More than just a collection of rare trees, the National Arboretum at Westonbirt has an identity and atmosphere created by its maturity and immense variety. Changing in mood with the seasons, there is always something here to delight the senses in colour, shape and beauty.
Home to the Berkeley family for more than eight hundred years, Berkeley Castle towers above the River Severn, looking out towards the Welsh border which it was built to defend, its flag flying high. Around its walls lie the gardens where nuns lived in Saxon times, where Queen Elizabeth I walked in 1574, and where Edward Jenner pioneered the smallpox vaccine in 1796. Standing on the walls, and looking out across the lawn and meadows, this magical castle tells its own story
Sudeley Castle stands in a wide Cotswold valley, near the town of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, and the mellow golden castle is surrounded by green parkland, with richly wooded hills rising beyond. The situation is breathtaking, and the ancient castle and its gardens are a feast for any garden lover. It is in parts a living castle, in parts a romantic ruin, succeeding in bringing together both its history and its present. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn came in 1535, and Queen Elizabeth I visited several times. When the Queen arrived on 9 September 1592, she was greeted by ‘an olde Shepheard’ who gave her a lock of white wool representing her as the Virgin Queen, and symbolising the wool trade which was the principal strength of the Cotswold economy for centuries.
Colesbourne has been described by Country Life as ‘England’s greatest snowdrop garden’ and February is the time to visit. Here, these early harbingers of Spring spread in luxurious drifts through the mature woodland, carpeting the ground, highlighted by the sunlight through the trees. Spreading across the delightful Churn valley in the Cotswolds, this magnificent snowdrop collection was begun by Henry Elwes more than century ago. When he discovered Galanthus Elwesii and brought the first snowdrops back from western Turkey in 1874, it was the beginning of a passion which continues at Colesbourne today.
In the small Cotswold village of North Cerney, in the beautiful Churn Valley, up on a hillside above the church, Cerney House looks down over a sloping garden between wide herbaceous borders to a small pool. The driveway approaches the house and gardens from the front, allowing the arriving visitor a view of the lawns and mature trees, before walking around to begin the visit behind the house with the Victorian walled garden. Go through the acorn gates and the vista ahead is up a gently sloping wide path to a pretty gazebo. This garden is surrounded by mature beech woodland and orchards rising up the hillside on three sides, making it a secluded, secret place, tucked into the shelter of the little valley.