The winter of 2010/2011 has been exceptionally harsh with temperatures dropping to around -15 at certain times here in Cambridgeshire - so it has been too cold to venture out sight seeing during the winter months. Spring was a couple of weeks late this year but the weather did finally turn warm towards the end of March, inspiring me to visit a couple of gardens within easy driving distance.


Chelmsford CathedralWe visited Chelmsford on the way back from Hyde Hall to look at the museum and take some photographs of the Cathedral. The museum was very interesting, located in a small park to the south of the city. It was well sign-posted and easy to find, just off the outer ring-road. The museum has free parking and free admission so it's ideal for a family visit and there are plenty of hands-on exhibits to keep children occupied. The most interesting exhibit for me was one relating to the old Marconi radio factory, as I have worked in the telecommunications industry for many years. My wife greatly enjoyed the 'Story of Chelmsford' exhibition; in particular a small round gold Saxon coin with a very intricate pattern and a red gemstone in the centre. It is difficult to believe that such a fine object could have been produced by hand, so long ago, without modern tools. For more details visit the Chelmsford Council Website.

Hyde Hall (RHS Gardens, Essex)

Hyde Hall MarchHaving brought my wife membership to the RHS as a birthday present we decided to take the opportunity to visit their closest garden at Hyde Hall in Essex. It was an easy drive down from Cambridge, with dual carriageway virtually all the way there. However, the gardens are a little off the beaten track, so can be difficult to find. It was no good relying on Google maps for this one as the site has a new entrance, which is not yet recorded on the satellite images or road maps but we found it in the end. I would recommend visiting the RHS Website for directions.

We very much enjoyed the experience and there was so much of interest to see that we stayed much longer than we anticipated. I took some great photographs of some of the more rare winter shrubs that I do not normally get chance to see in flower. The gardens around the old Farmhouse, located on the top of a small hill, are well established but the RHS has recently expanded the site so much, that much of the surrounding area is a work in progress. This should be very impressive once the new planting has matured, so we will revisit the gardens again next year to see how the gardens progress.

Address: Westerns Approach, Rettendon, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 8AT
Opening times: March to October: 10am to 6pm, November to February: 10am to 4pm

Springfields (Spalding)

Springfields Show Garden in MarchWell who can resist visiting a garden called Springfields in the spring? The gardens are laid out at the back of a small out-of-town shopping centre (the Americans would call this a mall) just to the north of Spalding. Admission to the 25 acre gardens are free, which specialises in plants and bulbs that provide spring interest, however there are also many plants that provide summer colour. The show of flowering shrubs, primroses, hellebores, spring bulbs and daffodils was spectacular. My wife and I especially enjoyed the woodland walk, which was a riot of colour, with wide drifts of flowering bulbs and other early flowering plants.

Content by Steve Benney

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