Celebrating the English Garden

From the 8th of September through to the 11th, hundreds of gardens and green spaces across the country will open up for Heritage Open Days – all for free.

© Michael John Button - View of Norwich City Hall, St. John's Catholic Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral

To mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of English landscape genius ‘Capability’ Brown, VisitEngland has declared 2016 the 'Year of the English Garden’. If you've missed June’s Open Garden Squares London and National Gardens Scheme Festival Weekend, not to worry; all is not yet lost. You can still enjoy the wealth of free gardens and green spaces opening up for Heritage Open Days this September. To get you inspired, here's a taster of five varieties of Heritage Open Days garden and green space events we’re excited about this year - more detail will be available on our event directory from mid-July.

Gardens of Discovery

Gardens are great places to discover something new. This could simply be a new view of your home city; like the view from Kett’s Heights in Norwich. “Norwich’s best kept secret” the Heights is a wooded viewpoint, overlooking Norwich’s two historic cathedrals. Or, if your tastes are more scientific, this year’s guided tours of Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens gives you the chance to explore a botanical collection of over 2000 plants and trees, all housed under a 30 meter dome. Discover the Storey Gardens in Lancaster and experience an art work created by American artist Mark Dion which aims at developing our ideas of mortality, nature and science.

Capability Brown Gardens

When Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was asked to design a landscape garden in Ireland, he replied: “I haven’t finished England yet.” A prolific worker, Brown’s elegant yet naturalistic style has shaped the England we know and love, with 170 gardens countrywide. In this special anniversary year there are lots of events and activities taking place  as part of a celebratory Capability Brown Festival. During Heritage Open Days you can see his gardening genius first hand by visiting one of the many Capability gardens on show: from the grand estate of Berrington Hall in Leominster to Brown's smallest surviving pleasure garden at Cadland Gardens in Southampton. Alternatively, you can learn more about the man and his style by visiting his birthplace of Kirkharle, Northumberland or by calling in on the ‘Waterside Landscape’ exhibit held at Fawley's All Saints Church, Southampton.

Community Gardens 

Green spaces add to our quality of life and can serve the community in a variety of ways. The Rainbow Community Garden in Hull was a neglected piece of land until a group of local residents cleared it up and began planting. Now this garden grows lots of vegetables and herbs, and is used by Social Services, Schools and Youth Justice to serve the local community. While the ‘sensory garden’ of the Police Treatment Centre, Harrogate, is designed for the rehabilitation of police men and women, getting them back to health and on the beat. RISC Edible Roof Garden in Reading has community interest at heart by aiming to get us back in touch with nature; developing a sustainable garden where every plant has a purpose, whether for food, clothing or medicine.

Hidden Gardens

Heritage Open Days prides itself on unlocking our hidden local treasures. These are the green spaces we may walk past on a daily basis yet may not take the time to treasure. These places might be functional, such as Langham Hall Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds; a walled garden divided in two: one side for pleasure, the other, a kitchen garden which grows a wide range of seasonal vegetables. Sometimes a space requires a passionate and knowledgeable guide to unlock, such as Stanley Park in Gosport; where this year a well-known local historian will lead a tour across the sea front, revealing the hidden facts and stories of the area.

Glorious Gardens

England is blessed with many grand and glorious gardens. Follow in the footsteps of dukes, earls and royalty as you explore Cliveden Gardens in Taplow: maybe you will choose to spend your time in formal parterre with its vibrant floral displays or perhaps you’d prefer to peruse the quirky statuary of the Long Garden, get lost in Cliveden Maze or relax in tree-lined riverside avenues. For a wilder experience visit the magical environment of Cragside House and Gardens, Morpeth. With one of Europe's largest rock gardens, on top of over 30 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks, a rhododendron maze, a waterfall and the ‘Trim Trail’, Cragside has lots of spectacular variety. Or visit Prior Park, Bath, where you can take a walk to the sweeping views of a Capability Brown landscape.

These are just a few of the gardens we’re excited about this Heritage Open Days. To find a garden you can explore, be sure to check out our directory which will go live in mid-July.