Three Beautiful National Trust Gardens to Visit Now
After a grey start to June, summer has finally arrived – and what better way to bask in the glory of nature than with a trip round some historic gardens? The UK’s National Trust may be famous for their stunning heritage houses, but the gardens and parklands are well worth a look, too. Get ready to discover some of the most verdant outdoor spaces near London.
Situated in Richmond on the banks of the Thames river, Ham House boasts one of the most beautiful – and authentic – 17th century gardens in the UK. The gardening team at Ham House work under the philosophy of ‘what might have been’, carefully cultivating displays that pay homage to the original spirit of this historical Tudor house.
At the time of writing, the house itself remains closed – but there’s plenty to explore outside. Discover the ‘Kitchen Garden’ – created in the 1600s, and still one of the most efficient walled kitchen gardens in London! – which provides Ham House’s café with produce all through the year; take a stroll in the lush ‘Wilderness’, which combines neat hornbeam hedges, historic borders, grassy lawns and, in summer, wonderful displays of pink dog roses and lily of the valley; and breathe in the heady fragrance of lavender in the Cherry Garden, a once private formal garden that bursts into life during the warmer months.
Ham House, Ham Street, Ham, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7RS. Check the website for up-to-date visitor information.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Karen Roe
Sheffield Park and Garden
A short drive from London in East Sussex, Sheffield Park and Garden has seen many uses in its three-hundred year history (including a Second World War camp!). It has been shaped by a number of individuals, from aristocrats to farmers – though it owes most to famous 18th-century British gardener, Capability Brown, whose work on the estate was both innovative and transformative. Instructed by the contemporary owner, the Earl of Sheffield, Brown shaped walks through the woodlands; planted trees in deliberate formations so as to produce the most attractive landscape; and created several lakes.
As well as witnessing Brown’s work, which has been protected to this day, visitors to Sheffield Park and Garden can explore over 250 acres of parkland; artefacts from WWII (such as an authentic pillbox); and, if they listen hard enough, may even hear the gentle sounds of steam trains approaching on the Bluebell Railway. With so much of the site’s original glory preserved, a visit to Sheffield Park really is like taking a trip back in time. A must for any nature lover or history buff!
Sheffield Park and Garden, Sheffield Park, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QX. Check the website for up-to-date visitor information.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Esther Westerveld
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
From Saxon pig farm to French jail (we're not kidding!) to the home of writer Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson, Sissinghurst Castle has an amazing and varied history – as do the spectacular gardens that surround it. Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, which were curated by Sackville-West and her husband, are among the most beautiful and diverse in the UK.
The gardens offer a bounty of riches to be explored, with a riot of roses in the Rose and White Gardens (described by Sackville-West as ‘tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines’), a clash of gorgeous colour in the South Cottage Garden, and the stunning avenue of pleached lime trees, surrounded by beds of tulips and hyacinths, that make up the Lime Walk. More unusually, there’s a pungent Herb Garden and a shady Nuttery brimming with cobnuts, as well as ‘Delos’: an area of the garden dedicated to Sackville-West and Nicholson’s visits to the Greek island.
In addition, Sissinghurst boasts over 400 acres of exquisite Kent countryside – perfect for exploring with your four-legged friend, walking with family, or simply a day of nature spotting (the estate is home to many fascinating wildlife species).
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 2AB. Check the website for up-to-date visitor information.