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Visiting the gardens at Belton

A very frosty morning by Statue walk in the gardens at Belton House, Lincolnshire
The statue walk glistens on a winter's morning | © National Trust / Siobhán Scullion

Belton was designed to impress, and the garden reflects late seventeenth-century formality in keeping with the period of the mansion. Whatever time of year you visit, the shifting seasons provide a great variety of colour and wildlife to see.

Winter highlights in the Belton garden

So full of colour earlier in the year, the garden and parkland now take on a more stark beauty. The parkland offers pretty views of the house surrounded by winter colours and bracing walks through the woodland.

In the garden, frost-covered paths up to the frozen boating lake have a relaxing, almost magical, quality at this time of year. A shorter walk can take you around the mirror pond presided over by the tranquil figure of a white lady statue and a gnarled and twisted 250-year-old beech tree. The ‘eye-catcher’ stone temple provides a sheltered spot and wonderful reflections on a still day.

The sundial (the inspiration for Helen Cresswell’s book, Moondial) takes on the ethereal qualities that made it the perfect focal point of Cresswell’s mysterious tale.

The Italian Garden

Inspired by the 1st Earl’s Grand Tour of Italy, Sir Jeffry Wyatville was commissioned to design this sunken garden in the early nineteenth century. Successive Brownlow generations enhanced and enriched its plants and sculptures.

Before the First World War, Belton would have drawn on the services of some 30 gardeners, but country houses went into decline in the inter-war period and the Brownlow family significantly reduced the number of gardeners to allow for their changing financial priorities.

Over time the Italian Garden lost many of its important features. Belton’s garden team have worked from historic plans, photos and paintings to recreate the deep herbaceous borders running through the centre of the Italian Garden.

Changing with the seasons

The borders add colour and interest over the summer months. Colour remains in the Italian garden until late October with borders of Bishop of Llandaff and Bishop of York dahlias, and the rich autumn hues of Crataegus prunifolia trees. Winter is heralded with the appearance of berries on the garden’s yew topiary.

The Dutch Gardens at Belton in early morning mist
Early morning mist shrouds Belton's Dutch garden | © National Trust / Rika Gordon

The Conservatory and walled garden

Overlooking the Italian Garden, this protective environment is home to a collection of lush foliage and exotic blooms. Californian and Kentia Palms add texture and height. Pelargoniums frame a tranquil pool, serenely overlooked by Belton’s bather statue.

Designed by Jeffry Wyatville in 1810 and built in 1820, Belton’s Conservatory was crafted around a cast-iron sub-frame, making it the first garden building of its type in England.

In the walled garden behind the Conservatory, herbaceous borders of old-fashioned sweet peas and fragrant roses are a delight in the summer months.

The twelfth-century parish church of St Peter and St Paul, beside the Conservatory, is well worth a visit and belongs to the Lincoln Diocese.

The Dutch Garden

The 3rd Earl commissioned the Dutch Garden in the late nineteenth century. The garden takes its name from the layout of the colourful parterres divided by topiary-lined gravel paths and was inspired by Dutch design.

The sundial

One of Belton’s most popular views is from the sundial, looking back at the honey-coloured stone of the house and north terrace steps. This view featured as Lady Catherine de Burgh’s home, Rosings, in the 1995 BBC TV series of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Belton’s sundial was created by Caius Gabriel Cibber, a renowned sculptor of the period who also worked on St Paul’s Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace for Sir Christopher Wren. It was placed in the Dutch Garden by Sir John Brownlow some time between 1721 and 1754. Carved from limestone, the pedestal of the sundial shows Cronus, god of time and Eros, god of love.

The sundial is also a focus of nostalgia for lovers of Helen Creswell’s 1980’s book ‘Moondial’ and the BBC television drama that followed. The series, which tells the story of a young girl who discovers that the ‘moondial’ is in fact a portal to the past, was filmed almost entirely at Belton House.

Misty view of Belton House from the Dutch Gardens
A misty morning at Belton House | © National Trust / Rika Gordon

The Pleasure Grounds

Take a stroll along the Statue Walk to the generously sized oak bench inspired by an original design from the 1890s. There's plenty of room for groups and families to sit together for a photo opportunity.

Enjoy wonderful views over open parkland. Delight in the rustic glory of the East Avenue with its magnificent horse chestnut and lime trees. You might catch a fleeting glimpse of a majestic buck with a full set of antlers and gleaming coat. Listen out for the husky bark of a buck trying to catch the attention of the female does.

Enjoy the superb views of Bellmount Tower, then meander along winding wooded paths to the tranquil lakeshore. The fishing lodge makes a picture-perfect photo location, and on sunny days is a superb place for bird watching.

Head back towards the house along sheltered paths via the Mirror Pond and a variety of specimen trees including a weeping beech, a twisted willow, and magnificent cedars.

The deer herd at Belton in the frosty parkland

Discover more at Belton

Find out everything you need to know about visiting Belton, including how to get here, things to see and do on your visit, and more.

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