Whether you’re looking for a challenging walk to work off all that festive excess or want a cultural spot to explore during the lull between Christmas and New Year then you’ll be spoilt for choice around our local area. Here are some of our favourite places to visit this December. . .
Capturing the castles
Hever and Scotney are just two regal residences which boast some fabulous outdoor grounds to explore. And during the festive season there’s lots to see and do at both.
At Hever, the glorious gardens will be open to the public for a limited amount of time from December 27th to January 1st. So you can stroll around and see the seasonal hellebores, yew topiary and majestic redwoods in all their winter glory. While you’re there why not visit the Wishing Tree and help make someone’s special wish come true by donating to the Make a Wish Foundation charity? Visitors pay for garden-only entry and get castle entry free, making it a great value day out for all the family.
Over at Scotney Castle it’s an equally seasonal sight courtesy of the timely frost and ice which settles on the picturesque moat as well as the medieval castle’s grounds. The National Trust estate is also home to many walks through beautiful parkland and woodland so when you go, pick up an estate map from the visitors’ reception to locate the three waymarked trails.
Winter also transforms the woodland, farmland and lakes surrounding Sissinghurst Castle – and also that of Bodiam in East Sussex – into frosted landscapes. On Boxing Day the latter will host a special guided walk around its grounds and there will also be an exclusive tour of the castle. Tickets cost £15 and include breakfast but make sure you book beforehand.
Whilst Knole’s historic interior closes during the winter months, its 1,000 acre parkland is most certainly open for business. In fact this is probably the best time to catch sight of the 350-strong resident wild deer herd who call this wonderful place home. Did you know they are also descendants of those deer who were hunted by Henry VIII? There are plenty of guided walks around this ancient parkland to enjoy including special ones on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, from 2-3pm. And if we have a white Christmas why not take along your sledge as the hillier parts of Knole are brilliant for tobogganing down!
The country park at Bewl Water, located just off the A21, is the South East’s biggest reservoir and as well as all the recreational activities on offer there, it’s fair to say that it’s just a perfect place to go for a relaxing stroll. During December there’s the chance to participate in its new Christmas experience where children can meet Santa and enjoy the venue’s ice rink until December 24th. The 800 acre site is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, right in the heart of the High Weald and if you choose to do a circuit of the reservoir why not treat yourself to a hot chocolate and mince pie in one of the park’s two smart eateries afterwards? Entrance costs £3 per vehicle.
Then there’s the stunning Ashdown Forest to roam around during those quiet days over the Christmas period. This is also located at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it has national and international protection because of its wildlife. Nearly two thirds of its 6,500 acres are heathland, amounting to 2.5% of the UK’s extent of this rare habitat. Originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now one of the largest free public access spaces in the South East – and of course it is the mythical ‘home’ of Winnie-the-Pooh.
And don’t forget that the glorious Penshurst Place is just perfect for a seasonal stroll too. Its parkland and riverside walks are popular with walkers of all ages and the views across the Wealden countryside are nothing short of spectacular. Both walks can be completed within a day, creating a figure-of-eight loop route starting and finishing at the Penshurst Place visitors’ car park.