Established in 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden is the second oldest botanical garden in England (after Oxford) and a beautiful hidden gem tucked away between Royal Hospital Road and the Thames Embankment. The garden is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants, housing a unique living collection of around 5,000 types, with a focus on edible, medicinal and useful plants, as well as rare and endangered species.
We explored Chelsea Physic Garden the other day while in the Chelsea area and enjoyed wandering around this tranquil place that feels like a secret garden and oasis in the city.
Family Activity Days
Chelsea Physic Garden runs several Family Activity Days during half-term and summer holidays, which are a great way for families to make the most of visiting the garden and discovering more about the plants. I’d recommend checking online for special tours and activities.
This summer, the Family Activity Days include workshops such as Gardening for Beginners (4+), Chocolate Tuesday (for ages 6+), Lotions and Potions (7+) and CSI: Chelsea – a Forensic Biology Mystery (9+). There is also a workshop called Silk // Unwoven Histories, for ages 7 to 16, that sounds fascinating and explores the history of silk through story-telling and garden exploration.
Pre-booking is required for all workshops and ticket prices (£10 for half day activities; £13 for full day) includes garden entry.
Garden of Medicinal Plants
On our visit, we started our walk through the Garden of Medicinal Plants, which consists of plant displays from every region of the world and their key medicinal uses.
It is important to note, especially when visiting with young children, that there are some poisonous plants around the garden, so you should not eat, touch or remove any living or dead plants, flowers, berries, leaves.
Tropical Corridor & Glasshouses
Our next stop was at the glasshouses, where you’ll find the Tropical Corridor along the back, along with collections of sub-tropical, Mediterranean species and back-up plants of those grown outdoors that may not survive a cold or wet winter.
Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
After meeting one of the staff members holding a hawk that has been trained to chase pigeons away, we had a look at the Garden of Edible and Useful Plants. This garden showcases the diverse range of plant species on which people depend in our everyday lives.
There are examples of productive and functional plants, such as the gourd below for making music or ropes made from hemp.
Tip: The Tangerine Dream Café is the garden’s award-winning café serving fresh homemade food including light lunches and an afternoon tea with handmade cakes and lavender scones.
Chelsea Physic Garden is a fascinating place to visit and we enjoyed exploring the beautiful, tranquil garden. I’d love to come back and try the afternoon tea at the Tangerine Dream Café! I was very interested to learn about the various activities they run during half-term and summer holidays to help children understand more about the importance of plants. Little T is still a bit young for most of the activities, but if you have older children, the Chocolate Tuesday and Lotions and Potions workshops sound particularly interesting and fun!
Chelsea Physic Garden
Address: 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, SW3 4HS. Entrance is on Swan Walk, SW3.
Opening Hours: Mondays: Garden only 11am to 5pm; café and shop closed; Tuesday – Friday: Garden and shop 11am to 6pm (or dusk if earlier); café 11am to 5pm; Sundays and Bank Holidays: Garden, café and shop 11am to 6pm. There are late summer openings on Tuesdays and Wednesday in July and August until 10pm (last entry 8.30pm) .
Tickets: Ticket prices for the main season 2017 (April to October): £10.50 for adults; £6.95 children 5 to 15 years old; children under 5 years old enter free. Note that tickets for Family Activity Days are purchased by selecting “Family Activity Days”, the activity, then the date.
Closest Tube Stations: Sloane Square [Circle & District lines]; which is about a 15 minute walk away
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