As our gardens plan to open again here is a quick trip through my list of places to visit again soon, we will add more as plans unfold.
And it’s no coincidence that all the garden on my list come with the promise of freshly baked cake, and lots of outdoor space to sit.
I’m starting with the garden closest to where I live – who’s Kitchen has, on the odd occasion, rewarded me with a cake after a walk along the river.
Levens Hall is a welcoming site, whether you’ve arrived on foot along the River Kent, or by car, the distinctive topiary can be seen rising from behind the ancient garden walls
Stroll along the path in front of the stunning Elizabethan house to a small wooden gate leading into the Gardens. What awaits you, hidden behind the high stone wall, remains largely unchanged since the 17th century and is truly spectacular and retain many original features including the world’s oldest topiary gardens, but it’s by no means stuck in its past. The beautiful displays of underplanting change with the season and only two years ago they built Levens Kitchen. Its seasonal inspired menu is already winning awards: Best Newcomer, Cumbria Life’s Food and Drink Awards 2020 and Great Place to Eat, UK Heritage Awards 2020 – so it’s not just me that appreciates the cake! levenshall.co.uk
When I want a magnificent view with my garden visit, I head to Brantwood, on the east shore of Coniston. Brantwood’s unique and beautiful mountainside gardens, set in its 250 acre wood estate has the most spectacular views over Consiton Water and the fells beyond.
It’s actually more than a garden as the estate is made up of ancient semi-natural woodlands, lakeshore meadows and high, open fell. A real paradise for walkers as well as strollers.
The gardens dedicated custodians have continued many of John Ruskin’s radical experiments in land management and horticulture. I like the lower fellside garden best in Spring. While other parts of the gardens are a riot of colour, here it’s the tapestry of greens that delight as the mosses and ferns awake. At Brantwood I enjoy my cake at The Terrace, its café is perfectly situated to make the very best of the view. brantwood.org.uk
Many of Cumbria heritage gardens have been lovingly tendered by generation of the same family, each preserving and developing them in equal measure. And they love showing them off!
At Dalemain’s Historic Gardens they have regular garden tours, offering visitors the chance to learn about the history of the garden and how the different generations of the Hasells have tended the award-winning gardens for generations.
I joined a tour and thoroughly enjoyed it, a gentle walk around the outside of this stunning ‘pink’ mansion house with a knowledgeable guide made the gardens come alive. I enjoyed my tea and cake as a bit of a strolling picnic as there was so much to see. I left knowing a little more about what thrives in this Cumbrian climate and a clump of their famous meconopsis blue poppies for my own garden.
Garden tours Mon – Thurs, pre-booked tours only. dalemain.com
Suddenly I’ve realised just how many gardens there are. Like those sweet jars! So here is a brief roundup of some for you to discover more about.
The immaculate gardens at Holker have evolved under the guidance of generations of the Cavendish Family, each adding new features and plantings to create a family garden that is now rich in character and beauty. On any day you’ll find inspiration and advice but if you are about in early May then don’t miss their Spring Fair.
Spring Fair Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 May holker.co.uk
Just a couple of miles apart – so easily done in one day, are the gardens at Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, Grasmere. You could walk from one to the other along the old Coffin Route. William and Dorothy Wordsworth were both keen gardeners. The garden at Rydal Mount remains much as William designed it with its fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound. Dove Cottage garden has just had a ‘reimagining’ as part of a major project of the Wordsworth home at Grasmere, but it remains “The loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. rydalmount.co.uk wordsworth.org.uk
If you ever want an escape then head to Muncaster, a tranquil historic garden on the west coast. There is always a quiet corner even on busier days. Here spring is the peak of the flowering season and is when Muncaster’s gardens are at their best I feel. I love that it’s not perfectly neat and regimented and like that you can disappear into its this wilder parts.
Hutton-in-the-Forest’s extensive gardens boast topiary hedges and lawned terraces, a wildflower meadow and its own lake. The Walled Garden, which is now the main flower garden, has a rotation of seasonal colour, fruit blossom and tulips in the spring and lilies and roses to scent the summer air. And pots! Hutton hosts PotFest in the Park each July. hutton-in-the-forest.co.uk
Forty years ago, much of the garden at Mirehouse was overgrown, something of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’, unknown even to people living in Keswick. I discovered it about 15 years ago and I visit now every year – for the flowers, the bees and the butterflies – but really for the cake! mirehouse.com
Check website for details before you travel and if the opportunity is offered – book ahead.