Spring watch! Where to see Berks blossom
Spring has sprung and it’s blooming lovely. Check out Berkshire's top spots to enjoy the Japanese Hanami tradition of blossom watching.
Judging by my machine gun fire of morning sneezes, spring has sprung. Sunny daffs are popping up on verges, bluebells are beginning to carpet our woodlands and the tree blossom is out out and ready for the seasonal Hanami – aka the Japanese custom of blossom watching.
Cherry blossom is almost always the floral headliner in Japan but there are plenty of other types of tree blossom in the UK to look out for. Fortunately, given that we’re keeping it local, you don’t need to venture far to find an abundance of beautiful blooms… just in time for Mother’s Day.
The Savill Gardens, Windsor Great Park
You can rely on the Queen to bring colour to the seasons – be it fashion or flora. The Savill Gardens on Windsor Great Park is a floral fantasy, with its superb seasonal and rare planting. Expect to see magnolia trees, hydrangeas, and Japanese cherry trees. But make sure your stroll passes the spectacular Heather Gardens and there’s plenty of bright, early blooms, including rhododendrons and Japanese camellia.
Eton College Chapel, Eton
Over the river from Windsor Castle is Eton – an historic village full of tail-coated schoolboys that oozes old world charm. At the far end of the high street you discover Eton College Chapel, built by Henry VI in 1440. If you get the chance to poke your nose inside the chapel, do. With the exception of St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle, it is one the grandest churches in Berkshire, which just happens to be surrounded by cherry tree blossom in spring.
Lily Hill Park, Bracknell
Lily Hill Park is an under the radar hangout with the largest picnic table in England. You’ll find this 56-acre area if heritage parkland and gardens just outside Bracknell and it’s like a generation game of al fresco loveliness. Check out the apple orchard full of Victorian species, the cherry blossom by the picnic table is particularly lovely and there’s an Edwardian Water Garden and a ‘ha-ha’ to amuse you too. It’s a popular film location, so keep your celeb-spotting radar on high alert.
Cliveden House, Taplow
Laid out in the mid-19th century, Cliveden‘s ornamental Round Garden orchard has a series of arches — forming tunnels across the diameter and around its edges — that have recently undergone restoration. It has now reached the stage where most of the apples and pears have grown over the arches, creating tunnels of blossom in spring. The white blossom of the pears comes out first in March, followed by the apples, with white flowers and pink centres. Elsewhere on the estate there are magnolias and ornamental cherries in the Water Garden. Gardens open daily, 9.30am-4.30pm; adult £10, child £5. Booking is essential.
Greys Court, Henley
The cobbled paths at Greys Court out the outskirts of Henley were specially designed to retain a carpet of delicate petals in their cracks and prevent the cherry blossom from being immediately trampled. There are small flowering fruit trees dotted all around the walled gardens, but it’s the crab apple arch that puts on a real show in spring, trained over hoops and entwined with clematis to create a scented flowery tunnel. Equally beautiful is the wisteria “room” in the walled garden that flowers each May. Gardens open daily, 10am-4pm; adult £8, child £4. Booking is essential.
Basildon Park, Lower Basildon
There’s an informality about Basildon Park that I absolutely love. The views are jaw-dropping, the house Is small-scale grand, and the gardens and grounds come alive in spring. Cheery buttercups and daffodils cover the parkland. With four way-marked paths to choose from, there’s plenty to catch your eye – violets, cowslip, cherry blossom and primroses. Open daily 10am-5pm, entry adult £10, kids £5. Booking is essential.
The Vyne, nr Basingstoke
The Vyne’s orchard features heritage plum, pear and apple trees with tiny cream and deep-pink flowers. In late Spring, the path through the Wild Garden is flanked by little cherry trees with delicate pale pink blossom. While you’re wandering the gorgeous grounds of the Tudor powerhouse, look out too for the variety of Spring daffodils. The beautiful blooms calmly bob their heads in the breezes that pass through the walled garden, summerhouse garden and wild garden.