Let’s all get ready for the first of many outings in 2018 for Eltham Lunch Club members. Off to Tonbridge Wells to visit Groombridge Gardens and Enchanted Forest. Groombridge Place is a beautiful country estate resting on the border between East Sussex and Kent and has a 17th century moated manor house, sculpted formal gardens that are best seen in the summer, and 200 acres of parkland.
Off we set. We had our trusted paladin, David Nelson, who drove us all at a calm and leisurely pace. The rain that had persisted for a few days had now stopped as soon as we boarded the minibus and we were left with a warm, spring climate, at last. We were driven around the scenic roads and passed houses that we imagined were ours in another lifetime.
On arrival, we met up with others who’d made their own way there, had the obligatory cuppa before arming ourselves with maps of the grounds and heading off in small groups to explore the grounds. Gabbi, one of our volunteers, didn’t even let stepping onto a 6 inch nail dampen her always happy spirits or spoil her fun.
David and Leslie were at hand to guide Brenda, Peter Smith and Peter Stovold down slippery walkways in the gardens and then we trudged off to find Alice in Wonderland and her troops at the far end of the grounds.
The paths started to get more and more muddy with each passing yard but did that deter Stovold The Great? Indeed, it did not. At the age of 88, he wasn’t going to retreat because of a little earth and rainwater mixture under foot. Even when presented with a steep and slippery hill and the ground becoming a quagmire, he persisted. Even when falling into the swamp in slow motion twice, he dusted himself off, shrugged his shoulders and wasn’t going to stop.
We passed a pirate adventure playground, a hilltop walkway and a giant swing that Leslie persuaded me to try with him but, sadly, Alice must have disappeared down the rabbit hole before we got to her. This didn’t diminish our fun though and, eventually, we arrived back at the restaurant to swap stories of the day with everyone and to see who had accumulated the most mud on their shoes and person. Guess what? Stovold The Great triumphed again!
All agreed that the fresh air and walk was welcomed, and when I looked around and saw everyone signing and laughing together, it made me realise just why the lunch club is important.