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The 8 best places to see blossom this spring

Spring has sprung and it’s time to get outdoors! Read on for our guide on which local National Trust gardens to visit with friends and family to enjoy this season’s most spectacular blooms.

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Have you looked outside lately? Nature’s been giving herself a glow-up after the cold winter months and Spring is shaping up nicely across Berkshire, thanks very much!

Most of us will be planning time outside with friends and family in the next month or with that in mind, the National Trust has just launched a nationwide #BlossomWatch campaign to celebrate the blossom and blooms of the new season, and to encourage us to enjoy them while they’re here. Happily this means your walks will be eminently instagrammable, so do your grid a favour and post your images on social using #BlossomWatch.

So how do you make the most the the National Trust’s gardens near you? Easy peasy! I’ve channelled my inner Charlie Dimmock (don’t worry, I’m wearing a bra) and rounded up where to catch the apple and cherry blossom, wisteria, bluebells and tulips across Berkshire, so you can have blooming lovely day out.

BASILDON PARK, LOWER BASILDON

Basildon Park spring garden Hugh Mothersole
Image: National Trust/ Hugh Mothersole

Basildon Park has period drama in spades and not just because it has starred in Pride and Prejudice, The Duchess, Marie-Antoinette, Dorian Grey and Downton Abbey. The views are jaw-dropping, the house is small-scale grand, and the gardens and grounds perfectly reflect each season. There’s an informality to Basildon Park that I absolutely love. Kids love the play areas and fun activities on woodland walks to distract them from their step count. The ancient copper beech in front of the house is also perfect for a picnic or coffee break.

In spring cheery buttercups, bluebells and daffodils cover the parkland, while summer brings out the beautiful orchids. With four way-marked paths – with options for little legs and buggies – keep your eyes peeled for the violets, cowslip, cherry blossom and primroses in the wild.

Muddy tip: Basildon’s back garden is pretty dinky by stately home standards, but find the thatched Umbrello and you’ll be rewarded with a display of seasonal blooms with the most incredible fragrance. Wander a bit further and you’ll discover a sea of natural bluebells, so grab a photo while you can.

CLIVEDEN, TAPLOW

daffodils cliveden House national trust Gilded Gardens
Blenheim Pavillion, Cliveden

There’s nothing prettier than Cliveden during the blooming gorgeous months of spring and summer. The carpets of daffodils are everywhere, but they look particularly lush around the Blenheim Pavilion at the end of the Long Garden.

Away from the formality of the Cliveden House is the mid-19th century ornamental Round Garden orchard – a series of arches, forming tunnels off blossom in spring. The white blossom of the pears comes out first in March, followed by the apples, with white flowers and pink centres. The woods are also a wonderland of cowslips, snowy wood anemones and dog violets. I love the perfection of the gardens, but it’s the unbuttoned wilder parts that deliver the magic here.

No visit to Cliveden is complete without seeing the show-stopping six acre south parterre. Do it for the gardening team who have planted 30,000 spring bedding plants and bulbs of pansies, wallflowers and heirloom daffodils. It’s a tradition in our house to roll down the slope of the parterre, so give it a go (it’ll take years off you).

Head gardener’s tip: It’s hard to match the glamour of Cliveden House, but we try. The oriental inspired Water Garden comes alive in the spring with clouds of dusky pink blossom and creamy-white magnolias. This year we’ve planted 2,000 pale blue Camassia to make this garden even more gorgeous. With a bit of luck they should bloom in May.

WINTER HILL & COCK MARSH, COOKHAM

Cookham and cock marsh NT wildflowers
Winter Hill, Cookham

It’s a pick-and-mix of beautiful Berkshire countryside, Cock Marsh is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, so no shortage of wildlife or livestock on this expanse of common land. Winter Hill – about half a mile south west of Cock Marsh, two miles northeast of Cookham Dean Common car park – is your destination for an explosion of wildflowers and the money shot is a view across the Buckinghamshire border. Keep your eye out for several species of orchid, rock roses, thyme and a small, rare plant called brown galingale. It’s one of only 12 sites in the UK where it can be found and grows on the edges of freshwater ponds and flourishes when grazing animals disturb the ground.

Muddy’s tip: Take a break from the flowers and check out the four circular Bronze Age burial mounds. Their size has diminished over the centuries but the largest one is still very visible and is the last resting of a local chief’s family.

SIMON’S WOOD , FINCHAMPSTEAD

Heath Pond Simon's Wood Finchampstead Berkshire
Heath Pool, Finchampstead

Finchampstead Ridges, nestled in southern Berkshire, has been in the care of the National Trust for over 100 years. Simon’s Wood, with its avenue of redwood Sequoia trees (known as Wellingtonia Avenue) is a beaut. Blooms are rustic, woodland varieties, such as wild cherry trees. The show stopping colour here is the wild pinky purple flowers of the rhododendron. It’s an aggressive plant that needs to be managed to help some of of the smaller flowers and foliage enjoy 15 minutes of fame. A carpet of bluebells and the delicate white flowers of stitchwort and wild garlic appear in spring.

