The wildlife and garden at Gibside
- 03 March 2023
From peaceful strolls through the Walled Garden to walks along the winding river and wildlife spotting in the ancient woodlands.
A Georgian landscape garden
Gibside is a Georgian landscape garden, an early expression of the natural movement. Although some features like the tree-lined Avenue feel formal, the design of Gibside was inspired by Stephen Switzer's work, which moved away from formality and took on a naturalistic approach.
Eighteenth century landscape gardens were influenced by the liberalism of Whig politics and the idealism of classical art. They were designed to imitate nature, to arouse emotions with ‘wow’ moments and create a sensory experience in the individual.
As you roam around Gibside you'll witness this artificial naturalness, of the use of colour, light and shape; where meandering paths of dark foliage open to reveal spectacular vista views, and where architecture is highlighted by amphitheatres which surprise the wanderer on their journey.
What is growing in winter?
- The red of ripening holly berries against their deep green leaves provides festive colour in December.
- Catch a glimpse of the first, bold flowers of late winter. The bright white of snowdrops in the icehouse woods, the yellow of winter aconites and the spectrum of witch hazel hues remind us that Spring is on its way.
- Colour is not just about flowers and berries. Take a moment to notice the varied colours and textures of the bark and stems of dogwood, silver birch, maple and giant sequoia.
- Winter is a great time to appreciate the evergreen trees that form the structure of the Georgian landscape garden. Notice the ancient tree lines and the way they were planted intentionally to frame the views.
- Hardy vegetables like brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli taste sweeter as a result of the cold.
- The garden team plant bulbs in November and December that will create a rainbow of colour in spring. These include daffodils, tulips, cyclamen and alliums.
- The dormancy of winter allows the team to plan, mapping beds and borders and choosing which seeds to sow in the new year.
- Birds and small mammals rely on competitive food sources to survive the harsh weather. See tits and finches foraging from grasses, wildflowers and garden plants like echinacea, teasel and sunflowers.
- Predators must also compete for their next meal. Red kite and buzzard soar overhead and elusive fox, stoat, weasel and badger hunt through the night.
- Spot migratory birds in the fields and hedgerows. Winter visitors like waxwings can be seen feeding on rowan and hawthorn berries.
- Small birds, which in spring will be camouflaged by emerging leaves, are easier to see amongst bare branches. Try looking out for the iconic gold stripe of a goldcrest or cosy flocks of long-tailed tits.
Landscape garden tours
In the eighteenth century it was a popular pastime for the wealthy to tour around Britain on holiday, visiting stately homes and gardens. Gibside was a popular destination and George Bowes wanted to astound his guests with a fashionable garden.
Nowadays you can visualise the grandeur of Gibside by walking in the footsteps of George Bowes. Learn about the early expression of the natural movement and why landscape garden design was fashionable, find out more.
Enjoy garden tours? After your visit to Gibside, discover Crook Hall Gardens on a garden tour every Friday 11am and 1.30pm.
Spotting winter wildlife
At Gibside you'll find tree dwelling wildlife from birds and squirrels to hundred-legged insects. Get closer to the waters edge to spot otters and amphibian pondlife or look for signs of roe deer and nocturnal beasts like badgers and bats.
See and hear jays squabbling over acorns on the Avenue
Like squirrels, jays collect acorns and store them away for the cold winter days. Sometimes in the early mornings you might see roe deer eating the fallen acorns on the avenue too.
Gibside is a three pawprint rated place. There are 15 miles of paths for you and your dog to explore, lots of facilities and they’re even welcome inside the coffee shop.
Explore woodlands, meadows, wetlands and along the riverside, with estate highlights. You'll see nature at work and, if you are lucky, spot some wildlife at play.
As the weather gets warmer, there are some quite spectacular moments in store in gardens across the North East this spring. Discover wow moments set to lift your spirits, delicate, gentle blossom and colourful borders teeming with wildlife.