The date of the annual open day of Chevening House’s gardens has been announced, and it’s a chance to wander around an impressive garden normally reserved for government ministers and their staff.
The building, Chevening House was built around 400 years ago, and it would probably still be a private house, but the last Earl Stanhope, childless and with his brother killed in WW1, effectively gifted it to the nation. A trust was set up in 1959 that allows a government minister nominated by the Prime Minister to use the house as a private residence. Although any Cabinet minister can be nominated, by tradition, it’s usually been the Foreign Secretary.
The building is not open to the public, but the impressive gardens are open to the general public one day a year — and this year it’s been confirmed that will be Sunday 18th June 2023 between 2pm and 5pm.
The gardens are substantial, with a mix of woodlands and formal lawns surrounding a lake, and all face the mansion house. First laid out between 1690 and 1720 in the French formal style, in the 1770s a more informal English design was introduced. In the early C19 lawns, parterres and a maze were established, a lake was created from the ornamental canal and basin, and many specimen trees were planted to shade woodland walks.
My review from 2021 is here.
Entry is £8 for adults, £1 for children.
Although you don’t need to book in advance, it will save a lot of time when you arrive if you have booked tickets — which can be requested from here.
Take a picnic. Most people turn up with picnics and happily settle on the lawn in front of the house, or around the lakes for a pleasant lunch, and there’s a small stall selling ice cream and some gifts – cash only. A map is handed out when you arrive to help find all the best bits of the garden. The church by the main entrance will also be open to visitors.
Depending on how fit you’re feeling, if you arrive an hour or so before the doors open, take a hike up a very steep hill behind the house to the “viewing point” on the North Downs Way, for an unusual view of the House through a preserved gap in the woods.
Getting to Chevening House
If you drive, then you can park next to the gardens. Otherwise, the nearest railway station, at Sevenoaks is about an hour’s walk from Chevening House. However, there’s an hourly 401 bus from Sevenoaks to Chipstead Square, and from there it’s only a half-hour walk to Chevening House. The bus does miss out on the main part of Chipstead village, which is pretty, so personally, I’d walk the full way, at least on the way there, if not necessarily on the way back. If you miss the bus back and have to wait, then usefully, Chipstead has pubs.