The North East's Must-Visit Gardens During The Winter Months
From the depths of a frozen winter, snowdrops and aconites emerge as a symbol of hope
THE ALNWICK GARDEN
Although closed in January for essential maintenance, the Alnwick Gardens reopens on 3rd February and there will be so much to see and do. We particularly love the Ornamental Garden at this time of year, with pale Viburnum Tinus lining the south facing border, pink and purple Helleborous orientalist displayed above semi evergreen foliage in the central beds, and beautiful yellow primula vulgars flowers, as well as Galanthus Nivalus snowdrops found carpeting the lawns around the pond.
Denwick Lane, Alnwick NE66 1YU
With more than 1,000 acres to explore and 14 way-marked routes, there’s plenty of walking to enjoy at Cragside in winter. Feel the cool air on your cheeks as you wander through towering trees and along the banks of sparkling frost-covered lakes. As the trees and the shrubs are bare, it’s a great time to spot some of the resident wildlife on the Cragside estate. Keep a look out for red squirrels, roe deer and migrating whooper swans.
Rothbury, Northumberland NE65 7PX
DURHAM BOTANIC GARDENS
Signalling that spring will soon be on its way, the Rhododendron dauricum ‘Mid-winter’ flowers as early as December in this woodland garden, as well as the snowdrops smothering the bankside. You might not notice the tiny flowers of the Christmas Box Sarcococca confusa but you will certainly enjoy its sweet perfume in late winter, while another notable scent at this time of year is the vanilla which comes from the tiny flowers on the underside of the branches of Azara microphylla. The bird hide is an interesting place to observe other winter visitors, such as the Great Spotted Woodpecker and occasional rarer visitor, the Goldcrest.
Hollingside Lane, South Road, Durham DH1 3TN
0191 334 2887
BELSAY HALL AND GARDENS
In winter, the landscape at Belsay Hall appears stripped back, revealing the underlying design of the 30-acre garden. In the crisp frost and low sunshine, the formal beds on the terraces appear sharp and symmetrical, filled with the strongly-scented Sarcococca confusa, while in milder spells viburnums and winter-flowering iris add a dash of colour. Records show that the first snowdrops were planted at Belsay in the 1700s by Lady Anne Middleton, and they are now part of a tradition during February and early March, when the Quarry Garden and woodland floor are carpeted with thousands of these delicate white winter flowers.
Belsay, Northumberland NE20 0DX
On the edge of Newcastle 720 acres of woodland trails await, where Roe deer, otter and red kites live. For the green-fingered visitor, spot the Witch Hazel, Rhododendron Dauricum and sweet-smelling Violets, as well as a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees. Snowdrops can emerge as early as January, so take a wander through Ice House Dene and see the woodland floor covered in these bright white flowers.
Gibside, Gateshead NE16 6BG
This coastal dene is a steep-sided ravine which cuts through the limestone of the Durham coast and although you might usually avoid the seaside in the winter, this is definitely a must visit. The unspoilt ancient woodland is carpeted with a gorgeous mix of snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells as we move into spring and it’s one not to miss. Managed by Durham Wildlife Trust, you’ll be amazed at the floral beauty and the wildlife which makes the dene its home.
Hawthorn Dene, Seaham SR7 8SH
0191 584 3112
SUNDERLAND MUSEUM & WINTER GARDENS
With a clue in the name, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens are a must-visit even on the chilliest of days. An undercover tropical paradise, here you will find more than 2,000 plants thriving in the glass rotunda, pay a visit to the exotic resident Koi Carp, and enjoy a bird’s eye view of Mowbray Park from the treetop walkway.
Burdon Road, Sunderland SR1 1PP
0191 561 2323
ORMESBY HALL AND GARDENS
A natural oasis in the heart of industrial Middlesbrough, Ormesby Hall’s gardens and parkland are a great place to visit in winter. Explore the different landscapes as they wake from winter slumber to display some seasonal beauty. Snowdrops will herald the arrival of spring, while winter jasmine is another early flowering plant which blooms in January – the sunshine yellow is a bright complement to the evergreen which dominates the formal garden.
Church Lane, Ormesby, Middlesbrough TS7 9AS