I love an afternoon stroll. During my very limited time when I’m not working, getting out and about is important to me and as the days are getting longer (clocks change next weekend!) I aim to make the most of it. This afternoon, I along with my parents, decided to potter along to Coolings Garden Centre and while away the afternoon by looking at baby plants tucked up in their warm greenhouses, like gigantic duvets; the odd statue here and there dotted in amongst the plants, the little bits and accessories.
There is just something about garden centres that really appeal to me. They are so calm and relaxing; the colours, even at this time of year are still beautiful. Seeing so many plants in their infancy reminds you that Spring is most definitely on the way, followed by hopefully, a long hot summer.
What sets Coolings apart from many other garden centres is the fact that it has a long and interesting history. Its history began way back in 1913 when Arthur Cooling, who had started growing market garden crops as a part-time occupation, purchased just one acre of land at the end of Chislehurst High Street. It wasn’t until 1955 that Michael Cooling joined his father, thus creating the partnership and trading as Coolings Nurseries. A car park was added in 1966 and by the 1980’s the whole site needed rebuilding and plans were made for this.
In 1990, a 14 acre site was purchased from the Robinson family at Rushmore Hill and Coolings went on to purchase its second site, further along the road in 2004. Today, Coolings’ second site also boasts a 6 acre, family friendly nature trail.
Together with the nurseries, Coolings offers a wide range of services, one of which is an outreach program to schools. Children can visit the centre to learn about caring for plants and why there are so important. If schools cannot get into Coolings, they offer a service to schools in which a specialist will visit and hold workshops for children.
Another plus point for Coolings is their extreme dedication to horticulture as a whole, providing those who want it with qualifications and a superior knowledge when it comes to all things botanical. It’s another reason why talking to staff at Coolings is a pleasant and helpful experience. The staff really know their dahlias from their clematis and are always happy to help and advise.
Of course, a visit to Coolings wouldn’t be right without a stop in their warm, friendly and inviting tea shop, suitably named ‘Arthur’s’. A decent selection of hot and cold food is readily available, along with cakes, puddings and a selection of drinks. The nice thing about Arthur’s is that during the warmer months, you are not confined to the interior of the tea shop. Outside seating is available, including a lovely garden area with wooden benches.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon mooching through endless corridors of plants and being surrounded by vibrant colours. It really is a sign that better weather, longer evenings, and t-shirt wearing days are finally on the horizon.
Where do you like to stroll around at the weekends?