What comes to mind when you think of summer? Row upon row of dahlias buzzing with bees and afternoon tea in the sunshine? Then look no further for your perfect summer day out. Across the region, people are opening their garden gates in the name of charity. The British Red Cross is holding its annual Open Gardens season and last year the scheme raised more than £160,000 for people in need in the UK and overseas.
Gardens will also open across the country in support of the National Gardens Scheme, which raises money for healthcare charities like Marie Curie hospices and Macmillan Cancer Support. This year, the gardens range from small private gardens to sprawling stately homes, and many offer plant stalls, marked trails and light lunches.
Here’s our pick of the 10 best charitable days out on offer in the North East this July:
Red Cross Open Gardens. Chillingham, Alnwick, Northumberland. 2 July, 2pm–4pm.
Chillingham Castle gardens are a rare survivor of the 19th century, designed by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, a royal garden designer who worked on Windsor Castle. Check out the garden’s herbaceous border – it is the longest in northern England.
Cotherstone Village Gardens
National Garden Scheme. Cotherstone, Barnard Castle. 3 July, 11pm–4.30pm
This charming Teesside village is opening its doors for visitors to explore a variety of country gardens and allotments. Just off the Teesdale Way footpath, Cotherstone boasts fantastic views of the Balder and Tees rivers. This year, the ruins of Cotherstone castle will also be open to the public.
Dilston Physic Garden
Red Cross Open Gardens. Corbridge, Northumberland. 21 July, 11am–4.30pm
Double, double, toil and trouble! Children with a taste for magic will love this healing garden, with over 800 medicinal plant varieties. Signboards throughout the garden describe the folklore and health benefits of each plant. Children can even mix up a potion of their own at the children’s potion club, from 12.30pm–2.30pm, £5, 7–11 year olds.
National Garden Scheme. Cambo, Northumberland. 10 July, 10pm–5pm
While away your afternoon wandering the grounds of the Wallington estate. Walled, terraced gardens are set in 100 acres of woodland and lakes. Afterwards, explore picturesque Cambo village and drink tea in the school-room where Capability Brown studied, which is now the Cambo village hall.
National Garden Scheme. Wolsingham, Bishop Auckland. 3 July, 10.30am–4pm.
Roses, peonies, lavender, perennials – you’ll find them all in this fledgling garden. Created in 2012, this little garden boasts blooms aplenty. Combine your visit with a walk around the Tunstall Reservoir on the beautiful Waskerley river.
Oliver Ford Garden
Red Cross Open Gardens. Oliver Ford Farm, Consett, County Durham. 24 July, 1pm–5pm.
Variety and harmony are the keys to this garden. Built to blend into the surrounding countryside, the 1.5-acre garden has a bog garden, arboretum, orchard and woodland area with Japanese maples and rhododendrons.
National Garden Scheme. Peareth Hall Road, Gateshead. 7 July, 1.30pm–4.30pm.
Do you think nature is best enjoyed with a stiff drink in hand? If so, you’ll love the Caribbean-inspired bar and informal garden at Woodlands. This original garden is a quirky fusion of English and tropical garden influences. Relax in the decking area and enjoy the eclectic mix of unusual plants.
Newbrough Hall and Newbrough Lodge
Red Cross Open Gardens. Newbrough, Hexham, Northumberland. 24 July, 2pm–6pm
If walled gardens are your thing, head to Newbrough Hall, a 19th century country house near Hexham. Breathe in the fragrant smell of blooming roses in the colourful walled garden. Newbrough Lodge is a scenic one-mile walk away and features tennis courts and a woodland garden with specimen trees.
National Garden Scheme. Moorsholm Village, Saltburn-by-the-Sea. 17 July, 11.30am–4pm
Moorsholm Village, the four-time winner of Northumbria in Bloom best village, will display a range of gardens this summer, including village allotment, woodland and cottage gardens.
St Cuthbert’s Hospice
National Garden Scheme. Park House Road, Durham. 31 July, 11am–4.30pm.
Fancy a fun family day out that also benefits a great cause? St Cuthbert’s Hospice is set in five acres of mature gardens, which are cared for by volunteers. Blow away the cobwebs with a woodland walk and then check out the plant and produce stall. Almost all areas are wheelchair accessible.