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A place where memories are made
Alnwick Garden (Northumberland)
Member Name: allybally
Alnwick Garden (Northumberland)
Advantages: Plenty to entertain children and adults alike,
Disadvantages: Not a thing
At the risk of making a simple review a little on the emotional side, I write this review in honour of one of the kindest, most sincere gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to know and I thank him for sharing this spectacular place with my son and I.
Adults, £8, Concession £7.50. Groups £6.25 per head, Education groups: £2.50 per child. Children go free (for up to 4 children per adult). All these costs include an optional £1 gift aid charge.
The Gardens are open all year except for Christmas day from 10:00. Closing times vary per season from between 16:00 in the Winter to 19:00 in the summer months/
The Garden is open all year but would advise you consider the weather at the time of your visit and wear appropriate clothing. The garden is accessible to all with wheelchair access throughout with chairs available for hire. Assistant dogs are welcomed in the Garden.
The First Duke of Northumberland commissioned the celebrated gardener Capability Brown to create the first gardens adjoining the castle grounds in 1750. Over the following years, development continued with hothouses being constructed to grow pineapples and other produce to be sent to Paris where the Third Duke was based as Special Ambassador in the 1820's. He collected seeds and plants from all over the world when he traveled and built a conservatory in the garden which the public could visit only one day a week.
In the mid-19th century, the Fourth Duke created a garden inspired by the Italian Renaissance period which also dictated the décor in the Castle State rooms. Interestingly, the wrought iron gates currently found at the main entrance and the entrance to the Ornamental Garden are the restored original 16th century Venetian gates the Fourth Duke brought from Italy.
By the end of the century, the gardens were alive with grandeur with hedge topiary, a long-stretching flower garden, lime trees grape houses and a large conservatory making contributing to its beauty.
In the Pavilion, an original 18th century garden decoration can be found which takes visitors back to the original gardens. There sits a lead sculpture of a fox sitting on top of a fruit-filled urn decorated with season-inspired masks and held up by monkeys.
During the 2nd World war, the gardens were once again put to practical use. Having been turned over to the Government's care, the land was used to grow produce until 1950. From that time, until the Alnwick Garden restoration project began in 1996, the site was used as a tree nursery.
As many resources as possible were locally sourced, including the water cascade stone which was brought from West Woodburn
What makes these striking gardens unique is the fact that visitors are actively encouraged to participate in their surroundings. You see children running through the jets of water which spray impressively across pathways. Families pick berries from the ornamental garden to taste their sweetness and people roll up their trousers to wade in any number of streams that line the paths. What on face value is a very sophisticated and elegant park, Alnwick Gardens welcomes young children to run free and enjoy the natural beauty they have come to visit.
Upon entering through the main gates, you will instantly be met with the glorious Grand Cascade that, as the UK's largest water feature, is the perfect centerpiece for the garden. It is a truly magnificent site which draws the eye up the rolling hill of the garden to the treed area and the ornamental garden tucked quietly away at the top. At peak flow, more than 7200 gallons of water run across 21 weirs per minute though I must point out, it was designed in as Environmentally Friendly a manner as possible. 250,000 gallons of water are stored underground which is filtered and then recycled.. It changes sequence on a half hourly basis throughout the day. There are 162 jets in total which fire water up to 6 metres high into the air and across the walkways.
Crescent-shaped stairs made from 149,000 block paving stones, lead up either side of the cascade, meeting in the middle at each level. The cascades are lined with beautiful hedging and oak trees which lend themselves to the magical sense of the place.
In front of the cascade, John Deer mini ride on tractors contrast against the elegance of the light stonework oddly however, your children will love maneuvering these play things, scooping up water and chasing their terrified parents.
As you pass through the gates into this 1753 walled treasure trove, you are immediately hit not only with a great sense of calm, but also the gentle aroma of the over 16,000 plants before you. In the middle of the garden is a pool from which water flows down through a network of open pipes leading towards the colour-themed (one red, one yellow) secret gardens on each side.
Raised flower beds mean the planting can be enjoyed by everyone with an array of roses, delphiniums, Peonies, Priental poppies, and iris. From above, and all around you crab apple trees, rose covered arbours and bloom gently. My son's favourite part of the gardens, beside dangling his limbs in the pool with his 'Grandpa John' was the marvelous collection of berries also on display. It included currants, strawberries (including white strawberries which I had never heard of) and yellow and red raspberries. Herbs are peppered throughout the garden offering an intense and varied assortment of smells and textures to the planting.
The planting has been done in such a way that it will flower at different times throughout the year meaning it is always filled with colour and tempting perfumes .
The Ornamental gardens were one of my favourite part simply because all the senses were being touched - from the sound of the constant water flowing gentle, to the fresh smell of the lavender that washed over you as you passed it, to the sweetness of the raspberries straight from the stem.
