|The bluebell walk at Hole Park, Kent is spectacular in April and May|
When I glimpse rivers of blue in woodland glades, I know that spring is finally here. This year promises bumper bluebell crops after all the months of rain and the dazzling blue flower is everywhere, basking in dappled sunshine - in verges at the side of the road and every available woodland space. But for a true spring spectacular with bluebells as far as the eye can see, head to one of Britain's best-kept garden secrets - Hole Park in Kent.
|Hole Park is surrounded by 15 acres of formal gardens|
This family-run estate at the heart of the Kentish Weald has fine views over the surrounding countryside and one of the finest bluebell crops in the country. The woodland walk is spectacular in springtime, even though many of the azaleas and rhododendrons are yet to flower. And the formal gardens around the house, with 15 acres of immaculately-clipped topiary and green vistas will lift your spirits on any sunny summer day.
|The season at Hole Park starts with dazzling displays of spring bulbs|
Hole Park is undoubtedly one of the best spring gardens in the country. It opens its doors at the end of March and remains open every day until early June so that visitors can enjoy the spring spectacular, which starts with drifts of daffodils, meanders into a bluebell bonanza during April and May (they are early this year) and crescendoes with azaleas and rhododendrons throughout the woodland valley adjacent to the formal gardens.
|The formal gardens around the house are Italian in style, offset by immaculately-clipped topiary|
Immaculately-trimmed yew hedges are another outstanding feature of this Italianate garden, with its fine views over the surrounding countryside. The garden has had time to mature because Hole Park has been in the same family for the last century. It was originally planted by the present owner's grandfather, Colonel Barham, between the two World Wars. Autumn brings another dazzling colour display when the leaves begin to turn.
|Acres of bluebells are followed by stunning azalea and rhododendron displays|
Walk through the woodland areas and you will be struck by the sounds of birdsong and the delicious smell of spring. And when the bluebells are over, there's still plenty to see and a striking colour palette because of the huge collection of azaleas and rhododendrons, which come into full bloom in May. This is when you will catch the magnificent wisteria in flower too, clinging to the long pergola at the heart of the formal gardens.
In high summer, it's the magnificent borders that give the garden interest, ranging from the tropical hot borders, with their fine vistas over the Kent countryside, to the semi-circular vineyard garden featuring wisteria and climbers. All set against a strong background of geometric topiary shapes, mellow brick walls, classical sculpture and stunning, champion trees, offset by acres of manicured lawns. There is also a water garden and a series of sheltered garden rooms adjacent to the house.
Hole Park is open every day from the end of March until the beginning of June, 11.00-18.00. Summer openings commence on 9 June, when the garden only opens on Wednesdays and Thursdays, through until the end of October, but with additional Sunday openings throughout October for the autumn colours. Admission is £6.00 for adults and £1 for children. Other notable gardens nearby include Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.