May Day marks the start of warmer weather, pink and white clouds of blossom fill the trees and spring flowers are in abundance. It also brings promise of summer days ahead, meeting up with friends and family for days out and plenty of weekends of adventure. The National Trust are custodians to some of the most remarkable places in the UK including 500 historic houses, castles, ancient monuments and gardens, many of which we are fortunate to have here within the South East. These are just two of the fine examples of beautiful attractions to visit in Kent, if you’re in the vicinity of Hawkhurst.
New for this year at the home of author Rudyard Kipling is a spring display around three sides of the walled Mulberry Garden. 4,000 wallflowers in shades of red, bronze and cream have been interplanted with 2,800 tulips in complimentary colours. Elsewhere the borders are a riot of colour, with tulips vying for space with early flowering summer perennials and flowering shrubs. In the Wild Garden, the early spring bulbs have made way for the tall flower spikes of Camassia leichtlinii, Rhododendrons, the dense blossom of Malus floribunda and sweet-smelling Azaleas amongst early wildflowers in the meadow grass below.
Blossom can also be found on the native varieties of pear, apple and crab apple trees in Kipling’s orchard and the traditional mill orchard until mid-May. You should also be able to see bluebells in the woodland alongside the early purple orchids in May.
Meanwhile Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden, which celebrates gardeners and gardening, inspires a new poetry trail, gardening talks, special collections display and events and activities. Discover lines from the poem highlighted in specially designed metalwork lettering, along a new poetry trail for adults around the garden. Find out more about the garden with a new map, and on selected dates, join pop-up talks with the Bateman’s garden team as they share tips on topics such as how to prepare a no dig vegetable plot, composting and gardening for pollinators.
The poem inspires a special display of lesser seen garden-themed items from the Bateman’s collection in the Jacobean house too. These include Kipling’s copy of the book A history of England, where the poem The Glory of the Garden first appeared and Kipling’s own design for the Rose Garden. Picture Kipling the writer and his process at Bateman’s with films in the kitchen that bring the poem to life.
Choose from three great woodland estate walks to take in the sights of spring. Leave time for tea and cake in the Mulberry tearoom and pick up a memento from the shop.
Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge
14th century Bodiam Castle is one of Britain’s most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments. The ruin is particularly atmospheric in springtime, with spring flowers adding colour to the rippled reflections in the moat.
Highlights to see include the original wooden portcullis, an extremely rare example of its kind, and enough of the interior ruins survive to give an impression of castle life. Climb the spiral staircases to see inside the castle rooms, and finish with panoramic views over the East Sussex countryside. The Wharf tearoom is the perfect pitstop by the River Rother, and there are gifts to browse in the shop.
In May, look out for special events and activities for all the family including:
Medieval armour display
Can you tell a buckler from a basinet? Visit the medieval armour display in the Castle Courtyard to see a selection of replica armour up close.
* Selected weekend dates, free with admission
Be enchanted by tales of dragons, knights, and castles. Running throughout the day and 15 – 20 minutes in length, these tales are suitable for young children and perfect short drop-in sessions for families. Held in the castle first-floor tower room or outdoors in the grounds when the weather is fine.
* Selected weekend dates, free with admission
Bodiam Castle tour
Discover the story of Bodiam Castle and the people who built, lived and worked in it through the ages. Hear an introduction to the history of the castle and the knight who built it on a volunteer-led tour.
* Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, free with admission
The Bodiam unicorn trail
Follow the hoofprints around the castle grounds to
discover the medieval myths and mysteries surrounding unicorns on this family-friendly trail. Spot Bodiam Castle’s very own 600-year-old stone unicorn and find out what it meant to the knight who put it there.
* 28 May – 5 June 10am – 4pm. £2, includes a small prize.