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Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway by Girl About Hampshire

By Sarah Frost – 22nd June 2020

What I loved about Exbury:  It changes with the seasons so you can always discover something new. It was well set up for social distancing and it felt like we were the only ones there at times

Worth paying a babysitter? You’ll be wanting to take the family with you!

Expect: to walk a lot as you explore all the different garden types

Value for money:9/10

Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway is just south of the New Forest and covers over 200 acres. It reopened its doors mid-June after a few months closure during lockdown, and I chose to visit for Father’s Day. We had been due to visit for Mother’s Day but it closed that morning and so we’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to go.


You do need to pre-book, but it was really easy to do so on their website. At the time of writing, they were limited to 500 visitors a day (in hourly slots of 50). I booked the first slot of the day and so the large car park was empty on arrival. There is only one entrance now, but it was clearly marked up and there was hand sanitiser available. There is a toilet block near the entrance, and another inside the gardens. There was no queue to get in and it was all contactless as I read out the booking number on our tickets. You can collect a free map too which is really helpful for planning your route, so you see all the areas you’d like to. There’s a noticeboard near the entrance where the Head Gardener writes his tips for the best sights depending on the time of year. Going in June, it was recommended to visit the Herbaceous garden, Sundial garden, Irises, and Centenary garden.


There are plenty of maps and signs about, directing you to the main areas so it’s hard to get lost, although that can be fun too. The Herbaceous garden was a highlight of the visit; at the moment it’s a beautiful array of yellows and oranges and it smells delightful. We were fortunate enough to catch the last of the peonies too. From there we headed around the side of Exbury House to see the Burmese Bell and the Wiggly tree which are great photo opportunities.


If you like a longer walk, then you can continue all the way to the View Point where you can rest on the benches and take in views of Beaulieu River and the boats. The River Walk is lovely too, although not wheelchair accessible and it can get muddy.


When it was time for lunch, we enjoyed a picnic on one of the large picnic tables near the entrance. There were quite a few picnic tables around the gardens, but you could also take a blanket or chairs and choose a more secluded spot. Mr Eddy’s restaurant was open for sandwiches, drinks, and ice creams however they had sold out of sandwiches by early afternoon so it could be better to take your own.

After lunch, we headed to the Sundial Garden which was filled with dahlias, salvias, and ornamental gingers. It joins onto the Centenary Garden which opened last year, which was home to the most beautiful blue thistles. They were possibly my favourite plant, and the bees loved them too.


The Steam Railway wasn’t open at the time of visiting, but normally you can buy tickets for this at the Visitor Entrance. A trip lasts about 20 minutes and you can look out for the sculpted woodland creatures on the way round. The adventure play area is also currently closed so I would suggest that it is more of an adult attraction at the moment, although we did see families playing with kites and games in the larger grassy areas.


Exbury Gardens is a dog-friendly location too, provided they are kept on a short lead. We spotted water bowls, dog bins and Mr Eddy’s were selling special doggy ice creams too!


For accessibility, you can hire wheelchairs free of charge at the Visitor Entrance and wheelchair users can also ride the Steam Railway. There are plenty of accessible parking spaces and toilets too. The paths which aren’t wheelchair accessible are clearly marked.


Overall, we spent about 4 and a half hours there, including our picnic time. It was a lovely day out, especially after spending several weeks at home. At times it felt as though we were the only visitors, so if you’re feeling anxious about visiting then I assure you that it was very easy to keep to social distancing and the gardens were spotlessly clean. We will definitely return to Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway in the Autumn to see the acers and maples change colour!


Thank you for reading,

Sarah, Girl About Hampshire


To find out more visit:  https://www.exbury.co.uk/  

This is a Girl About recommendation. This means that it was not gifted in return for a review but paid in full by our writer and the venue had no idea that I was there. We only recommend places we absolutely love, and places that we know you’ll love too! 

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