The best National Trust gardens to visit this spring

Posted on: 30 March 2016 by Gareth Hargreaves

Enjoy the longer days and warmer weather with 50connect's guide to the best National Trust gardens to visit this spring.

Sheffield Park Garden

As the days get longer and winter starts to fade, spring arrives in fresh bursts of colour and new life. It’s a great time to experience nature waking up from its winter slumber. Don’t miss the laburnum arch, a shimmering tunnel of golden blooms in late spring at Bodnant in Wales, or the aroma of azaleas and rhododendrons at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

From the carpets of delicate bluebells at Blickling Estate in Norfolk to the breathtaking displays of magnolias at Trengwainton in Cornwall, a stroll in a National Trust garden is sure to dazzle and amaze. What’s more, every single visit to a glorious spring garden will help conserve National Trust gardens for years to come.

Here are some of the top spring gardens and seasonal events to enjoy:

Bickling Hall - NTPL Matthew Antrobus

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Four centuries of good husbandry have made Blickling’s 55 acre garden one of the greatest in England. It changes through the seasons and has evolved over the centuries to reflect different fashions. Visit in May and follow the winding paths through the great wood, and pass through the carpet of dainty English bluebells in spring; it’s one of the best places to see them in the country. At the heart of the garden, discover one of England’s great Jacobean houses. Don't miss the fragrant beds of the parterre and inspiring double borders. You'll find hellebores, daffodils and bluebells, azaleas and rhododendron, wisteria and peonies as well as quiet places to sit and enjoy the view. If you want to get away from it all try and find the secret garden - a great place for quiet contemplation and to listen to the spring bird chorus.

More information about visiting Bickling Estate

Make a weekend of it: From a Georgian Manor House, former estate workers’ cottages to a magnificent tower you’ll find lots of beautiful places to stay near Blickling, perfect for abandoning the car and exploring the estate on foot or bike.

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire

Visit a carefully designed garden full of captivating views, vibrant colour and delicious scents in every season. In spring, drifts of daffodils spread cheerful colour throughout the garden and over 4000 hyacinths emerge in the meticulously maintained flower beds of the Formal Garden. Under the grove of Himalayan silver birch trees a sea of delicate crimson tulips fill the air with their sweet scent. The picturesque working watermill and wildlife discovery area offer great opportunities for families to explore.

More information about visiting Anglesey Abbey

Snuff Mill in Mordern Hall - National Trust Images Andrew Butler

Morden Hall Park, London

With diverse landscapes and hidden histories, Morden Hall Park is a green oasis in South London’s suburbia. The river meanders through the former deer-park, creating a haven for wildlife. The 2.5 acre garden is the perfect place to relax with friends and family. Surrounded by meadows, trees and the gentle sounds of birdsong and running water, the park offers a rare sense of discovery and a chance to get away from it all. From late May take a wander around the 38 flowerbeds on both sides of the stream and take in the wonderful scent of roses and dahlias.

More information about visiting Mordern Hall Park

Bateman's, East Sussex

Nestled in the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald, Bateman’s is the perfect sanctuary from the modern world. With a rose garden and manicured lawns, as well as a vegetable garden and kitchen garden, there’s plenty to spot in springtime. As the frost thaws and the ground wakes up, take in the sights of spring from blossom on the fruit trees to the first crops emerging. Take a stroll over to the wild garden, full of native wild flower species, where the first flowers will be blooming.

Spring flower walk, 29 April, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Explore the beauty of the Bateman's estate with a Ranger and learn about the wild flowers that adorn the fields, woods and hedgerows as the countryside bursts into life again.

Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)

For more information, please call 01435 882302

More information about visiting Batemans

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Soak up the sights and aromas of spring with a wander through Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Enjoy the rich, warm colours of the cottage garden and on the Moat Walk discover a bank of bright yellow azaleas. Also known as the spring garden, the lime walk is one area where former owner Harold Nicolson controlled the design and planting. Long beds of tulips, fritillaries and hyacinths are marked out by an avenue of pleached limes, scattered by generous terracotta pots, every inch bursting with colour for about four weeks. Early spring sees this garden become a carpet of colour: pink chinodoxias, scillas and white anemones, looked over proudly by a Magnolia salicifolia and a big, bold mauve rhododendron.

More information about visiting Sissinghurst Castle

Make a weekend of it: Sleeping six Priest’s House is a beautiful detached brick building on the edge of the White Garden. It retains many original features including mullion and leaded windows, an inglenook fireplace, wooden beams and brick flooring.

Nymans, West Sussex

This twentieth-century garden has an amazing collection of rare and important plants, bursting with colour in spring. Spot displays of camellias and magnolias and drifts of daffodils. Walk around the garden at your own pace or join a daily introductory talk or guided tour. One of the best spring highlights is the perfumed, flower-filled walled garden. Full of daffodils, wild flowers and blossoms, a walk through the walled garden is a treat for all the senses. Watch out for camellias, magnolias, bluebells and rhododendrons throughout the estate and take a walk in the woodland and wild garden to see all that Nymans has to offer particularly at this time of year. Inspired by the garden lovers' home there is a large shop and plant centre with a special collection of plants grown on site.

