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Things to see in the gardens at Nostell

The rose garden at Nostell covered in a hard frost
The frost brings a new sparkle and beauty to the rose garden | © Nick Singleton

Pause for a while and enjoy the sound of birdsong and the seasonal blooms in the gardens at Nostell. Take a stroll by the lake, explore the woodland play area or see what's growing in the kitchen garden.

The gardens in winter

The snowdrops pop their heads up from early January and can be seen in clumps the kitchen garden and in swathes in the ancient woodland. The snowdrops are joined by carpets of stunning yellow winter aconite and the bright yellow blooms of the witch hazel trees.

The first burst of colour to be seen in the gardens will be the rosy-pink blooms of the winter cyclamen in early February.

Spent flowers in the herbaceous borders are left with their seed heads attached for sculptural interest and to provide food for foraging birds as well as shelter for insects over winter. These look particularly beautiful when covered in a hard winter frost.

A wander through the gardens might be accompanied by the drumming of woodpeckers, and the bird watchers among you might spy the chestnut streaks of fieldfares, making their temporary homes at Nostell to escape the harsh cold of Scandinavia.

As the leaves thin on the trees, woodland birds become easier to spot, keep an eye out for nuthatches, coal tits, jays and redwings. Wigeon can often be seen on the middle and lower lake – the brightly coloured males are popular with bird spotters and photographers.

Wander down to the lake on a misty day to visit the resident swans and experience the still beauty the water.

Early signs of spring in the gardens

From the beginning of January you will spot the very first snowdrops appearing in the gardens followed by bright yellow winter aconite

Close up of snowdrops in the gardens at Nostell
snowdrops gently nodding their heads in the breeze | © Paul C Dunn

Snowdrops in the gardens at Nostell

These pint-sized milky blooms appear in increasing numbers every year throughout the gardens and ancient woodland.

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A family look out over the frosty lake at Nostell in Winter
The stillness of Winter on the Middle Lake | © Nick Singleton

Rose garden and orangery

Beside the cool white walls of the orangery, you'll find plenty of places to pause and enjoy this tranquil space. Look out for the spectacular climbing 'Iceberg' rose which spans the entire length of the 100-metre red-brick wall leading along to the orchard and Rhubarb Row.

You'll also find the rose garden fountain, a witness to tales from generations past and a vessel for coins cast in search of wishes, now catching the light on bright sunny days.

Frost covered rose in the Kitchen Garden at Nostell in Winter
An early frost catches the final blooms of the season in the kitchen garden | © Nick Singleton Photography

Kitchen garden and orchard

Nostell’s working kitchen garden is lovingly tended to by the garden team who look after more than 100 crops in the peaceful walled garden.

The growing espalier of rare heritage pear trees bordering the orchard's wildflower paths and peaceful benches are inspired by the original Georgian grand plans by garden designer and author of The Practical Fruit Gardener, Stephen Switzer.

It realises part of Switzer's 1731 blueprint never previously liberated from the drawing board, in part due to a change in fashion towards a more natural landscaping approach. The team now use carefully sourced rare plants nurtured in the national Plant Conservation Centre.

Child playing on a wooden bridge in the playground at Nostell
Fun and adventures in the woodland play area | © NTI Images / Annapurna Mellor

Woodland adventure play area

Turn left as you enter the gardens and head on past the kitchen garden to discover the woodland adventure play area which is great for a wide range of ages. Little ones will enjoy the slide, swings and spinning cups. The wobble bridges, and zip-wire and Queen swing are loved by children of all ages.

Menagerie garden

Through the gothic archway lies the historic menagerie garden, within stone walls and beneath a woodland canopy. The garden was created in 1743 and is still home to flora and fauna nurtured by past residents.

It bears traces of the animals who once lived within yards of humans in the now abandoned menagerie house, designed by Robert Adam, and on a quiet morning you can almost hear the distant chatter of monkeys, colourful birds and the roar of the famous lioness.

This area is not currently accessible due to dam repair work.

Pleasure Gardens

Sweet chestnuts and oaks form a natural guard of honour for those enjoying a leisurely stroll along the pleasure ground’s circular pathway in the footsteps of the Victorians and Georgians, who would have also seen the Lower Lake sparkling like a jewel on the near horizon.

Behind the Walls - Apothecary Trail

Sabine Winn (1734-1798) was the daughter of a French-Swiss family, who married Rowland Winn, later 5th Baronet and master of Nostell.

Sabine had a keen interest in herbal remedies, medicinal foodstuffs, and cosmetics. In her time at Nostell, she is likely to have used the gardens as a source for natural ingredients for her own recipes and those inherited from her predecessors. She also used the gardens as a place for escape and solace and for her own mental wellbeing.

Designs were in place for a drug room in the stables and an apothecary garden but, unfortunately for Sabine, this work was never completed.

As you meander through the gardens, look out for labels next to some of the herbal plants and discover their medicinal uses.

The exterior of the mansion at Nostell Priory and Parkland on a damp day in winter

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