10 stunning winter gardens to visit for a healthy walk and gardening inspiration
Gardeners keen to walk off some of the excesses of the festive season or keep fit in 2022 can also gain inspiration for planting in the year ahead by visiting some of the UK’s most beautiful gardens and parklands.
Whether you’re interested in shrubs, trees or winter bulbs, a visit to one of these gorgeous spots in winter should provide you with plenty of food for thought.
1. Audley End House and Gardens, Essex (english-heritage.org.uk)
Winter highlights to enjoy over the coming months in the glorious gardens of Audley End, which were among the largest and most opulent in Jacobean England, include a stunning show of snowdrops and aconites through the lime tree walk, and a cheerful display of daffodils around the parkland.
Set in a landscape designed by Capability Brown – who swept away the remnants of a declining formal garden to create extensive views, a serpentine lake and more natural planting – other highlights include the fruit trees in the walled kitchen garden, the elegant garden buildings such as Robert Adam’s bridge over the River Cam, and the restored parterre.
2. Mottisfont, Hampshire (nationaltrust.org.uk)
This house and gallery, set among riverside gardens, is at its most beautiful with a sprinkling of frost. The winter gardens are filled with richly coloured dogwood, silvery ornamental bramble and flowering shrubs. Look out for hellebores and mahonia, sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle, witch hazel, viburnum and daphne. Then follow the river walk along the crystal-clear waters of the River Test and out to meadows beyond the gardens, from where you can take in beautiful views of the house.
3. Timber Hill Gardens, Chobham, Surrey (ngs.org.uk)
Take the Witch Hazel walk in the woods and sniff out the winter honeysuckle amid the 16 acres of garden, park and woodland overlooking the North Downs, where you can also admire aconites, snowdrops and swathes of crocuses. Cyclamen are beginning to show in January, while in early February Camellia japonicas should be in bloom followed by magnolias and wild cherries. Pre-book for selected National Garden Scheme (NGS) open days in January and February. For further viewings go to timberhillgarden.com.
4. Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire (nationaltrust.org.uk)
Anyone wanting to relive Robin Hood should visit this fantastic parkland, heath and woods carved out of the ancient forests of Sherwood and covering more than 3,800 acres. Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, there are many glimpses of its grand past to explore. Walking routes around the magnificent lake are special in winter, especially on misty mornings when fog surrounds the Gothic chapel.
5. Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Moray (gordoncastle.co.uk)
This impressive walled garden won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award in 2021 and is worth a visit in winter to be able to see the bare bones and structure of the garden before it bursts into life in spring. Everything grown within the walls has a use, whether it be lavender for essential oils, fresh vegetables for the café kitchen or apples for cider.
6. St Timothee, Maidenhead, Berkshire (ngs.org.uk)
This relatively newly created two-acre country garden, voted overall winner in the National Garden Scheme competition to find the nation’s favourite garden, has been planted and maintained by Sarah Pajwani, owner and gardener. Her aim is to keep the garden looking good in every season, using tough, resilient plants that are relatively easy to source and manage. On January 13, visitors can join a talk and walk event with Pajwani, who will share ideas and information on the key plants that keep her garden looking good throughout winter. Pre-booking essential.
7. Westcroft, nr Salisbury, Wiltshire (ngs.org.uk)
There’s plenty of winter flowering inspiration to be found in this two-thirds of an acre plot, in a characterful setting of brick and flint walls, rustic arches and terraces. Highlights include drifts of snowdrops, along with hellebores, pulmonarias, grasses and seed heads. Open to the public on selected dates in January, February and March. Pre-booking available.
8. Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire (nationaltrust.org.uk)
Wildlife enthusiasts may spot fallow deer and badgers during a walk through this iconic estate, home to Wales’ only parkland National Nature Reserve. There’s a three-mile wildlife walk to explore, as well as a medieval castle and 17th century mansion. While taking in the Capability Brown landscape, you’ll see ancient trees, some of which are thought to be more than 700 years old.
9. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire (english-heritage.org.uk)
Winter is the ideal time to take a stroll around the formal garden of this county house, built in the 1860s for the Thellusson family. The garden has sharp lines and sweeping curves, while holly berries add shades of red, yellow and orange to the surrounding greenery.
In the flower garden, the emergence of the spring bedding will add a splash of colour to your walk, while the evergreen ferns in the dell will also impress, as will the site’s half a million snowdrops and 200,000 aconites, which cast a haze of white and yellow across the lawns and throughout the woodland floors.
10. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland (english-heritage.org.uk)
A towering fir tree planted in the 1830s is just one of the surprises of the gardens at Belsay Hall, along with a Chusan palm, both of which can be found in the dramatic Quarry Garden. Snowdrops are another highlight as, in the early 18th century, Lady Anne Middleton began a tradition of the women of the house planting snowdrops in the grounds together. Now, each February, vast white carpets of the plants can be admired in the garden, fields and woodland surrounding the hall.
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