Review: Visiting Capel Manor Gardens With Children

Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield, North London is a curious place which is worth a visit. I visited with my children over Easter and we enjoyed exploring, doing the Easter egg hunt and seeing the animals. The reason it is a bit strange is because it is the grounds of Capel Manor College, an “environmental college” and much of what is there now exists for educational purposes.

View from one end of the folly structures at Capel Manor Gardens which are fun for children to explore on a visit

The site has a long and varied history and the current manor house is a lovely looking Georgian house surrounded by 30 acres divided into 60 garden areas. The manor house was taken over by the College of Further Education in 1981 as office and teaching space. 

In 1968 the neglected grounds and some outbuildings were leased to the Capel Manor Institute of Horticulture and work began to create the themed gardens and landscapes you can now visit. There are formal and informal garden areas, a maze, a mini zoo and a restaurant.  


Visiting Capel Manor Gardens with Children

On a nice day adults will enjoy a walk around Capel Manor Gardens, especially in late Spring as it becomes filled with colour, but what is there to keep children happy? 

Easter Egg Hunt and Other Trails

We visited during the Easter holidays and had the bonus of an Easter Egg Hunt which encouraged our children to walk around most of the grounds to mark off the eggs on their map. Outside of Easter they often have other trails to motivate reluctant walkers. 

Capel Manor Gardens Easter Egg Hunt
Looking for eggs at the Capel Manor Gardens Easter egg hunt

Crafts

There were some colouring sheets and pencils in the room to the right of the restaurant on our visit and they often have crafts in there at peak times (weekends and school holidays). This is a particular bonus if it is cold or wet.

Event Days

Over Easter weekend itself there are additional activities taking place including: meeting the Easter bunny, planting a seed, story telling, bouncy castle and more. There are also other events through out the year including Halloween. See their event page for more information. 

Animals

Animals hold an obvious appeal for children. The zoo area doesn’t have many animals, but they are diverse and (mostly) cute. There are animal talks on weekends and holidays which are a good time to see some of the animals as they will come out for food. We saw the ring tailed lemurs and my children got to ask lots of questions.

Animals they have in the zoo area include (from memory, the website isn’t very useful): Scottish wildcat, wallabies, meerkats, barn owls, a colourful squirrel I can’t remember the name of, an iguana, terrapins, a tortoise, a monitor lizard and a big snake. In the area in front of the Manor house and to the left slightly there were also Alpaca, sheep, a donkey and ponies. There are also a few cats that live there and can be seen wandering around.

Terrapins next to a pond in a display at Capel Manor Gardens Zoo
Terrapins are just a few of the animals to see at Capel Manor Gardens

Maze

The maze is made from holly which you would think would discourage cheating, yet there is a child size hole into the middle at one point which cuts off a large section of the route. It’s a nice size maze and while there are dead ends it’s not so frustrating that you feel you will never get to the middle. The middle has a tower you can climb and look out over the site.

View from the tower in the middle of the Capel Manor Maze looking towards the georgian manor house outbuildings
View from the tower in the middle of the Capel Manor Gardens Holly maze

Gardens

There are lots of different gardens to explore and a huge variety of plants. Children will enjoy exploring the paths and structures, but specifically the areas that will appeal to children most are probably: 

  • The Old Manor House Garden which is basically a number of folly structures built to look like ruins. 
  • The Lake with fountain.
  • The woodland in front of the manor house, also called the fairy garden.
  • The pond next to the maze and Japanese rock garden where there are apparently Koi. We didn’t see any fish, but there was a duck.
  • There is no playground, but if children still have energy after they leave there is one on the nearby Forty Hall Estate which also has free parking.

A display building and garden at Capel Manor Gardens
One of the many themed gardens to explore at Capel Manor Gardens

Children in a small green house looking at plants at Capel Manor Gardens
Investigating plants, cactus and succulents in a small greenhouse at Capel Manor Gardens

Other things to know to know when visiting Capel Manor Gardens

Toilets
There are toilets in the entrance area, restaurant and next to the stables.

Car parking
There is a good amount of free parking. On event days they have an overflow car park too.

Shop
There is a small shop on the way out where you can buy a few plant related items as well as toys and books. There are enough things available at a low price that you can buy a small treat without breaking the bank.

Dogs
Dogs welcome on a lead.

Food
You are welcome to bring a picnic and there is also a restaurant near the entrance to the gardens.

Pushchairs (and wheelchairs)
While many of the main paths are suitable for pushchairs, the individual gardens generally aren't so easy and there are some areas you will need to go back on yourself or have a bumpy ride. We took the pushchair as backup for little legs which meant we occasionally left it at the entrances to gardens so we could quickly investigate areas. 

Getting To Capel Manor
The Gardens are a short drive from junction 25 of the M25. The nearest station (Turkey Street) is about 20 minutes walk and the 217 and 317 buses stop nearby.

Address
Capel Manor Gardens, Bullsmoor Lane, Enfield, London EN1 4RQ

Opening Hours
I’m sure it used to be only open on some days, but it is currently advertised as open every day 10am to 5.30pm (with last admission at 4pm). 

Entry Price
Normal admission is £8 adults, £5 children with a family ticket of 2 adults and up to 3 children costing £25. Concessions £7 and children 2 and under are free. Different prices apply on special event days.

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