I’ve lived in El Cerrito on and off for the last twelve years and despite it being a six minute drive from my house, I only heard about Blake Garden a few weeks ago.
The garden is a teaching and research lab for the UC Berkeley School of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design but it is open to the public on weekdays. My boys and I recently spent a few hours there on a lovely summer afternoon, and we all had so much fun that we will surely be back very soon.
The gardens are extremely diverse and a one- or two-minute walk along a path can lead you from a redwood-shaded area along a creek to a formal garden with a reflecting pool and a grotto. Other areas we explored included wetlands, a rocky area, a space filled with succulents, vegetable gardens, flower gardens and wide lawns with spectacular views of the Bay.
The garden is located on a hill and some paths and stairways are quite steep or narrow. You can see a great deal of the park pushing a stroller but some areas will be difficult to access.
Kids are welcome at the garden, but they are asked to stay on paths and to stay off trees and rocks. This was a little hard for my boys because we walked past so many awesome climbing trees, but there were still plenty of interesting things for them to see and cool places to explore. Toward the end of our walk we happened upon the Create-with-Nature-Zone. This area is stocked with items from around the park — stumps, logs, sticks, pine cones, leaves, flowers, and rocks — and kids are encouraged to use them to build structures. My kids joined forces with a few other children to create a tower from logs and they would have happily played in this area and built for quite a while but we had to leave because the park was closing. Next time!
Blake Garden Logistics:
Blake Garden is located at: 70 Rincon Road, Kensington, CA 94707
Parking is easy in the free lot.
Website with downloadable map >
The garden is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Closed on weekends and University holidays. (Sorry 9-to-fivers — I know this is a bummer.)
[All photos by Wendy Copley]