West Acre Gardens: a garden of dreams and inspirations
I’ve been visiting Norfolk for many years as both my mum and dad are now based up there as well my remaining grandparents. And for a very long time I would travel up and do the same things over and over again, visiting places I love such as walking the north Norfolk coast line to a favourite pub or eating in a much loved restaurant. But recently I have been making an effort to explore more, to step out of the routine that I fall into when I stay with my family and to take the boys to new places.
This summer whilst chatting over a cup of tea, my mum mentioned that she had visited the stand of West Acre gardens at the Sandringham Flower Show singing its praises and my interest was immediately sparked. I went online but I couldn’t find too much info, no flashy website or instagram feed and I guess party because of this, something piqued my interest. I loved the way the website was written, it felt like there was a real person behind it (i have no doubt it was written by someone who works there rather than agency) which is actually really lovely. We headed off the next day to explore the gardens and the surrounding areas.
We began our day in Castle Acre which is situated a couple of miles from the gardens. Castle Acre is a stunning old village complete with the remains of a castle that can be visited as well as a delicious coffee shop called Barnfields. We stopped for a good coffee and the boys choose to eat the lightest Victoria sponge cake I have tasted in a while. Fuelled up, we took a stroll down to the river Nar which is a short walk away and passes by the mysterious ruins of the Priory. You can pay to go into the Priory which I am told is worth it, but as we were short of time and it was super hot, we gave it a miss and admired from afar.
The river Nar is a natural wonder, one of great importance too, its a natural chalk stream of which there are very few left unscathed in the UK and across the world. Important from an ecological perspective and also magical to walk along. With water as clear as glass and dragon flies darting over head, Henry asked me quietly if I thought this is where Faeries live, I said I was pretty certain it was. We encountered so much bio diversity in the short walk we took and it’s no exaggeration when I say I was a little speechless at the surroundings, a truly magical place and I have no doubt we will be back when we next travel to Norfolk. After a quick paddle in the freezing cold water, we headed off on our way.
West Acre Gardens is situated at the end of a long, winding driveway and the actual entrance is through an other worldy looking wooden gate that forms part of the walled gardens. With foliage tumbling across the walls, the gardens behind shone in the bright sunlight, beckoning us to come in.
The gardens unfolded as we walked through the big wooden doors, rows and rows of plants for sale that really looked like they could be part of the gardens themselves. Very natural, with no big signs pointing you in the right direction of this, that and the other, I felt encouraged to stroll through the rows of plants, making mental notes of the things that might want to come home with me. These were my kind of gardens, nothing too manicured, with plants growing effortlessly together in organised chaos!
West Acre has a delicious cafe on site, which has a Nordic vibe to it, all clean lines and soft muted grey tones. We decided to stop for lunch and I noted that everything was home made and seasonal, I would assume using vegetables and fruits grown in the house gardens.
My mum and I had the garden salad and it was absolutely spot on, no frills or fuss, just a good honest ploughman’s style lunch decorated with edible flowers. And reasonable too! The boys tucked in to soup and sandwiches, happy with the mini version of the adults menu.
It was about now that I could tell the boys were done, getting grouchy and all hot and bothered so whilst my mum piled them into the car I took the opportunity to whizz round the gardens taking a few photos and picking out a few plants to bring home with me.
I choose perrenials that I know I couldn’t get in the garden centre at home and fell in love with a stunning Thunder and Lightening Knautia which is now safely in my backgarden boarders. The plants are so reasonably priced (for me coming up from the SE anyway) and I wish I could have bought more back but as we only have a fiat500 to fit two adults, two boys and two dogs in, I had to draw the line! I did ,however, notice that they have a loyalty scheme for their regular customers which I think is a brilliant idea and means I will probably be back next time I am in Norfolk. Time to buy a bigger car?!
Whether you are into gardening or enjoy good food in stunning surroundings, I would highly recommend a trip to West Acre Gardens. It almost felt like we had wandered into someones gardens where they happened to sell plants and serve food. It felt safe, comfortable and wonderfully relaxing, I can’t wait to come back!