A trip to Hyde Hall

According to Wikipedia: RHS Garden Hyde Hall is a public display garden run by the Royal Horticultural Society in the English county of Essex … The 360 acre Hyde Hall site encompasses a range of garden styles, from the Dry Garden with drought resistant plants, to the Hilltop Garden with roses and herbaceous borders. Hyde Hall has had a lot of investment in recent years with the opening of a new Global Growth Vegetable Garden (in 2017) showing vegetables from around the world, a new Winter Garden (in 2018) hosting an RHS Trial of Cornus, a new Welcome building (in 2017), and Hilltop Complex (in 2018) featuring a new restaurant and activity centre … The garden at Hyde Hall was created by Dr and Mrs Robinson in 1955. Hyde Hall was formerly a working farm on a hilltop surrounded by arable land. The site was cleared and 60 trees purchased from Wickford market a few miles away. These trees now form the Woodland Garden. In the 1960s shelter belts of Lawson and Leyland cypress hedges were planted. During this decade the farmland to the west of the Hyde Hall hilltop was incorporated into the garden. In 1976 Helen and Dick Robinson formed the Hyde Hall Garden Trust which would manage the garden on a long-term basis. The trust donated Hyde Hall to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993”.

I first visited Hyde Hall back in the early 2000’s, when I was involved with Growing Together, a horticulture based project that helped people with mental health issues, when we took a group of volunteers and people we were helping on a day out. I fell in love with the place and have visited a number of times since, but not in recent years, or at least until yesterday. Some friends of my wife and I suggested we take a trip to Hyde Hall. Being members of the National Trust they were able to get in and get us in for free, and working out the maths it was not hard to realise NT membership was good value and for less than a handful of trips to NT sites the cost of annual membership would be soon recouped. I confess a little reluctant when the offer was made, partly because it was a bank holiday and me being adverse to the crowds that we might expect to visit, but I relented and went.

We took the 30 minute car trip from our home in Southend to Hyde Hall and met up with our friends, who being regulars could give us the guided tour. Like so much going on right now, restrictions were in place because of Covid-19, which the Hyde Hall “in charges” were obviously keen to implement, although as far as our visit was concerned it did not prove to be a big imposition. The impression of arrival, seeing immaculate lawns and beautiful flower beds, gave rise to the wow factor, that was maintained for the three hours we were there. My memory of times past was somewhat hazy but it became evident there had been lots of changes, trying to improve and add to what was on offer. I was impressed with the love and care maintaining the facility and the lack of litter and the vision of what a facility such as this could be and the educational benefits.

I soon began to eye up resting places, benches and huts, for future visits. I imagined this could be a great place to exercise amidst gently sloping hills and an enormous array of plants and to read and meditate. We didn’t get to sample the restaurant and other facilities – for another time, maybe when it becomes Covid free. There were lots of visitors (btw one needs to book in advance due to Covid) and, while I can imagine there will be a lot less in a normal weekday, if didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the visit. Hyde Hall is definitely a place to re-visit and one I can recommend to others.

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