It's all very well being a passionate gardener, but one of the problems of garden visiting is what to do with the kids when visiting gardens away from home! If they're anything like mine, there's no way that they will give a second glance to plants or wonderful border displays... but give them another distraction and you might just get to spend time admiring the garden yourself.
Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk offers the perfect solution because it has a spectacular collection of birds which will entertain all age groups and a magnificent Millenium Garden (above), created by my favourite garden designer, Piet Oudolf. There is also the smaller Wave Garden designed by Julie Toll. Both are very different, but quite spectacular and well worth going out of your way to visit. There is a lot of open space here, including a wildlife habitat garden and a wildflower meadow, so kids can run around while "crinklies" admire the flowers.
I have to confess that I am also a bird fanatic, so the other allure of Pensthorpe is its hugely impressive collection of cranes, storks and flamingoes, as well as many other web-footed friends that you won't see elsewhere. But it is the cranes that are really stunning and if you are lucky (or happen to be there at feeding time) you may get to see the cranes in action, like the one above, calling out. These birds are wonderful, majestic and unusual, and Pensthorpe is actively involved in re-introducing the various species to Europe.
But so too are the smaller birds and I was just fascinated by this one's feet (below). When I mentioned this to my son, he replied: "Well, of course, Mum, how else could you walk on the water lilies?" And he has a very good point there!
One of the joys of Pensthorpe is that it's open all year and there is always colour in the gardens and among the birds. Well worth a visit and going out of your way for!