Gibside liberty trail
See parts of the historic garden design unfold as you explore the inner areas known as the Pleasure Grounds of the estate. Gibside's story will begin to unfold as you visit the historic features of the estate from grand buildings to now majestic ruins to key views and vistas.
Explore the stunning landscape garden to see elegant buildings and ruins
Market Place, grid ref: NZ171583
Find the start of the trail after crossing the road from the raised wooden walkway beside the estate map. Go straight ahead with the Walled Garden wall on your left and the play castle on your right.
Here at Market Place you have a range of facilities before you start if needed. This is the place to stop for refreshments from the cafe or shop to take with you. Toilets and baby change facilities are found here.
At the doorway to the Walled Garden, take a left turn and head through the door. The path leads you straight through the middle of the garden, passing apple trees and allotment plots. The end of the path leads to large wooden gates.
The Walled Garden is the first of the historic features you will come across on your walk. It was once used to grow fruit and vegetables for the resident Bowes-Lyon family that lived in the Hall but was actually the second location of the Walled Garden. The first was originally built nearer the Hall, however, garden smells were unpopular too close to the house so George Bowes had it moved. The original design of the garden is unknown but evidence of some of the historic features are present - apple trees in the orchard are planted on top of the original planting plates that helped fruit trees put their energy into fruit growth rather than tree growth. The pond in the corner, was originally used for fish now home to rare great crested newts. The garden is now used by many locals to grow their own in allotment plots. If you have time, wander around the plots and see whats growing before continuing on the trail.
Once outside the Walled Garden turn left, and just outside the small garden door, follow the path to the right, carefully crossing the road and head into the shrubbery. Follow the grassy path as it leads you to the Orangery ruin, with a field on your right. once you have explored the ruin, continue straight ahead and walk down the flight of steps. (If you struggle with stairs or have a wheelchair or pushchair, you can take the level grassy path through Orangery field - the gate is in front of the ruin. This will miss out Step 4 of this walk into Ice House Dene).
Shrubbery & Orangery
Like the Walled Garden, there are no historic garden design plans to follow to replicate how the shrubbery would have looked. Gardeners have created a mix of a Georgian and Victorian shrubbery using plants that would have been popular at the time. The Orangery, or Greenhouse, was built for Mary Eleanor (daughter of George Bowes) who developed a love of botany. This was her space to develop her passion.
At the bottom of the steps head straight across the path and up the steps on the other slope, leading you into Ice House Dene. The path bears ot the right through the woodland, and out of the woods at the corner of Orangery Field and the Avenue Road. Turn left out of the woods and left again along the road.
Ice House Dene
This small piece of woodland is currently being planted with a range of shrubs, but it is also home to the original ice house that would have been used to keep food from the house cool. To find the ice house itself, follow the trail out of the woods and onto Avenue Road. Turn left and walk past the woodland until it opens up to a field. Take a left, and reenter the woodland, heading down a few steps. The ice house is just on your left within the bank. The door is locked but the small slot in the door allows the now resident bats to fly in and out of their roost.
Continue along Avenue Road with the Avenue on your right and passing the field with the mound on your left (known as Green Close Field). Head straight on to Hall field which is on your left and lies in front of the Hall ruin. Turn right at the end of the Avenue, following the road.
Green Close Field & the Hall
Green Close Field is quite distinctive with its mound in the the middle. This mound was likely to have been a water feature or fountain as part of the original garden design. Now the field is used mostly for events, picnics and sport activities. The next field along lies in front of the Hall. This field is classed as a SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest), indicating its importance for wildlife. Its full of wildflowers through the spring and summer and turns into a haven for rare and unusual fungi in the autumn. You can follow the track towards the Hall to get a closer look at the ruin. Historically, there was a third floor and the right hand side of the building was a later extension. But look closer and you will start to see evidence that tells stories. Through the windows you can see grand fire places that would once have warmed this family home, but it also contained the rooms and cupboards where Mary Elearor was held captive by her tyrant husband, Andrew 'Stoney' Bowes, who forbid her the enjoyment of being among her treasured plants as he gambled and sold off much of the estate. Spot the bullet holes across the sundial where soldiers used the Hall as target practice during the Second World War. The Hall lost its roof as the estate fell into decline and the remaining family descendants moved into other properties. The Trust is seeking funding to make the Hall accessible once again, but it will never be back to its former glory.
Before heading up the Avenue Road, glance to your left and you should see the Column to Liberty towering above the tree tops. Continue up the road that winds its way between historic yew trees, until it emerges at the top with a grassy lawn on your right in front of the Stables. At the top of the hill at the T-junction, turn right towards the Stables.
The Hollow Walk
At the end of the Avenue, you look across the Hollow Walk to see the Column. The Hollow Walk was part of the historic garden design, creating a deceptive view from the other end of the Avenue towards the Column, making the levelled grassy Avenue look like a seamless link to the Column in the distance. This dip is now home to a range of wildlife and its always worth a look in the dip to see if there are deer grazing or badgers playing.
