Forget trekking all the way to Provence to see lavender fields stretching out into the distance on a sunny hillside. There could be one right on your doorstep here at home. This weekend I took a trip down the road from us to visit Castle Farm near Shoreham, Kent. I knew the farm and farm shop were there having driven past on several occasions but I was prompted to go and visit after seeing their stand in the RHS edible garden at Hampton Court last week. Late June and July is the ideal time to go and see the lavender if you’re in the area. They grow and distil oil from the stuff, put on a Lavender Festival, do guided tours, workshops, lunch and art days and sell lots of lavender related produce. It’s all very enterprising and they pretty much have all lavender paraphernalia nailed. You can even get an aromatherapy massage in a lavender field during the festival days! I dropped by during one such weekend to see what the craic was (free entry but £2 parking fee). It was busy. Lots of people enjoying themselves buying things and eating the food on offer. The fresh lavender smelt so amazing I couldn’t resist buying a bunch myself.
I was disappointed at the lack of access to the lavender fields though. You could walk up to one of the lavender fields and take photos but there was just the teensiest corner cordoned off that you could actually walk into before purple worm-like tubing stopped you from going any further.
A couple of years ago, again at the beginning of July, we happened across Snowshill Lavender in the Cotswolds. There was a nominal fee to enter (not more than £2 from memory, although that was 2 years ago) but then we were free to wander around the fields of lavender. It was a much more rewarding and memorable experience to be right in amongst the plants and the bees. It felt more like you were visiting the lavender and less like a predominantly retail experience. You can tour the fields at Castle Farm but you have to pre-book and pay for a guided tour.
Snowshill Lavender – getting up close and personal with the fields (photos from 2009):