If you are holidaying in the lakes then you are in for a treat. Cumbria is famous for its lakes and mountains but it is also host to an incredible collection of hidden gems…gardens. Some of the most important people in Victorian history made their home in the Lake District and with it carved out inspirational horticultural havens that still delight their visitors today. Here are some of my top picks.
Hill Top Farm
Nestled in the small village of Near Sawrey is the home of Peter Rabbit… I mean Beatrix Potter.
Hill Top is an enchanting insight into the inspiration for many illustrations featured in Beatrix Potter’s famous ‘little books.’ She arrived with modest gardening experience but within a year had transformed the half-acre plot from a track to a cottage garden complete with main borders, orchard, paddock and kitchen garden.
Small in size but not in stature, this unpretentious garden capture’s the spirit of the era and brings it to life. Packed with herbaceous perennials, roses, fruit trees and vegetables; you half expect Mr McGregor to jump out at any moment.
It is an absolute must for Potter fans and attracts audiences from far afield. It can get extremely busy but is well worth the visit. A little living slice of literary history.
Near Sawrey, LA22 0LF
Historic Brantwood boasts a panoramic vista across Coniston Lake and towards the majestic Old Man. The 250-acre estate encompasses eight unique gardens, all spectacular in their own right and described as ‘living experiments;’ the high walk, fern garden, trellis walk, zig zaggy, hortus inclusus (a secret garden), harbor walk, moorland and the professor’s garden.
130-year old Rhododendron ‘Broughtonii’ greets your arrival creating a breathtaking confetti of colour, alongside wildflower meadows and rolling fells.
Home to plant scientist, social thinker, writer, critic and artist John Ruskin who was one of the most remarkable figures of the Victorian era, studying conservation, climate change and pollution. He championed the Pre-Raphaelite movement and was a pioneer and expert in many fields.
Brantwood has always been an artist’s hub and it hosts a painter’s glade where artists could sit and draw inspiration from the surrounding landscape. Fusing art and nature together through the garden.
Coniston, LA21 8AD
Perched above Lake Windermere Holehird Gardens are a 10-acre oasis of botanical delights. Run entirely by volunteers of the Lakeland Horticultural Society (LHS), it truly is an enchanting area to explore. And there’s no better time to visit as the LHS celebrate their 50th year at Holehird.
Volunteers are assigned their own area and take complete responsibility for their plot, from propagation to planting resulting in a healthy competition to ensure each border is the best it possibly can be.
Home to four National Collections of Meconopsis, Polystichum, Astilbe and Daboecia, various alpine glasshouses, numerous rocks gardens as well as holding the Lakeland collection of Hydrangea; there is a plethora of plants to see all year round.
The LHS also continue to host the RHS autumn-flowering gentians trial, which is fully accessible to the public.
Windermere, LA23 1NP
Rydal Mount was the historic home of William Wordsworth from 1813 – 1850; still owned by the Wordsworth family. It is a time capsule, which encapsulates a family home, tearoom and award winning five-acre garden embracing the natural landscape.
Many of Wordsworth’s most iconic masterpieces were conceived here. Drawing inspiration from the romantic landscape, fell-side terraces team with rhododendrons, his self-designed garden incorporates rocks pools, an ancient mound and rare shrubs. The garden was his office and he composed prose between his writing hut and attic study.
Tragedy struck when their daughter Dora died of tuberculosis in 1847, devastated he created a memorial: Rash Field and planted 100s of narcissus and bluebell bulbs; truly an inspiring sight in spring.
Last November curators Matthew & Emily Elkington retired after 25 years but alongside head gardener Helen Green they spent years studying Wordsworth’s plans and returned the garden to his original vision. Now Emily & Matthew Heath take the house and garden forward to the next era.
Rydal, Ambleside, LA22 9LU
Situated below the Fairfield Horseshoe in 30-acres of Lakeland countryside and woodland Rydal Hall provides eco camping and accommodation with a conscience. The estate produce their own hydro electricity, have their own water supply, source local produce, reduce plastic use and waste and promote wildlife biodiversity, sustainability and habitat including participating in the Red Squirrel Conservation Project.
A thoroughly fascinating visit… oh and did I mentioned they also have beautiful formal gardens as well?
Borrowed landscape sits side-by-side with geometric box-hedged beds of spring bulbs. Created by renowned Victorian Landscape Architect Mr Thomas Mawson, it includes a grotto, arbors, roses, herbaceous perennials, bulbs and bedding.
Long walks can be had across the estate, taking in the local flora, mosses, waterfall, sculpture trail and woodland including a 500-year old sweet chestnut tree!
Home to le Fleming family, this 16th century UNESCO World Heritage site has been a conference centre and retreat since 1963.
Free to visit but donations welcomed.
Rydal, Ambleside, LA22 9LX