It’s English Tourism Week here in the UK so I thought it would be a nice idea to have a go at being a tourist in my own neck of the woods. I have two ‘homes’, one in the fabulous market town of Frome in Somerset and the other floating in Poole Harbour. Our love of sailing means that we almost always whizz down to Poole, jump on board and sail away. Last week I decided that a little explore of the delights Poole has to offer was in order, luckily an invitation to visit 10 acres of gardens landed in my inbox! Mr TS and I bunked off work for a couple of family free days and, on a fresh Spring morning we headed up to have a look at Compton Acres gardens overlooking Poole Harbour and only 5 minutes drive from our winter berth!
Five main gardens, each with their own unique style, are joined by a circular path and they were all bursting with spring growth. We began in the Japanese Garden with its beautiful Japanese Tea House, statues and tumbling waterfalls.
Stepping stones across the pond gave us a terrific view of the gigantic Koi and the azaleas were already in bloom. I’d like to return to see the wisteria in flower across the tea house and the cherries laden with full blossom!
The path meandered on and we found ourselves in the Heather Garden, planted to replace the cactus and succulents collection lost during the war years. Over 100 different forms of heathers are watched over by this handsome pair.
Next the path guided us on into the Rock and Water Gardens, here we strolled among spring flowers in the warm sunshine and admired this elegant beauty on her stunning stage.
The rock and water gardens lead seamlessly to the Wooded Valley which was my favourite garden. Meandering paths took us through sunlit glades where narcissus and fritillary nodded cheerfully and I could almost hear the fairies whispering.
Over head a canopy of huge Scot’s pine trees provide shelter and shade for magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons. I think this must look stunning in late spring when the bluebells are in flower.
Walking along the winding footpaths and climbing gently upwards we paused by tumbling waterfalls and allowed our daily cares to drift away.
Finally the path led us to the formality and grandeur of the Italian Garden. The Italian Villa overlooks this beautiful formal pond which was surrounded by daffodils when we visited in Spring with tulips waiting in the wings to take their place! If you want a beautiful setting for your wedding this would be well worth considering.
Beautiful Venetian Lanterns, statues of the Wrestlers of Herculaneum and Bacchus in his temple are all carefully placed around the garden but it was this little piece in the Palm Court which made me giggle – poor lion looks so disappointed with his salad bowl!
Visiting Compton Acres with Children
Things to do and see
The sculpture garden located between the heather garden and the rock and water garden, as well as the statuary located throughout Compton Acres Gardens, means there are things of interest for little people all the way around.
I know my lot would have loved this little chap with his water spitting turtle backpack!
Hopping over the stepping stones and admiring the koi carp in the Japanese Garden would have kept my Bonus Boy amused for ages (I’m hoping to visit again soon with him). There is also a children’s activity area at the top of the wooded valley as well as events throughout the year.
Facilities for Families
The café and tea rooms have a children’s menu or you can picnic in the gardens and there are baby changing facilities and toilets situated in the café. The main pathway around the gardens is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs and dogs are welcome (note, retractable leads are not allowed).
Vegan Afternoon Tea
We were delighted to discover that Compton Acres Gardens are vegan friendly! If you are looking for a vegan afternoon tea in Poole this is the place for you. You will need to give the kitchens 24 hours notice of your visit if you want the full vegan afternoon tea but, if like me, you are not that organised there are vegan sandwiches and cakes available without prebooking. Mr TS and I enjoyed a pot of tea for two and shared a slice of delicious polenta shortbread with rosemary and orange as well as this moist and fluffy carrot and orange cake.
The Gardens are open all year round except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. There is free car parking and you can visit the tea rooms, delightful little garden centre and shop without paying to visit the gardens but you’ll be missing out if you do!
If you’re looking for more things to do in Poole you should definitely take a boat trip and visit Brownsea Island, if you are a foodie, check out this post about some of the local Dorset foods you can enjoy and, if you’re a walker, Golden Cap is a good one with fabulous coastal views!
Disclosure: We were invited to visit Compton Acres Gardens for the day, our tickets and refreshments were paid for. I was not required to write a post or to promote the gardens in any way, I have written about them because we had a genuinely lovely day and I think you would like to visit too!