Top spots for snowdrops
Snowdrops spark hope. The mere sight of them can make the spirits soar. Here are the best places to see snowdrops in the county, and for those of you who don’t mind crossing borders, I’ve included Cambridgeshire and Essex and even – fasten your seatbelts – Suffolk. Get out and enjoy them while they’re here.
Benington Lordship Gardens, near Stevenage, Weds 7 Feb – Sun 4 March
The Big One. It’s impossible to talk snowdrops without naming Benington. Close to Walkern and Stevenage, Benington has got the lot and it’s often cited as one of the best snowdrop sites in the country. Possibly the world. There are over 200 named varieties of snowdrop in the gardens and around the Norman castle and moat. The most familiar and abundant are the single and double Galanthus nivalis, both of which are on sale. While stocks last! Catch a snowdrop concert in St Peter’s Church. Cream teas and soup. Sadly no dogs. Benington Lordship Gardens Stevenage SG2 7BS Weds 7 Feb – Sun 4 March 12-4pm every day.
Walkern Hall, near Stevenage, Sat 10 – Sun 11 Feb; Sat 24 – Sun 25 March
At the time of writing, Kate de Boinville, who lives at Walkern Hall, tells me that there are lots of snowdrops everywhere she looks. But don’t look too closely at the photo, because I think it might be a daffodil shot. This stunning house is in a medieval hunting park and is also a wedding venue. Eight acres of snowdrops and aconites to admire. Warming soup and homemade cakes. Walkern Hall, Stevenage, SG2 7JA Sat 10 – Sun 11 Feb 12-4.30pm
Old Church Cottage, Tring, Sat 24 and Sun 25 Feb
Ancient yews, a Norman tower, a four hundred-year-old thatched cottage, shortbread and mulled wine – what more could you want? Erm, some snowdrops, please. Well, you’ll get those too. Many different species and varieties and you’ll even see cyclamen, crocuses and other spring bulbs. Note from the owner: please park at the village hall because the garden is at the end of a narrow lane. Old Church Cottage, Chapel Lane, Long Marston, Tring, HP23 4QT Sat 25 – Sun 26 Feb. £5 includes mulled wine and shortbread. Children: free!
Yes, I know Suffolk isn’t exactly on our doorstep, but just in case you fancy a bit of a day out, I’ve included Ickworth. Fantastic grounds, big posh house, hip hop family hotel and splendiferous tea and cakes. Ickworth The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5QE
Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex
I went to Audley End recently and was completely fascinated by the recently refurbished nursery and the wallpaper that has been recreated from the original. Extensive grounds and a restored vegetable garden. Produce for sale. When I called to check on snowdrop progress, I was told that there are plenty, ready and waiting for you. Audley End Saffron Walden CB11 4JB
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, Mon 29 Jan – Sun 4 March
Snowdrops were often planted by monks as a symbol of purity and Anglesey, a former priory, is a great example of monastic planting. It’s National Trust, so as you might expect, there’s a restaurant and everything else you could possibly need, and all tip top. Anglesey Abbey Quy Rd, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9EJ
Chippenham Park Gardens, Ely, Sat 10 Feb – Fri 9 March
Snowdrop walks, aconites, and all in gardens landscaped to an Anglo-Dutch design. At one point this estate was bought by a sugar baron. Which leads me to the Potting Shed Cafe. Cake! And lots more. Chippenham Park Gardens Chippenham Park, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5PT Sat 10 Feb – Fri 9 March 10am-4pm