Muddy top tip: Take the Centenary Trail – wooden arrows will show you the way – through Simon’s Wood to Heath Pool. It’s a large pond with wonderful lily pads and a small island in the middle which is home to resident ducks and geese.

SANDHAM MEMORIAL CHAPEL, BURGHCLERE

Tree blossom at Sandown Memorial Chapel National Trust
© National Trust Images Hugh Mothersole

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Hampshire countryside (a smidge outside Newbury), Sandham Memorial chapel is a tranquil, spiritual place with a pretty cottage-style garden. Designed as a place of reflection and peace, there are plenty of places to sit and take in the beautiful spring blooms.

Primulas and tulips provide splashes of bright colour, contrasting with soft ornamental grasses, aquilegia, honeysuckle and lavender to create a tranquil haven for contemplation and relaxation. In the orchard, the long grass is scattered with wild flowers.

Fronting the chapel, Sandham’s orchard of historic apple tree varieties burst into soft pink and white blooms. Look out for spring wildflowers in the long grass and at the base of the hedges surrounding the orchard like pink ragged robin, lilac snakeshead fritillary and yellow cowslip. Behind the chapel, young crab apple trees covered in tiny white bunches of spring blossom line the path through the garden.

Muddy tip: There’s no café here but it’s a great place to bring a picnic. Pick a bench in the orchard and enjoy it under the beautiful blossom trees. Quiet contemplation is the order of the day, so it’s a good place to sneak off to on a Thursday or Friday when the kids are at school.

RUNNYMEDE, NEAR OLD WINDSOR

If you think Runnymede is all about ancient memorials commemorating the sealing of Magna Carta, think again. This historic site – some say it’s where King Henry proposed to Anne Boleyn – is made up of wonderful meadows that also produce lovely wildflower displays during the springtime. Head to Cooper’s Hill Woods, the protected oak and ash woodland, where bluebells, lesser celandines, dog’s mercury and wood anemones create a magical scene.

Langham Pond is brimming with spring flora – wildflowers, bullrushes and reeds – but look closely and there’s also fauna to be seen from frogspawn and tadpoles to goslings, cygnets and ducklings. In late spring, damselfies and butterflies also flit among the wildflowers.

Muddy tip: It’s not a bad idea to wear wellies or sturdy shoes when you visit Runnymede. After a few rainy days the meadows can become a bit sloshy – They’re not called water meadows for nothing… and you know what they say about spring showers.

GREYS COURT, HENLEY

Elizabethan estate Greys Court on the outskirts of Henley is an absolute gem, especially if you have kids in tow. The walled gardens are magical, linked by winding paths and edged with neatly clipped topiary and espalier fruit trees. The cherry garden is being restored this spring with a new path to create a tunnel of blossom trees for next spring. The ‘wisteria room’ is an intimate courtyard containing a vast gnarly wisteria that is over 100 years old – keep an eye on the property’s social media for ‘wisteria watch’ if you want to catch it flowering around May – it’s absolutely knockout.

The orchard’s miniature pear and apple trees blossom in late spring whilst the scented crab apple tunnel flowers, creating a sensory delight. Alongside these, the beds are stuffed full of daffodils and tulips popping up between the emerging perennials. 

Muddy’s tip: Make sure you see the bluebells in the Spinney Woods – it’s an easy walk for kids and totally magical, my children still talk about it and we went pre-Covid! Just remember to keep those stompy feet on the path to save the delicate flowers from being trampled. Reluctant walkers can be cajoled along with the reward of a hot chocolate at the Cowshed café.

THE VYNE, NR BASINGSTOKE

Daffodils at The Vyne National Trust Hampshire
© National Trust Images, Rachael Warren

A stunning, 500 year-old Tudor manor house-turned-family home, the Vyne is one of the largest properties in Hampshire, originally built for Lord Sandys, Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain.

One of the best spots for spring blossom watching is in the Vyne’s traditional orchard. Some of the 20 or so heritage varieties of apple, pear and plum trees have fabulous old names, like Frogmore Prolific. In late spring, the trees reveal tight clusters of cream and pink flowers, which attract lots of butterflies and bees.

In the historic walled garden, clusters of white flowers appear on fruit trees decoratively trained against the old wall. Wander down the path to the wild garden where little ‘bird’ cherry trees produce displays of almond-scented white blossom.

In the Vyne’s summerhouse garden, pastel-pink and lilac Virginia stocks bob their spring flowers in the breeze beside striking orange crown imperials.

Flop into a deckchair and take in historic views across the lake to the ancient parkland and woods beyond. Family-friendly tracks are signposted through the woods, so everyone can enjoy a little bit of bluebell magic when they start to appear here in early May.

Senior gardener’s tip: In spring, we let the grass grow long but mow a path through the orchard for people to wander along. When the weather is fair, it’s a lovely place to relax with a picnic. Walk down towards the wild garden where you’ll find little ‘bird cherry’ trees covered in fragrant, almond-scented white blossom.

Note: From 25 April, visits to The Vyne must be pre-booked. From late May The Vyne will be closed on weekdays for essential infrastructure works for three or four weeks. Please check the website for updates.

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