Barnsdale Gardens

2 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2015

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Percy Thrower might have been slightly more famous, but Geoff Hamilton was by far the longest serving presenter of BBC’s Gardeners World. He brought his own initimable style of knowledge, modesty and gentle humour to the show for 17 years before his untimely death in 1996. And it was Hamilton who had the show relocated to his own garden, Barnsdale, to bring a touch of realism to the show.

Barnsdale isn’t small, by private garden standards it’s huge. But for the purposes of the show its 8 acres needed to be split into numerous ‘rooms’ which survive to this day and obviously that makes each one of modest size. Indeed continuity is maintained because Geoff’s son, Nick, now tends the garden and is equally passionate about organic and eco friendly practices.

To give an idea of perspective , Barnsdale has a rose garden containing 50 species, David Austin’s Albrighton base contains some 700 varieties. You simply can’t expect national collections when you have the level of diversity exhibited in the Hamilton plots. That diversity is what gives it its appeal though. You have an informal stream and bog garden AS WELL AS a formal pool. Then there’s one dedicated to attracting wildlife. All variations on a theme. Three different cottage gardens and allotments as well as a kitchen garden. Core ideas given a different slant and put together with adaptations so the visitor gets a whole host of experiences and ideas.

The staff know their onions, and not just in the aforementioned allotment. They’re part of the attraction of Barnsdale and will willingly take time out to identify plants or suggest solutions to customer’s problems.

A perennial, no pun intended, complaint of mine is why we can’t picnic in many of our finest gardens these days. Yet again there’s a warning not to bring in your own food or drink and that undermines the enjoyment for me. Why wouldn’t you want to find a lovely spot in the Mediterranean or Japanese oasis and sip a fresh orange in the sunshine. Or take in the delicious scent of those cottagy plots while tucking into a plate of dainty salmon sandwiches. I understand the litter argument but wonder if organisations hide behind this to exploit the captive audience. It seems many share my dismay that reasonably priced and nutritious refreshments SERVED QUICKLY are simply not widely available these days.

That isn’t to detract from the Barnsdale concept which is unique, interesting, educational and enjoyable. You can’t fail to learn a lot from an afternoon here, ideas you can take away to improve your own, presumably, much more modest plots. And admission charges are reasonable, £7.50 for an adult, £6.50 for concessions and a very acceptable £3.50 for children. I would imagine the latter would fit in very well with Geoff Hamilton’s philosophy of opening up this marvellous hobby to as many new people as possible.

Another mighty plus point for lovers of the outdoor life has to be the location of Barnsdale. Rutland Water is a stone’s throw away and an excellent opportunity to stretch the legs, go on a cycle ride or even take to the water in a sail boat. At 13 square kilometres it’s also a bird lovers paradise and here you can definitely have a delicious picnic without fear of being admonished. I’m reliably informed the Trout fishing is pretty good and for those who just want to watch the world go by, the Rutland Belle does a beautiful and relaxing 45 minute tour of the reservoir.

A nice part of the world which offers these two great pastimes in very close proximity. You can fit them comfortably into a full day and Leicestershire is central for most people. I for one will be back.


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