This weekend we took a family trip to Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, and when I say family, we had the whole clan with us. Bicton Park is beautifully landscaped grade 1 listed gardens combined with modern fun family amenities. My parents took our girls there for a day out just a few weeks ago whilst I was away in London for BML16, after they had a wonderful day and whilst my Grandma was down for a visit Bicton Park sounded like the perfect place for a family day.
After entry through the gift shop we were greeted by an amazing and incredibly detailed elephant fountain and a giant deckchair (blogger mistake- totally forgot to take a photo of the deckchair!!!). One of Willow’s favourite spots, and one I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to leave was ‘The Farmyard,’ an undercover, straw covered area with a selection of cars and tractors for little ones to ride on. I think we could have easily spent a long while here, but we were all getting hungry so we decided to head on for our epic picnic (my Mum has developed a reputation for preparing the best picnics…ever!!).
The park is simply stunning to walk around, the gardens have their roots in the early 18th century and there are five gardens to explore. I think the trees stole the day for me, Bicton is famous for its magnificent trees, there are over 1000 trees in the park of over 300 different species, some of which are endangered in the wild. Bicton is home to 25 champion trees (meaning they are the tallest and/or largest of their kind in Britain), I was in completely amazed by the trees. I couldn’t get over the sheer size of some of them, it was rather magical, I could almost imagine what it would be like as a fairy in a forest surrounded by trees a hundred times the size of yourself.
The Outdoor Play area was probably Willow (and Hubby’s) top part of the day. There was so much to play on, I think the biggest hit was the giant slide and pedal roundabout. They have toilets at the park (ideal with a newly potty trained toddler) with both disabled and baby changing facilities. There is a plenty of seating around the park and a little kiosk where you can purchase the all important and essential ice cream. To the back of the park is a large ‘ship’ play area, beyond that a grassed picnic area with a smaller play park and a collection of wooden play houses for the littles to run around in. It is the type of park you could easily and very happily spend the entire day playing in, luckily we had somewhere fun to head next which made for an easy escape from the park- the train ride.
Picton Railway was added in the 1960’s as an additional attraction the gardens, and what a wonderful addition it was. The train ride is roughly 25 minutes long and takes you around the whole park, giving you the opportunity to look at all five gardens if you don’t have the time or energy to walk around the full park. Its completely accessible to all (including dogs) and in my opinion well worth the extra £1.90 for Adults, £1.70 for Concessions and £1.50 for Children (2-16 years). The train does run daily but the amount of rides they have on does vary, its worth checking the times on the train timetable on the way through to avoid missing out.
Before boarding the train you are given a numbered list of everything you will see whilst on the train, we enjoyed shouting out the numbers as we went around and matching to the list. I also loved the small touches at the train station including a vintage set of luggage scales and a pile of luggage (beautifully modelled by my Grandma- she was pretending she was off on her holibobs).
After the train ride we all enjoyed a cuppa and a cheeky cake at the Bicton Restaurant (I would say its more of a cafe) whilst enjoying the view across the stunning Italian Garden, Bicton’s world renowned centrepiece. It is almost 300 years old (and looking pretty darn good for it), its main focal point being a gorgeous tiered fountain that sits directly in line with a stone obelisk in the distance.
‘The stone obelisk, framed by a sunken avenue excavated by French prisoners of war, was built on a hill outside the park in 1743 to form a focal point for the gardens central axis. In the foreground, smaller fountains are ringed with flowerbeds. Specimen trees, planted urns and elegant statues complete a memorable panorama.’
I wish I had spent longer walking around The Italian Garden but Allana was getting a little tired so instead I sat back, had some wonderful sleepy cuddles with Tot and a lovely chat with my Grandma and Nicola whilst everyone else took a wander amongst the pretty flower beds and across the perfectly mown lawns.
Once Tot had drifted off into a land of slumber I took a walk down to one of the magnificent trees which Willow had named as ‘her’ tree. Looking at photos above you would think we were in a small woods, but no, this was all the inside of one tree!! I’m going to say this was my favourite find of the day, and if it wasn’t for the fact we had an hours drive home I would have happily stayed to climb and sit on the branches a lot longer.
Bicton Park is definitely a place we’ll be revisiting, so much so that we decided to upgrade our one day ticket to a years membership, also giving us entrance to Morwellham Quay and 5% off in both the restaurant and gift shop. We had a full fun packed day and didn’t even see everything Bicton Park had to offer, next time I hope we have the chance to explore more of the Lake, Mini Golf, Nature Trail, Museum and the Indoor Children’s Play Area. I think the admission prices are really reasonable considering how much there is to do at Bicton Park.
Daily Admission prices:
- Family (2 Adults and 2 Children) £32.95
- Adults £9.95
- Children 2-16 £7.95 Children under 2 years free
- Concessions £8.95
- Dogs £1.00 (Dogs must be kept on a short lead at all times, they are not allowed in the Restaurant area, Orangeries and Childrens Play Areas. However, there is outside undercover seating).
There are full details on their website of their membership prices and opening hours.
I can’t wait to go back again, being only a short distance from my parents and an hour from us it makes a perfect meeting place. There really is so much to explore and it is accessible for all, the paths are all pushchair and wheelchair friendly and there is plenty of seating throughout the park to rest tired feet. We were lucky that it was a pretty lovely day full of sunshine but there were plenty of sheltered areas had it decided to rain. There was also more than ample parking on site (including an overflow car park) meaning a space should always be easy to find.
What have you been doing so far this Summer? Have you found any new and exciting places to explore?