Family Days Out: Wynyard Hall Gardens

We recently stayed at Wynyard Hall, County Durham and had a wonderful time.  As well as a beautiful cottage to stay in, exquisite food and rolling acres of parkland to explore, we were invited to visit the gardens.

Open to the general public, The Gardens at Wynyard Hall are a beautiful visitor attraction in their own right.  With several fantastic shopping destinations, offering foodie treats, local produce and quirky kitchen and homeware, the gardens are much loved by locals and visitors alike.

We were treated to a cream tea in the café which offered a wide menu of sandwiches, light lunches and cakes etc.  The tables outside overlooking the gardens were delightful and must be amazing summer when the 135 species of David Austin roses begin to flower.

From the café and shop you enter the Walled Garden where those 3000 roses bloom, with some of the 135 varieties flowering into September and October.  With manicured lawns, fountains, paths to wander and a trickling rill, this large space is soothing and tranquil.

I loved how much water is used in the garden, from large raised pools and fountains to that magnificent rill.  The sound of water running and trickling was present throughout the garden.

As we were visiting quite early in the year, there wasn't a great deal out, but clusters of tulips add big splashes of colour amongst the greenery.

In the centre of the Walled Garden stands the Bell Tower. Historically, this bell was rung by the Head Gardener to mark the beginning and end of the working day, or to announce the arrival of Lord and Lady Londonderry in the garden.  It must have been quite a sight with dozens of gardeners bustling about.  My great uncle was gardener at Cliveden 40 years ago and spoke fondly of how many staff there had once been in the gardens of that grand house.

Those gardeners are all long gone, of course, and the gardens much changed since their 19th century heyday, but how lovely to see that precious bell and gate still in residence.  The Head Gardener himself would have resided in the delightful Gardener's Cottage, now one of the beautiful cottages you can stay in at Wynyard Hall.

Inspired by the Londonderrys' former kitchen garden, the adjoining Edible Garden supplies fresh produce to the hotel's Wellington Restaurant, the Farm Shop and the Gardens Café.  Our girls were fascinated to see all the tiny shoots that will become food for the restaurant's tables in a couple of month's time, and to compare them to our own edible gardening efforts.

Back through the Walled Garden we entered the Marquee Garden.  Here there is a large marquee for weddings, and some beautiful gardens with views across the estate.  The beautiful Ratibon Gates were brought back from the cathedral of Ratisbon in Bavaria by Lady Frances Anne in the 1820s.  They feature simple but elegant wrought iron work, typical of eastern Europe.

At the gate to the Marquee Garden is the most wonderful wisteria which was in full bloom when we visited.  Absolutely beautiful.  Return to the car park and walk up to a gate further on to explore the parkland you see beyond, including the wire sculpture of Hambletonian, Sir Henry Vane Tempest's famous racehorse, and the Wild Garden.  Alas, we had run out of time!

And so back to the Walled Garden.  It has changed much from the original 1822 design of gently curved flowerbeds and raised terrace walks, but the modern more linear design suits it well.   Framed beautifully by the original brick walls, the modern clean lines, angular structures and pale paving combine to create a restful, pleasing atmosphere and the perfect backdrop to both greenery and colour.  Now one of the finest rose gardens in the UK, it is pleasant to visit at any time, although I will definitely have to return in summer as those roses are certain to be a sight - and smell - to behold.

The Gardens at Wynyard Hall are open all year round, 7 days a week.  Prices are £5.50 per adult, £2.50 per child, with a family ticket priced at £14.

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