In search of snowdrops
Yes it’s still winter but we love February. “Love” is a big word in this second month and one of the things we love the most about it is the gift it gives us each year for just a few small weeks, snowdrops. Such is their popularity that there are actual snowdrop festivals up and down the country that usually last from early February through to mid March. Here in the North East we are blessed to have some wonderful places to see them in all their glory.
We shall list a few of the places throughout the region where you can see some fabulous shows of snowdrops but before that we shall take you on our adventure which led to a more off piste quest to find our beloved snowdrop.
We had been talking with Lucy’s parents about all the various locations around the region where to see snowdrops and through this conversation they told us about an amazing show of them they saw a few years back just outside the village the village of Old Bewick which is a few miles north of Alnwick. Following our recent jaunt into South East Northumberland our appetite had been wet to get out and about our wonderful region. This was going to be a trip we definitely could not do by public transport so once again Lucy’s Dad was our chauffeur.
The drive to Alnwick was straightforward with Paul as navigator but you could be forgiven for not believing that Paul once had a career working in Tourist Information, directing thousands of overseas visitors around the region, as due to a slight misreading of the map we soon found ourselves going off track and heading towards Rothbury! Thankfully we got our bearings back, Paul stood down as navigator and having traversed various country lanes we were in arms reach of our destination. There were still pockets of snow on the hill tops and in the fields which all added to the magnificent surroundings.
At the top of a single track road there is a stone cross and wooden sign which revealed we had almost reached our destination, the Holy Trinity Church of Old Bewick. Without our driver this is certainly a place we could not have reached on our own. The chapel dates back to the twelfth century and according to the Eglingham Parish website is:
"a perfect place to come and just 'be'. Built in a truly tranquil spot, a hollow surrounded by woods and bordered by a stream with a stone clapper style bridge, Old Bewick exudes a peacefulness and calm in this busy world of ours."
Despite the layer of snow you could see the unmistakable sight of our quarry and snowdrops blanketed the grounds all around the chapel. Before truly appreciating them we had a look inside the chapel itself and what a beautiful tranquil place it is. There are services on the first and third Sunday of the month and one on Christmas Day, which truly must be a very special experience.
Back outside we carefully walked around the chapel, saying nothing, just in our own thoughts, enjoying the snowdrops and just with the sound of the trickle of the stream that borders the grounds, this was indeed a place to just “be”.
It is wonderful that the North East offers places that attracts flocks of visitors and somewhere like the Old Bewick which is a wholly different experience but cements why we love the North East so much. There are so many different experiences to enjoy and this was a life affirming one. We had never dreamed that the search for snowdrops could lead to somewhere so special.
And so if you feel ready to get out there and enjoy the sight of our friend the “Galanthus” and with half term upon us here are five spots where you can see them in all their winter glory:
1) Howick Hall Gardens. Always a joy to visit whatever the time of year and they pride themselves on the carpets of snowdrops on show from February into March. They were planted between the wars by Lady Grey Who was a huge bulb enthusiast and over the years various natural hybrids have evolved which attracts snowdrop boffins every year.
The gardens are open at this time of year from Wednesday to Sunday 10:30am - 4:00pm
2) Wallington Hall - The beautiful grounds of one of the regions most beloved National Trust properties comes alive every late winter with its glorious snowdrop display. It’s website sets the picture perfectly:
“An enchanting carpet of white will appear on the woodland floor through the East wood, as the thousands of snowdrops planted by the public and Wallington's gardening team start flowering.”
Back in 2015 visitors were invited to help the team at Wallington plant 100,000 snowdrop bulbs and it is now become a firmly established tradition and a wonderful way to get involved in the beauty of the changing seasons.
From half term the groups are open from 10:00am until dusk and the house from noon until 5:00pm.
3) Birkheads Secret Gardens - The garden boasts an impressive 160+ varieties of snowdrop and many are not available from other sources. The joy of what Birkheads offers is that you can buy snowdrops from their plant nursery but they always advise that if you are looking for a particular variety you connect them to see if it is available.
For opening times and information please visit: www.birkheadssecretgardens.co.uk
4) Ormseby Hall - The Hall just outside Middlesbrough is gearing itself for visitors at half term and in addition to the magnificent carpets of snowdrops children can get muddy making a messy meal in the mud pie kitchen and be on the look out for some tempting puddles. Get yourselves wrapped up no enjoy a winters walk through the grounds and if the weather takes a turn for the worst there is plenty to enjoy indoors.
For opening times please visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
5) Hawthorn Dene - This is a place that we had not heard of with regards to finding snowdrops but the dene which has a very dramatic description as being a “steep sided ravine that cuts through the magnesium limestone of the Durham coast” does offer a splendid display and for later into the spring wild garlic and blue bells line the woodland floor.
More information can be found at the Durham Wildlife Trust website: www.durhamwt.com
Hope that’s enough inspiration for all you snowdrop fans. It isn’t a long show so get out there and enjoy them before they are gone.