Why the small and perfectly formed Riverhill Himalayan Gardens rink is ideal for building your kids' skating confidence - and you might even get to relax in the café...
This year, for the first time ever Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is putting on a pop up skating rink as part of their Christmas-themed offering – bringing this increasingly popular festive pastime to the Sevenoaks area. Now it’s no secret I’m less Torvill and Dean – more Bambi on ice – when it comes to putting those bladed boots on my trotters. But I took a hit for the team and snuck onto the rink soon after it opened to try it out because lots of people were asking what it was like. In a nutshell? It’s a cute boutique rink, perfect for building confidence on skates – and especially if you don’t like getting cold or wet! How so? Read on…
If you don’t know Riverhill Himalayan Gardens you find it directly off the A21 just before you hit Sevenoaks. I discovered this historic house and gardens a little while ago and it’s soon become a favourite destination of mine, because they do the things they do so well. The tearoom is lovely, throughout the year there’s loads of imaginative and original activities for kids, you can even take a dog (on a lead) which is something I’m always on the look out for now that we have our pup. It’s also not too big and so totally manageable in terms of getting around with buggies and littles ones (although the car park is rather steep – worth noting!)
And this year they’ll gone all out with the Riverhill at Christmas offering – a skating rink – note no use of the word ‘ice’ because this is a synthetic ice, called glice, it’s apparently the premium artificial material and eco-friendly too because it’s zero energy (works without electricity or water). So if you fall, you don’t get wet. And the whole rink is covered in a transparent marquee – still good for seeing the view/stars and night, but keeps the drizzle off as you skate.
The rink itself is 9m by 15m so small and perfectly formed (much smaller than, say, the Tunbridge Wells/Calverley Park rink) – but time it right, like we did by pure chance, and you can enjoy a stress free skate away from the crowds. Sessions start at 10am and last 45mins. I visited on a Sunday afternoon with my friend Debbie and our daughters (aged 10) and neither of them had done much skating so this was perfect in terms of building their confidence. After a few minutes wobbling around behind the girls Debbie and I felt we’d earned a mince pie and mulled wine so we sat the rest of the session out from the Alpine Café and Bar (yes that’s right bar). Riverhill has teamed up with and old favourite of mine, the Tonbridge Old Fire Station (brilliant bar and pop up venue) who are sorting the bar bit of the festive experience. And the beauty of it all is, because the tables are immediately overlooking the rink and the place is so small you can easily watch over from the side assuming your children are confident enough (or not toddlers obvs).
Speaking of which there are daily toddler sessions (10am and 11am until, 20 Dec, and last 30mins). The different height skating aids, are free for toddler sessions but normally cost an additional £4 each. Now let’s be clear, if you’ve got teens who want a bit of space to tear up the ice, this is not going to be for them. Similarly if you’re an old school ice skating snob and this modern fandangled synthetic stuff might not cut the mustard (my friend Debbie says you move a bit slower on the glice). But if you prefer cute to crowded then you’ll like it here. And they do the little extra touches too. There’s a gorgeous line of wooden reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh as you enter, which are all hand carved in Kent (you can buy them here!), as well as a pleasant smattering of fake snow to get you feeling festive. The food is all tasty homemade with everything from cakes to paninis – and then you’ve got the bar drinkies of course.
There’s another marquee attached where you can book afternoon teas or a visit with Santa – I popped in, see below! No, I’m not offended *sniff* that he did not invite me to sit on his lap… There’s even party nights (some availability on 15/16 Dec still apparently) which you can book here. But my best tip if you’re planning on going and want to miss the crowds is head over after school as my reliable source tells me this is the quietest time. You can feed the kiddies a panini (that’s their tea sorted) while you have a small glass of something warming. Absolutely brilliant option for building up skate confidence. I’ll definitely be back with my son. Mainly for the mulled wine.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Riverhill, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0RR, Tel: 01732 459777, riverhillatchristmas.co.uk.
Open 10am – 6pm, 1 Dec 2017 – 7 Jan (Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) Price: Adult: £15, Child £10 (up to 16 yrs), Family: £45 (2 adults and 2 children), Toddler sessions: Toddler: £10 (1 adult goes free with each toddler), Additional children: £10. Skating Under the Stars (evening) sessions: 7pm and 8pm, the rink will close at 9pm, Alpine bar will remain open until 10pm