Slow Cotswolds

  • Five beautiful spring gardens for Mother's Day

    Struggling for ideas on where to take Mum this weekend? Nothing planned yet for Mothering Sunday? I've put together a collection of five gardens and parks that look beautiful in spring, here in the Cotswolds. Page references refer to the new, 2nd edition of Slow Travel: The Cotswolds. And, for gardening lovers, there's the Gardens Illustrated Festival this weekend too.

    Dyrham Park, Dyrham (page 280)

    National Trust-owned, Dyrham Park's West Garden is 'behind' the vast Baroque mansion (actually the garden is officially the original entrance to the house) and catches the sun as soon as it makes an appearance. Wander the lawns, search for life in the vast pond or climb the 'Lost Terraces' for a birds-eye view of the garden layout. The orchards are perfect for a gentle stroll, filled with naturalised daffodils, tulips, cowslips and fritillaries. Indeed, tulips are a big thing at Dyrham Park, the one-time owner and 'builder' William Blathwayt obsessed with Dutch everything during the Tulipmania years.

    You can take a brisk walk through the landscaped parkland to reach the West Garden. Stopping, of course, for lunch or afternoon tea, available in the courtyard tea room.

    Corsham Park, Corsham (page 287)

    Corsham Park is not strictly a garden in the sense of finding borders filled with spring bulbs. Nonetheless, it is a picturesque place for a family walk. Adjoining the impressive and ornate Corsham Court, Corsham Park was designed and landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. There are magnificent specimen trees throughout this traditional and quintessentially English park and a 13-acre lake that's always teeming with waterfowl.

    Two public footpaths and a permissive footpath cross the park, taking in clumps of woodland in addition to the more open parkland.

    If you're looking for somewhere to eat before or after, I'd recommend The Methuen Arms, situated within two-minutes' walk of the southwestern end of the park. Alternatively, Neston Farm Shop and the Garden Restaurant at Lowden Garden Centre are notable for serving deliciously fresh, locally produced and reared food.

    Hidcote Manor Gardens, Hidcote Bartrim (page 75)

    Also a National Trust-owned property, this time in the north Cotswolds, Hidcote is regarded as a 'must see'. Designed in the Arts and Crafts style by American-born Major Lawrence Johnston at the start of the 20th Century, Hidcote has a series of garden 'rooms' focussed around the idyllic Cotswold manor house (not open to the public). Some gardens are tranquil, others raging with vibrancy such as the Red Border. Some are incredibly formal and symmetrical, others rambling with mystical paths to follow and enchant.

    There are two venues to eat, either the small, outdoor Barn Cafe for coffee and cake or the more formal Winthrop's Conservatory for lunch.

    Cerney House Gardens, North Cerney (page 193)

    Regarded as a classic Victorian plantswoman's garden, Cerney House Gardens are brimming with daffodils, snowdrops and hellebores at this time of year. Tulips and bluebells follow. The swathes of snowdrops and daffs form colourful carpets beneath the woodland canopy, creating a magnificent woodland walk, while the parterre and borders of the walled garden are crammed with early spring colour. Sited down a long drive away from the village of North Cerney, the garden is romantic and something of a 'secret' hideaway.

    If you like things simple, there's a small honesty-box kitchen with a kettle to make Mum a drink and a selection of homemade cakes. It's very endearing. For something a little more substantial, the Bathurst Arms has its own picturesque riverside garden in North Cerney and serves good food.

    Whichford Pottery, Whichford (page 120)

    This is not so much a garden as a place to pick up beautiful, handcrafterd terracotta pots for your own garden. A wander around the ornamental flowerpots of all shapes and sizes is an artistic experience in itself, though, and the Pottery has an intimate, informal garden where pots are planted up with seasonal shrubs and flowers. The whole experience is inspirational and you'll leave with lots of ideas for your own garden, be that an acre of ground or enough patio space for a couple of pots.

    There are plenty of Mother's Day gifts on sale in The Octagon and delicious coffee and cake or nutritious lunches in The Straw Kitchen, a quirky cafe on site.

    Gardens Illustrated Festival, Westonbirt School

    Last but definitely not least, you could spend Mothering Sunday (or the day before) at the Gardens Illustrated Festival, taking place at Westonbirt School near Tetbury. A strange place for a garden event you may think, but the school resides in Westonbirt House, the original home of the Holford family that created the world famous Westonbirt Arboretum opposite.

    Westonbirt House has both formal Italianate gardens and pleasure grounds of its own that open to the public in April. But for now, the Gardens Illustrated Festival has taken over the location. On 25th and 26th March you can enjoy a fascinating programme of talks from leading garden experts, self-guided garden tours, garden plant and design clinics and a shopping marquee full of beautiful garden wares. Tickets for the event are available at www.gardensfestival.com.

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