ONE OF Hampshire's top attractions is reopening to the public tomorrow - but strict social distancing measures will be in force.

The award-winning Exbury Gardens, which still has some of its world-renowned rhododendrons in bloom, is throwing open its gates just in time for the start of summer.

The woodland gardens occupy a 200-acre site overlooking the Beaulieu River in the New Forest.

New Forest Post:

But special measures have been introduced to keep visitors safe including a daily limit of 500 and time slots for entering the gardens so that arrivals can be staggered. Tickets must be booked online.

Visitors will be able to explore Exbury's recently opened Centenary Garden, the new Birch Walk and more than 20 miles of meandering pathways.

The gardens, which have been open to the public since 1955, were created 1919 by banker and celebrated plant-hunter Lionel de Rothschild.

His grandson, also called Lionel, is chairman of the Exbury Gardens Trust. He said: “We have 200 acres of space at Exbury filled with the most beautiful plants and trees that look absolutely spectacular at the start of the summer.

"We're so looking forward to sharing it with our visitors again.

"There’s lots of room to roam and experience nature at its best, and we’re putting special protective measures in place to keep everyone safe.”

New Forest Post:

The Centenary Garden was opened last year by the Prince of Wales, who marked his visit by planting a drought-resistant ornamental beech tree.

He was following in the footsteps of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, who have also planted trees at Exbury over the years.

The Centenary Garden was designed by the award-winning Marie-Louise Agius, great grand-daughter of Exbury's founder.

She said: "Over the last couple of months we’ve had fun sharing Exbury virtually over our social media channels but we can’t wait for the public to come back through the gates so they can experience the gardens first-hand and in all their glory."

Visitors can book advance tickets online and choose their arrival time.

Toilets will be open and sanitised regularly, and refreshments will be available to buy Wednesday-Sunday. However, Exbury's steam railway and guided buggy tours will not be operating.