I’ve spent the last few years travelling across the country, from the coasts of Cornwall to the wildflower carpeted dunes of the Outer Hebrides, searching for Britain’s best wild gardens. Now is a particularly magical time when the rapid unfurling of leaves, delicate wildflowers and theatrical tulips decorate our landscapes and open gardens, beckoning us all to get out and start exploring once again.
My perfect weekend starts with a good night’s sleep and a steaming mug of coffee, drunk whilst wandering barefoot through dew-adorned gardens. After a breakfast with eggs from the bantams I’ll head off in search of somewhere wild and beautiful to spend the day exploring. A kitchen-garden fresh lunch follows and then, as the sun begins to get low, I’ll take a walk through ancient pastures filled with wild daffodils, bluebells or the golden mist of thousands of cowslips.
Here are a couple of my favourite spring wild garden weekends; inspirational and stunning places that are a joy to discover, filled with birdsong, butterflies and the revelry of spring.
Visits to South Hooe Count House with its wonderful views of the Tamar is a lovely example. The nature-tended gardens are home to large oaks, spring bulbs, and frothy mounds of cow parsley, and the grass is mown by the resident donkeys, Arabella and Willow. Owner Trish has created a cosy, light-filled self-catering hideaway complete with Rayburn, antiques, and fresh flowers, all in exquisite rustic chic style. Borrow a canoe for a paddle down the river, take a walk in the local daffodil fields and visit the market in Tavistock for supplies.
Just up the Tamar River from South Hooe, rests Tudor National Trust Cotehele House. Its sheltered valley gardens, orchards and formal gardens are jaw dropping in spring as the rhododendrons explode into colour. Mossy walls are blanketed in primroses and massed spring bulbs compete with the magnolias. The old quay is a great place to watch the sun setting over this beautiful river.
Leave enough time for a trip to the The Garden House in nearby Buckland Monachorum. Delicate snakeshead
fritillaries, dog’s tooth violets and anemones are naturalised in great swathes in the lawns and along the woodland paths. The views are idyllic here and the lovely Old Rectory tearoom is a good place for a home-made lunch following a walk around the garden.
We stumbled upon the enchanting Old Country Farm when we were exploring the borders of the Malvern Hills
and hunting for old orchards.
Here everything is delightfully rustic and redolent of a bygone era. Two old brick coast houses welcome you into the wild cottage garden that cradles the 600-year-old house. Ella and family manage the whole 220-acre farm for the benefit of wildlife and all feels fruitful. There are many wonderful walks directly from the farm through the old apple trees that become smothered in delicate scented blossom. Inside, the terracotta kitchen and snug are cosy and charming. There is an Aga, vases of flowers, and a large inglenook and as well as the three B&B rooms, self-catering is available in the green-oak Lighthouse hidden in the orchards.
If visiting at this time of year, head over to Jubilee Drive (B4232) beneath Blackhill on the outskirts of Malvern to see incredible blue mists of wild bluebells smothering the ancient hills.
If you do miss May though, don’t fret! A 25-minute drive south of Old Country Farm brings you to the village of Much Marcle with its giant churchyard yew and Hellens Manor, the stunning Jacobean house and gardens.
Open from Easter through to September the house is a must-visit, but it is the gardens with their timeless elegance that I love. Huge modern woven sculptures hang from tall trees and hide in the parkland, while nearer the house there are clipped hornbeams underplanted with wildflowers and formal gardens with overflowing bronze urns, filled with velvet pelargoniums.
Tania’s new book, Wild Garden Weekends, is chock full of striking photography and illustrated maps of nearly 400 tried and tested garden getaways across the length and breadth of Britain. Receive 30% off when using the code ‘Sawday’s’ at www.wildthingspublishing.com, £12.75 from £16.99.