Follow the road towards the Stables and take the opportunity for a welcome break if needed. When you are ready to continue, head up the hill away from the Stables, back into the woodland. After about 100m, take the path into the woods on the left, just after passing the Woodland Bothy (on your right).
The side facade of the Stables that you see as you emerge form the Yew trees, shows the grand side of the Stables. George Bowes had this side designed specifically for this purpose - grandeur, as the original entrance to Gibside heads down through Snipes Dene. The Stables would have been the first glimpse visitors would have had of a Gibside building and George wanted it to show off his wealth, and make it not look like a Stables. Head into the Stables courtyard to take shelter from the weather, rest weary legs, or grab a snack or drink from Carriage House Coffee Shop. Toilets and baby change facilities are also here. The Stables is also home to Creative Studios (part of The Branch initiative - an opportunity for local creative artisans to develop their business within the grounds of the estate). Check out which of the businesses are in to see if there are any goodies you want to treat yourself too - art work, photography or handmade soaps!
Follow this roughly surfaced track through the woods, where it will emerge beside the Octagon Pond. The path becomes grass, and venture around the pond (on your right). Look up the slope to see the historic banqueting House, or turn with the House behind you to see a lovely view across the Derwent Valley. Continue on with the pond to your right, passing under the cypress tree, towards the road. Turn right and then immediate left back into the woodland.
Octagon Pond & Banqueting House
The Octagon Pond was part of the garden design, creating a regimented eight sided water feature. Now the pond edges are hidden behind the reeds and rushes that provide a home to a wide range of aquatic species, including more great crested newts. It would have had a fountain, and the slopes leading up to the Banqueting House would have been terraced with statues. The Gothic style Banqueting House would have been the venue of many a Georgian feast or party. It is now a holiday cottage managed by the Landmark Trust, separate to the National Trust estate.
As you wander through the woodland, notice the bird hide on your left. The path follows the boundary of the field also on your left (Brick Kiln Field). Walk straight ahead, then at the next path junction turn left, and after a few hundred meters of weaving through the trees, take another left after you have passed the edge of the field.
Brick Kiln Field
The name of this field gives its historic use away. Large amounts of clay were found on the Gibside estate and much of it was dug up and used to make bricks that were eventually laid building the Walled Garden. The Bird Hide looks out across the field. Pop in and see what birds you can spot on the feeders or hiding among the grassy meadow.
Emerge from the woods to see the Column to Liberty sitting in a clearing, towering above your head to a height of 194ft. You can wander around the base of the Column and take in the views over the bushes along the Avenue or down the slope to the Lily Pond. When you are ready to resume the walk, return to the side of the Column with the grassy glade towards the field and find the path entering the woods again on your right. Continue down through the woodland until it emerges out the wood onto the road.
Column To Liberty
The Column was commissioned by George Bowes as part of the garden design to show his support for the political Whig party. In its time it was the second tallest monument in the country, pipped only by Nelson's Column in London. Gibside's Column is an icon in the Derwent Valley today, seen by many for miles around.
The trail takes a left turn as you come out of the woods. However, before continuing on your way and heading up the hill, walk straight ahead across the road to the grassy area. Notice to your right a grassy mound - the top of it is a central point in the garden design giving a four way view or vista - across the Hollow walk along the Avenue to the Chapel, down the hill to the bottom of Snipes Dene and the Lily pond, back across the tree tops to the Column and up the hill to views of the Banqueting House. When you're ready, get back on the trail. Start to walk up the hill, but before reaching the slope, take the path on the right that cuts across the Hollow Walk. This path rejoins you to the road below the yew trees. At this point, turn right and walk back to the end of the Avenue.
Head up the grassy slope to wander along the grassed Avenue under the trees. (If you need a surfaced route, then you can always stick to the road). You will see the Hall, Green Close Field this time on your right, and Park Fields, usually full of sheep and cows on your left. Head straight on towards the Chapel, and to keep to the trail walk on the left hand side to walk down the gravel path, turn right behind the Chapel and finish your walk as the path reenters Market Place. Time to rewards yourself with a cuppa or treat from the cafe or shop before heading off on your next adventure.
Avenue & Chapel
The Avenue extends for half a mile, a grassy route under over 200 trees, including lime, oak and sycamore. Ironically, even though this is one of the most popular places for visitors, the trees were not part of the original design. The trees were planted at a later date to George's residence, blocking the clear views that would have existed form the Hall across to the livestock in Park Fields. There wouldn't have been any fences either, as the ditch, known as a HaHa, that runs along the length of the Avenue on the eastern side would have prevent livestock from venturing onto the Avenue. The Chapel is also worthy of a visit at the end of your walk. Its Palladian architecture is full of careful detail with ornate bows and oakleaves carved into the stone work. its unusual three-tier pulpit is also a key and rather rare feature of a Chapel in the style.
Gibside car park, grid ref: NZ172583
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