The Rose Garden
An English Garden will never be complete without a rose garden and Alnwick Gardens is no exception. The Pergola-lined, winding walkway takes you through an impressive maze-like selection of roses which were donated by one of the countries top rose growers, David Austin Roses. The Fragrant aroma is so vivid it is almost intoxicating. There are 3000 rose bushes, trees and shrubs with Old rose and English rose blooms as well as my favourite, climbing roses. In addition, the garden boasts the Alnwick Rose which was created by David Austin in honour of the garden.
My son adored racing along the maze-like paths and we could take our time knowing he couldn't get to far away from us without doubling back on himself.
The Serpent Garden
This Garden hosts a series of water sculptures designed by William Pye and created around a serpent shape made of holly. The sculptures sit peacefully within the natural surroundings making them appear as almost part of the scenery. This is a very interactive piece which encourages people to get up close and personal with water and to appreciate how it can be different depending on perspective. The Starburst sculpture even allows you to stand on a (toughened) glass plate to watch the water exploding below you.
The Poison Garden
For fairly obvious reasons, visitors are only allowed to enter this garden accompanied by a trained companion from the Gardens who will talk you through the different plants dispelling myths surrounding some plants and describing the gory ancient history of others. Plants included here are Deadly Nightshade, Magic Mushrooms and Cannabis.
The Woodland Walk
The Woodland Walk provides a more natural contrast to the formal, well-manicured gardens. Mature Trees centuries old line the pathway while Forest flowers carpet the grounds along the walk which leads towards some fantastic views of the Alnwich Castle and the River Aln.
The Bamboo Labyrinth
The feature, designed by one of the world's leading maze designers, Adrian Fisher is set in a relatively shady section of the garden and follows a path which is decorated with delicate bronze leaves. The sounds of the bamboo as it rustles in the wind is extremely relaxing though much louder than I would have expected. This is a great, mysterious place as paths twist in different directions only allowing you the quickest of glimpses of other visitors.
Without a doubt this was the Children's (and many adults) favourite part of the Gardens. The Treehouse, found just outside the main gates to the garden is a 6,000 square foot group of smaller houses with angled roofs and turrits linked by suspended rope bridges and walkways. It was built using natural and sustainable products including Scots and English Pine, although Canadian Cedar and Scandinavian Redwood was also sourced. It is amazing how such an enormous structure manages to blend in so well with the trees that embrace it as well as with its natural surroundings. It includes two resource rooms which provide learning programmes for visitors, a terraced restaurant (that even has a log fire in it!) and a small gift shop.
I am sure I don't have to explain why this fantastic structure is a hit with the kids already, but I understand they are looking to begin work on the next phase of development which will include a tree-based adventure play area which will include a maze of rope bridges, platforms and aerial walkways, with wheelchair access and a designated area for the under 5s and for the severely disabled.
The Pavillion and Visitors Centre made largely of glass but also a blend of wood, steel and stone houses the majority of amenities including the following:
There is a gift and a garden shop which offer a range of unique, locally crafted gifts, local produce, gardening goods with an extra flare and bulbs including those of the now famous Alnwick Rose as well as sweets, books, art work etc.
There is a small coffee bar in the visitors centre which provides basic refreshments or there is a restaurant which offers simple but quality food at reasonably affordable prices. Also on offer is the treehouse restaurant which offers a heartier menu. An A La Carte menu is also available in the evenings. Visit http://www.alnwickgarden.com/visitthegarden/eating .asp for more details of their menu.
Visitor interpretation area
Here visitors can learn about the historical and geographical background of The Garden. There are also two Education rooms perfect for school trips
This is ideal for lectures, conferences, concerts and weddings and was in fact where the funeral reception I attended was held.
This is a beautiful open space looking on to the gardens which is often used for outdoor performances
toilets are located within the Treehouse, and in the Pavilion area.
Parking immediately in front of the centre is relatively limited however there is over flow parking a short walk away which provides an abundance of further space.
To find a place with so much breath-taking beauty, so much diversity and so much to enjoy is rare. Admittedly, this place holds a special place in my heart thanks to how I was introduced to it, but I was blown away by how much there is to see. I was equally impressed by how they have encouraged younger generations to relish in their natural surroundings and to absorb it fully through interaction.
All of the areas have posted notes relating to the specific plants, site and history which allows generations, young and old to learn a bit as they go.
Some may question the value of paying £8 for a visit to a garden, but this is much more than a garden. It is a celebration of so many different aspects from nature, to modern design, architecture, history, and even biology. All in all, it is a fantastic, unique, and fun day out - perfect for the family.
Summary: A beautiful place of tranquility and fun for all the family
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