What?: Wisley is lovely. Lovely flowers, lovely trees, lovely playground, lovely random giant vegetable head sculptures. Unfortunately it was a not-so-lovely THIRTY-SEVEN DEGREES on the day we visited, which is literally the same temperature as a living person’s insides. Sadly, since you have to book in advance due to Covid restrictions, we had to just jump in the car or lose the £60 we’d spent on tickets, although in hindsight I think we should have just taken that financial hit.
We’d initially been sucked in by the Back to Nature Garden’s cool treehouse thing on playground designer Touchwood’s Instagram, but to be honest it was a bit of a disappointment in real life, with the sinewy bird’s nest-like curls of wood sitting on top of what was actually a fairly boring ladder-platform-walkway structure, and its slide being unusable anyway thanks to the searing heat.
In the end all we could really do was submerge our clammy bottoms in the stream that was running off the two water pumps – the sort that are too difficult for small children to work themselves so you have to make sure you sit as far away from it as possible or you’ll get roped into pumping water for everyone else’s children and never be allowed to stop.
The rest of the playground is lovely – all wooden play houses, hollowed-out logs and trampolines. It’s not Kew’s Children’s Garden by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a nice, calm, aesthetically pleasing space where everyone’s happy – that is, of course, unless it’s 37 degrees and there’s a big group of people sitting under the only shaded part of the playground and you can’t go near anyone because of the bloody virus so you just sit there cooking on the sand and praying for sweet release.
We didn’t see that much of the garden since it took us about 78 years to drive here and we only had a couple of hours before we thought we’d better turn around again, so I’m afraid this isn’t a hugely comprehensive review. But, if you like your gardens big (it’s 80% of the size of Kew), manicured (it’s RHS so you’d expect no less), and in Surrey (it’s just outside the M25) then you’ll love this place. Just avoid freak heatwaves and don’t try and drive here from Kentish Town and you’ll be fine.
Where and when?: RHS Garden Wisley is just off the A3 in Woking (postcode GU23 6QB), and took us about 90 minutes to drive to from NW5. The RA2 Railair bus from Guildford station to Heathrow also stops at Wisley. Opening hours are 9.30am-5pm daily and all time slots must currently be pre-booked.
Best Bits: Honestly, the best thing about that day was getting back in the car.
Worst Bits: Apart from feeling like we’d embarked on a day trip to actual Hell, nothing.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, copious cafes and refreshment kiosks, wheelchairs.
Cost: £14.95 per adult and £7.45 per child (without Gift Aid); free for under-5s.
Would We Come Back?: No, it’s way too far for us.
Roro avoids the absurdly hot slide in the Back to Nature Garden, RHS Wisley.