Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Wine & Seek III: The Royal Botanical Gardens

The organization of the third installment of Wine & Seek (which I chose to call Wine & Seek III: the Revengening*) fell to me, by far the eldest of those engaging in what we’re not really allowed to call grown-up or adult play but no-one can really think of a better term for than that. Nonetheless, as Ben Franklin said; we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. And if the opinion of a man who flies kites into thunderstorms and fakes other people’s deaths can’t be trusted, then whose can? So I summoned our intrepid crew to play in Edinburgh's Royal Botanical Gardens, confident of fine weather, lovely surroundings and rejuvenating fun.

The Palmhouse: not suitable for hiding in, but handy during unexpected hail.


A good attempt, but blue jeans are not a hider's friend!

The Botanic Gardens are quite possibly the ideal hide-and-seek location. Large areas of dense rhododendrons, bamboo thickets and various other forms of vegetation perfect for hiding in, under, behind or up are separated into obvious play areas by wide paths, allowing each new game to be played in a new location. Some worked better than others: the first area we tried, comprising the Demonstration Garden and Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, provided few really great hiding places (though Lilliputian managed to successfully conceal herself inside a spiky bush which kept her hidden until last), with most people simply ducking behind the first tree they found at the garden’s edge. However, later areas provided sufficient camouflage to keep the hiders concealed even when the seeker was looking directly at them, and if we’d had time to play any area more than once we’d no doubt have found even better hiding spots.

One of the greatest benefits of a park like the Botanic Gardens over others is how well maintained it is. Thanks to the groundskeepers who patrol the gardens there is practically no rubbish to be seen, there are no dodgy characters hanging around, and there are no mysterious and frankly slightly creepy tents pitched in the bushes. I was slightly concerned while setting up the event that these same groundskeepers might not take kindly to our off-path charging around, but it seems that as long as one is not actively engaged in damaging the plant-life, you’re free to do as you wish. We were even cheerfully informed that we were free to “picnic” (drink wine) wherever we pleased, so long as we tidied up after ourselves.

The only drawback to this is that the gardens close at 6pm, and the groundskeepers make a sweep 15 minutes beforehand loudly blowing whistles and directing everyone to the nearest exit, which lead to our group being divided, with half sent out through the East Gate while the others made their way to the West. There was some concern that if the more adept hiders were not discovered, they’d be locked in and forced to fend for themselves until the next morning, but happily everyone made a safe exit in the end.

Best Hiding Places

The view from Marianne's hiding spot.

The Copse provided the greatest number of good hiding spots, but with most of the gardens left unexplored on this occasion it’s impossible to say where the best ones really are (especially since Lilliputian refused to reveal those she’d used).


Easier to set boundaries to play areas than Easter Craiglockhart Hill, and more pleasant to play in (and with a greater variety of hiding places) than Calton Hill, the Botanics were probably my favourite location so far. However, Wine & Seek has only just begun, and new locations await everywhere! The best may be yet to come.

*Like “The Revenge”, but times a million.

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