There’s something about a garden space that speaks to us. Whether our own fingers are green or we could kill off a spider plant, many of us find visiting an open garden inspiring, restful and meditative. Luckily for us, the UK is particularly rich in beautiful and unusual gardens that are open to the public. Perhaps it’s the British eccentricity or maybe it’s the tradition of large country houses, but however the gardens came about they make for many a wonderful afternoon’s exploration.
Gardens, gardens everywhere
There are so many of these wonderful treasures that lists of them appear in magazines and newspapers regularly throughout the summer. The Telegraph, for instance, has a brief summary of its top 50! The trick is knowing how to either whittle it down to a few, or find several close together to visit in a shorter period.
East Ruston Old Vicarage
Sometimes the big old manors don’t have a monopoly on large, beautiful, unusual gardens. East Ruston Old Vicarage is such a case. Set in 32 lovely acres in Norfolk, the vicarage had no gardens to speak of until its present owners, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, took over and decided this state of affairs wouldn’t do. Their hard work is a sight to behold, with rare plants among the more usual varieties nestled into the several smaller gardens. There’s an apple walk, an exotic garden and all kinds of other gems, and the nursery in which you can buy cuttings and plants is well worth a visit too.
The Eden project
Perhaps one of the most famous gardens is the Eden Project in Cornwall. It’s an extremely imaginative display of all kinds of plants, presented in domes according to their natural habitats. The centre does a great deal of educational work on biodiversity and how plants (and animals, including us) depend on one another to survive. It’s also interesting for its green credentials, reusing water, where sanitary, for instance. There are regular special events for the different seasons, so it’s worth timing your visit either to catch one that particularly interests you, or to avoid the busiest times.
It’s possible to get to many of these gardens on public transport, but it’s much easier to drive. You can get to your destination much more quickly, and so long as you have good value car insurance it usually works out much cheaper too, especially if you want to visit somewhere off the beaten track. One such possible garden is at Dunrobin Castle, which is the most northern of Scotland’s old great houses and boasts an impressive garden among its many other attractions. Like many of these locations the house can be difficult for wheelchair users and buggies to access, but wheelchairs can access the garden. There are some additional attractions that make this garden particularly worth visiting, such as falconry displays. The breathtaking sea views and Scottish wildlife make it a magical visit.
Gardens are, among other things, a wonderful link to nature, an artistic outpouring and a space to meditate all in one. Visiting other people’s hard work is time well spent, alone or with the family.