is local, including home-grown vegetables and of course the splendid Wyken wines. Service is prompt, courteous and efficient without ever becoming obtrusive, as happens in some other places.
We all agreed we’d had a fine meal without being so full we couldn’t walk around the gardens and grounds. RHS members were able to enter free but the concessionary fee was a very reasonable £3.50. Mobility vehicles weren’t difficult to use, we noticed, although the Dell and Maze would have been no-go areas.
Anyone not wishing to visit the garden can still see enough to appreciate from the farm area and the approach to the house. It was spring, and though the earliest blooms were over tulips, wisteria and bluebells were much in evidence. Beside the house was a dramatic arrangement of colours that seemed to have anticipated this year’s Chelsea ideas.
There are “Little Boy Blue” sheep sculptures on a lawn with the real thing in the meadow beyond, and what may well have been Suffolk red poll cattle. Competing with the flower beds for colour were the peacock and exotic chickens. A pity the peacock only seemed to have a guineafowl for his audence.
Gardeners were in evidence, working with great care – no risk to the TLC now. The formal avenues and orchards were a delight as always, and the wilder areas made a splendid contrast. Having such grandeur among the mature trees makes the current high quality of the gardening all the more impressive.
Ours was a midweek visit but anyone going on a Saturday would have the bonus of a farmers’ market. From past experience of the stall-holders elsewhere I can give that a hearty recommendation too.
The great thing about Wyken and the Leaping Hare is that it doesn’t require a special occasion but it can make any occasion special.