MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
Built in 1537, Hall Place is a very good value day out. The house is interesting, with a stunning Great Hall, but small enough to look around without getting bogged down in huge displays or lots of narrative. There is an excellent children’s room in the main house, with Tudor dress-up, musical instruments and lots of interactive displays. There are changing exhibitions in one upstairs wing – we have seen both a Quentin Blake exhibition, and one on Bexley’s wartime experience. The grounds are huge, with some excellent animal topiary to scamper in between. In addition, there is a butterfly jungle to walk through and an owl attraction. Both incur a small extra charge (approx. £4) and the owls are only there at weekends and on certain dates in the school holidays, so check the website. But it is a lovely experience for children to be able to hold them (with guidance!). Gardens are free and the house is £8 for adults, £6 for under sixteens (if you Gift Aid your ticket, it’s valid for a whole year – bargain!).
A Tudor House set in extensive gardens, sitting on the River Cray. The house hosts regular exhibitions, and there is also a butterfly jungle and owl attraction in the grounds (additional charges apply). The house and gardens play host to many events such as outdoor theatre, outdoor cinema, pony rides, a miniature steam railway and nature walks.
The gardens are divided into sections, including a ‘kitchen garden’ which produces the most spectacular array of super-sized fruit and veg. There are smaller gardens (on the left when you first come in) which each show a different style of design.
The gardens themselves have an air of peacefulness about them, despite being able to hear the roar of the busy, nearby A2. There are lots of trees for the children to explore and hide in, as well as more formal planting and open spaces for running, cartwheeling and picnicking.
Finally, there is an art gallery, topiary walkway, cut grass maze and a lovely bird hide for spotting fish and birds. The hide is well hidden(!), when you first walk into the grounds, walk straight ahead, past the butterflies and owls and keep going until you get to the water. The hide is right in front of you. The RSPB host walks and talks from the hide – see the website for more details.
Hall Place also hosts Fairy School as well as great activities throughout the year. Check out their website for more details.
Address: Bourne Road, Bexley, DA5 1PQ.
Playground: No, although many children spend hours playing amongst the trees.
Cafe: Yes, the cafe is good, with both an indoor and outdoor section, and sufficient high chairs to accommodate many families. Selling hot and cold light meals and a picnic box for children, the cafe has a great spot on the river. Positives are the location and gluten free cake. Only negative is that the picnic box is very small and comes nowhere near to filling up a child over the age of three.
Toilets: Yes, clean and accessible, with baby change.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: The grounds and cafe are pram and wheelchair friendly and there is level access to the cafe and loos. Prams are not allowed in the butterfly house (there isn’t enough room).
Parking: Yes – large, free car park.
Bus: Bus connections include 229, 492, B12 and 132 to the foot of Gravel Hill.
Phone: 01322 526574.
Email: [email protected]
House, butterflies, owls: charges apply – see website.
The butterfly house costs £4 for adults and £3 for children and provides an amazing opportunity to get up close to some beautiful butterflies. It gets very hot in there (they are tropical butterflies) so you won’t want to wear much more than a t-shirt – even in the middle of winter. The butterflies share their space with a small garden centre where you can buy plants and get great advice. Next door is an owl experience called ‘All About Owls’ which gives a chance for visitors to learn ‘all about owls’, and even hold one. It has limited opening times and days so check before you travel. Tickets are £4 and £3 respectively and they only take cash. It is not possible to buy a joint ticket for the butterflies and owls.
Review by Julia Robinson.