More information about visiting Nymans

Make a weekend of it: Set within a working woodland, Woodlands Cottage was built in 1863 and was once home to the estate’s gamekeeper. It’s a short stroll from a tranquil lake and is the perfect spot for bird watching and walking along many woodland paths.

Stourhead Apollo Statue - National Trust Images - Clive Nichols

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This world-famous landscape garden has at its centrepiece a wonderful lake reflecting classical temples, mystical grottoes, rare and exotic trees and offers a day of fresh air and discovery. Stourhead house is set amongst ‘picnic perfect’ lawns and parklands, which are filled with beautiful blooms and colour throughout the spring months. The succession of azaleas, magnolias and rhododendrons bursting into flower brings the garden to life with subtle fragrances.

Spring Blooms garden tours, 1 – 31 May, 11.30am – 12.30pm, 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Experience Stourhead at its blooming best on a free guided tour with volunteers. Take in the sights and aromas of this ‘living work of art’ and keep an eye out for spring wildlife. Why not make a day of it and bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawns afterwards, with magnificent views across the Wiltshire countryside.

Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)

More information about visiting Stourhead

Make a weekend of it: 89 Church Lawn is a charming stone cottage right by the entrance to the garden at Stourhead, overlooking its own lawn to the village church across the country lane. Step through the gate anytime, including after the visitors have gone.

Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall

Lose yourself in the three valleys of Glendurgan Garden - full of fun, natural beauty and amazing plants. Described as a little bit of heaven on earth this sub-tropical garden blooms with magnolias, wild flowers and woodland flora, including drifts of bluebells during the spring months. There are exotic trees and shrubs dotted around the valley garden. In the spaces between, wildflower areas have been developed over the last twenty years. Enjoy them at their best in spring and early summer. The magnolias are stealing the show at the moment; enjoy their magnificence and spot many other spring favourites on a walk through the valley garden. Glendurgan was created with family entertainment in mind. The maze, giant's stride swing and beach are all waiting to be explored.

Spring flowers and birdsong

30 March – 15 May, 10.30am – 5.30pm

From solo birdsong and the first blooms in February to fresh leaves on the trees and a fully blown dawn chorus in May – it’s time to celebrate spring at Glendurgan. Identify the birds of Glendurgan by sight and by song, count the first flowers of spring and find out how the gardeners care for banks of wildflowers.
Price: Free event (Normal admission charges apply)

More information for visiting Glendurgan

Make a weekend of it:  Tucked in woodland between two secluded beaches, Wood Cottage is a tiny, timber-built, thatched cabin that used to be an apple store for Glendurgan when it contained productive orchards.

Hidcote, Gloucestershire

You'll see a richness and diversity of plants from around the world at Hidcote. Lawrence Johnston, Hidcote’s former owner and talented landscape designer was passionate about plants. He went to endless trouble and expense to find unusual varieties that would bring colour, scent, shape and texture to the garden. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ melts away as you move through the garden away from the house. Lose yourself in a network of beautiful garden rooms waking from their winter slumber. Enjoy drifts of narcissus and later aquilegias and Welsh poppies in the Pillar Garden, and the blossom filled orchard with emerging wild flowers. Magnificent magnolias are filling the skies with a warm pink glow so make sure you don’t miss them this spring.

More information about visiting Hidcote

Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall

Traditionally known as the National Trust’s earliest flowering spring garden, there are breath-taking displays of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias throughout the spring at Trengwainton, along with a beautiful walled kitchen garden full of ideas for your own growing space. Follow winding, wooded paths, find picnic spots by the stream or sit in quiet corners and breathe in the peace of this special place. The lower walled garden contains plants from around the globe and now is the perfect time to see the flowering magnolias in all their glory. The shelter of the brick walls, and west Cornwall's mild climate, provide the conditions for more tender species to survive outdoors.

More information about visiting Trengwainton Garden

Greenway, Devon

With nearly 35 acres of stunning woodland garden dropping steeply down to the River Dart, and a wealth of interesting and rare plants from around the world, Greenway garden is definitely worth a visit in springtime. Between February and May, spring flowers will be out in full bloom with the likes of Magnolias, Camellias and Rhododendrons, as well as bulbs in the grassy areas; Bluebells, Narcissus, Cyclamen, Snowdrops and Fritillaries. Wander through the blooms and marvel at the bright colours and sheer volume and range of plants. Cool off afterwards with a visit to the shady Fernery or dip your toes in the Dart when you get down to the Boathouse.

Spring flower walks, 1, 9 April, 11.30am – 1pm

Join the gardeners at Greenway for a walk through the glorious woodland gardens filled with spring flowers. Greenway's romantic woodland garden is renowned for its spring flowers - from camellias to rhododendrons, as well as swathes of spring bulbs. This walk and talk is a great way to find out all about what's in flower, and the history of the garden.

