5 Reasons to visit Shenglu before the weather changes

Pay this secret garden a visit before frosty weather arrives

All photos: Cindy Marie Jenkins
Beijing has no shortage of beautiful parks where you can see the autumn leaves change colors. For all the great exercise parks and carnival rides, however, few places allow for a simple walk through the environment, where you can play in the grass and dirt. That was the goal when Tim Smit and The Eden Project built the Heligan Gardens, to create a retreat from the urban environment of Beijing that would attract locals and tourists alike, where a growing expat community and wedding parties could mingle among vineyards. Educational and training programs are supported by The Eden Project International, as part of their growing outdoor field trip curriculum. The grounds are tidy, but don’t feel too manicured to play, and everything about the experience allows a visitor to choose their own adventure.
Here are five reasons to rush over and visit Shenglu Vineyard’s Heligan Gardens before it gets too cold.
Space to run and stop to smell the roses.

Space to run and stop to smell the roses.

As soon as you enter, visitors cannot help but be drawn into the fun of running along a path surrounded by rose bushes, and wildflowers that lead into the more ordered lines of vineyard. Between the road and roses was a little ditch, perfect for kids to practice their jumps! It was such a pleasure to feel not only welcomed but encouraged to play among the flowers. 

The Nature Playground.

The Nature Playground.

Nowhere is the mission statement of Eden Project more prominently on display than among their Nature Playground. After walking under an arch of branches and banners, you find not only more open areas for children to explore, but dedicated learning centres organically built into their unique surroundings. I was immediately charmed by the Insect Hotels, special areas planted and built to offer sanctuary to insects who have been forced out of their homes by the quickly growing city. A large bird’s nest gives children the chance to build their own habitat, while playground favourites like a fort and seesaw are even more fun thanks to being built out of wood. As beautiful as their Nature Playground is in the daylight, smores and camping food would feel right at home in the areas that looked designed for a bonfire.

Gorgeous views and setups for family photos.

Gorgeous views and setups for family photos.

 In almost every public park, you find people taking photos. Sometimes they’re dressed up for it, sometimes it’s posed shots trying to look candid. If you want a unique backdrop for your photo shoot, it’s actually hard to take a bad photo here. You can cozy up to statues or try different backgrounds based on those vibrant autumn colors on full display right now. The path leads you to such interesting areas around the perimeter of the gardens that you won’t need any other locations!

Laidback picnic locations next to a winery.

Laidback picnic locations next to a winery.

Even with a wedding or two in progress on the property, many families and friends brought their own picnics to enjoy on Sheng lu’s spacious lawns. It’s hard not to smile while unpacking a delicious lunch from one of the nearby Shunyi eateries, and children can continue to explore nearby while you sip tea or a more adult beverage….which brings us to:

The wine itself.

The wine itself.

With two red selections from 2014 and one rose to taste, they felt like excellent accompaniments to a lunchtime or evening picnic. One of their reds tasted light and fresh and had a definitive fruit flavour. It would be interesting to taste it within the winery itself and have time to learn more about how the beautiful place we just visited relates to making the wine, but we had to walk through a wedding reception to find the store. Maybe next time!

But about that petting zoo...

But about that petting zoo...

Whatever you do, don’t play up the petting zoo that’s advertised to your kids. It is on the opposite side as the Nature Playground and on this particular Sunday afternoon, consisted of a sign that said we could feed them and shy animals. Although no one would necessarily blame the fawn and her father for not wanting to be on display, they proved less interesting than their surroundings by the time we found them. 

Still, a handful of pictures can’t capture the magic of such a landscape, nor the freedom for kids to just observe and play within nature. So for a day basking in nature and enjoying a view, head to this open secret before it gets even more chilly.

BY: Cindy Marie Jenkins

Cindy Marie Jenkins is a Writer, Work-at-Home-Parent and Communications Consultant for the Arts. Her family moved to Beijing last summer and she's thrilled to find these hidden gems! Read more of her works in her WAHP series here or visit her website here.

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