Price: £5 (normal admission charges apply)

More information about visiting Greenway

Make a weekend of it: There are three holiday cottages at Greenway, including within the house itself, ideal if you're an Agatha Christie fan, or are just looking for a great place to stay in the English Riviera. Guests at the holiday cottages enjoy access to Greenway garden after-hours.

Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Marvel at plants from all over the world grown from seed and cuttings collected over a century ago. Created by five generations of one family, this 80 acre garden is located with wonderful views of Snowdonia. Its grand terraced lawns, renowned collection of rhododendrons and a gloriously romantic waterfall make it one of the most celebrated gardens in Wales. In spring don’t miss the Dell; hidden deep within a wooded valley, with the river Hiraethlyn chattering through it’s a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife. Spring is also the perfect season to visit the laburnum arch, which will be in full bloom by late May.

More information about visiting Bodnant Garden

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Spring is truly a time of celebration at Hardwick, with colourful spring bulbs and magnolias blooming throughout the parkland and lambs leaping in the Wine Glass. Take a stroll around the Oak walk and see the colourful carpet of bluebells in Lodge Wood, or explore the vegetable plot, where preparation is well under way for some delicious crops.

Spring comes to Hardwick, 31 March, 7, 14 April, 11am – 1pm

Join our gardeners as they explore the garden as it is waking up. Discover the new stumpery and see if you can identify the trees without their leaves.

Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)

More information about visiting Hardwick Hall

Make a weekend of it: There are three cottages on the Hardwick estate, including a former gatehouse for two and a three storey former Brewhouse complete with a wood burning stove, roll top baths and luxurious living spaces for eleven guests.

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

With 3,800 acres of parkland and gardens, peaceful woodlands and a magnificent lake to enjoy there is plenty of space to explore and relax with your family and friends at Clumber, especially in spring when the woodland is alive with birdsong and a shimmering carpet of bluebells. The beautiful walled kitchen garden is famous for growing hundreds of varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and has the biggest collection of culinary rhubarbs in the country. Clumber Park also boasts the longest avenue of double lime trees in Europe. Planted around 1840 to line one of the main entrances into the Park, the majestic Limetree Avenue is over two miles long.

More information about visiting Clumber Park

Sizergh, Cumbria

Tucked away outside of Kendal, Sizergh Castle has beautiful gardens and 1600 acres of estate to explore. You'll find real variety in the garden - from the formal Dutch garden to the wilder landscape of the magnificent limestone rock garden. Sizergh has been allowed to evolve and expand gradually over 300 years and is still being developed to this day. During spring see the brightly coloured tulips on the top terrace, walk beneath cherry blossom in the Dutch garden and enjoy the spring colours in the rock garden.

More information about visiting Sizergh

Make a weekend of it: Holeslack is a lovely spacious farmhouse that was once possibly used as the dowager house for the Sizergh estate. It has views over the estates farmland and in the evening deer walk through the surrounding woods and in to the garden.

Fountains Abbey - NTPL Andrew Butler

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (Water Garden), North Yorkshire

Explore the ruins of the twelfth-century Fountains Abbey and spot dainty spring flowers breaking through this stunning landscape. The water garden is just as spectacular with its moon-shaped ponds and classical statuary. Studley Royal Water Garden was the breath-taking vision of John Aislabie and his son William. In the early eighteenth-century John Aislabie had great plans to impress visitors to his Yorkshire estate and turned the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell into one of England’s most spectacular Georgian water gardens. Amazingly the garden you see today is little changed from the one that would have impressed Aislabie’s visitors 200 years ago. Look out for primroses and wood anemones and catch the scent of wild garlic in the woods around the abbey.

More information about visiting Fountains Abbey

Make a weekend of it: There are 11 places to choose from on the Fountains’ estate including an Elizabethan manor house, Yorkshire stone cottages and stylishly-converted 17th-century barns. Cottages sleep between two and 10 people, for larger groups of friends and family there are five cottages which can be booked together at How Hill.

Wallington, Northumberland

Discover Wallington, a much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. The Trevelyans loved being outdoors and close to nature and the house is surrounded by an informal landscape of lawns, lakes, woodland, parkland and farmland just waiting to be explored. Soak up the atmosphere of the tranquil East Woods, alive with the sound of birdsong and discover the beautiful walled garden, a colourful haven of tranquillity in the springtime.

Rowallene Gardens - County Down

Rowallane Garden, County Down, Northern Ireland

Rowallane contains a treasure trove of exotic plants from around the world and spring time is one of the most exciting times to visit. This is when the enormous and much-admired collection of rhododendrons burst into colour. The magical walled garden is also a must see for the magnolias, daphnes and azaleas. The garden was created by Reverend John Moore in mid-1860s, planting woodland and using interesting stone ornamentation to sculpt the informal landscape. His nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, continued his work from 1903, mingling exotic species with native plants – giving the garden a dramatic atmosphere.

More information about visiting Rowallane Garden


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