A Secret Garden tour of England

Embark on a blossom-filled adventure in England to mark the 2020 reboot of the classic 1990s film, The Secret Garden - starring British actors Colin Firth and Julie Walters. Due for release soon, if you’re a fan of the film or the original 1911 novel, you can plan to find your own secret garden on a blooming marvellous four-day garden tour of England…

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Kent

Step into the garden of England
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Walmer Castle and Gardens

Credit to VisitBritan/Pete Seaward, Hever Castle. A view of the castle and a couple standing on the bridge

Known as the ‘Garden of England’, Kent is the ideal place to start a green and glorious tour of England’s gardens. From London, plan to jump on a train to the tranquil county and discover a world of green spaces fit for a queen… or in this case, the Queen Mother! Dream of exploring the exquisite Walmer Castle and Gardens, a charming historic house with fantastic outside spaces including an impressive kitchen garden, a dramatic yew-lined Broadwalk and the perfectly pruned Queen Mother’s Garden. Gifted to Her Royal Highness in 1997 to celebrate her 95th birthday, a long pool guides the eye along the horticultural haven, allowing you to soak up the air of tranquillity once enjoyed by the Queen Mother herself.

Staying in the charming county of Kent, if you’re longing to walk amongst beautiful blooms you can dream of visiting one of the most famous gardens in England, National Trust’s Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Created by poet Vita Sackville-West and her author husband Harold Nicolson, this Grade-I listed historic garden is bursting with floral colour, charm and majesty. From walking through the rose garden to exploring the Moat Walk or enjoying the vibrant purple border, there’s plenty for you to add to your must-see list.

Alternatively, green-fingered travellers can chose between a range of other historic gardens to extend their itinerary, including Leeds Castle, Penshurst Place and Gardens, and Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home.

Booking information: Although some indoor areas of Leeds Castle remain closed, all outdoor spaces are open. Walmer Castle and Gardens, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Penhurst Place and Hever Castle are now fully open, with the latter two attractions re-opening under the We’re Good To Go standard. Pre-booking is required for all properties. All National Trust property tickets are currently released on Friday for the following week. 

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Surrey

Enjoy a picture-perfect picnic
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RHS Garden Wisley
Fountain in the Country Garden at RHS Wisley, Surrey, England

Just over an hour’s drive from Kent, you can add another British horticultural hotspot to your bloom-filled itinerary. Located in the lush county of Surrey, plan a visit to RHS Garden Wisley for a chance to wander around one of the largest plant collections in the world, alongside a canal-side wisteria walk, picturesque cottage garden, traditional glasshouse and stunning orchard.

Those wanting to spend extra time soaking up the flora and fauna of Surrey can envisage themselves visiting The Savill Garden. This expansive collection of seasonally designed outdoor delights and stunning woodland are full of rare plants and colourful blooms, making it a must-see for any horticulturalist or those searching for the picture-perfect picnic spot.

If you want to extend your itinerary to include a piece of gardening history in the blossom-filled county of Surrey, you can schedule a visit to National Trust’s Claremont Landscape Garden. Designed in the 18th century, this Grade-I listed outdoor haven is one of the earliest surviving examples of the English Landscape Garden, which showcases the informal beauty of nature. Plan a tranquil stroll through this historic open space, admiring the charming lake and fascinating turf amphitheatre, designed by Charles Bridgeman.

Booking information: Please note that booking a time slot to visit RHS Garden Wisley, Savill Garden (pre-paid tickets only) and Claremont Landscape Garden is essential.

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Wiltshire

Discover a countryside estate
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Iford Manor Estate

Fans of The Secret Garden will relish the chance to explore one of the movie's main filming locations - the stunning gardens on the Iford Manor Estate, located just over 90 minutes’ drive from Surrey. Nestled within the sweeping Cotswolds countryside, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can easily imagine losing yourself while strolling through the Grade I-listed outdoor oasis, marvelling at the romantic Italianate garden, sculptures and terraces.

If you want to absorb more of Wiltshire’s gardening gems, you can include a stop at the renowned 18th century National Trust Stourhead on their Secret Garden tour. Admire the neo-classical temples, reflected in the calming lake waters, explore the grottos hidden among a selection of beautiful trees, and enjoy a mindful stroll through the world-famous landscape garden.

Staying in the south-west county of Wiltshire, a garden tour of England could be extended to visit the exquisite Abbey House Gardens. A stunning five-acre floral oasis nestled beside a 12th century abbey and the peaceful River Avon, this is a garden that boasts perfectly shaped topiaries, romantic arbour tunnels and a collection of vibrant seasonal trees. Currently hosting a sculpture exhibition until 31 October 2020 that is packed with intriguing works, this is a space where nature, history and art unite.

Wiltshire is also home to one of Capability Brown’s famous landscape gardens, Bowood House and Gardens. The sweeping outdoor design includes award-winning walled gardens, an Italianate terrace and an arboretum containing more than 700 species of trees. Don’t miss the site’s magical Woodland Gardens either, which offer 30 acres of spectacular colour when they open for six weeks during the flowering season.  

Booking information: Stourhead Gardens and Bowood House and Gardens require pre-booking. Iford Manor Estate is closed for restoration but will reopen in April 2021. There is no need to pre-book tickets for Abbey House Garden.

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York

Find your very own secret garden
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Helmsley Walled Garden
Credit to Helmsley Walled Garden,York. Bright flowers on hot border in Summer. Secret Garden film location.

If you’re keen to soak up additional Secret Garden experiences, you can extend your dream trip by jumping on a train to the north of England. With travel taking approximately four and a half hours to York, this leg of our great horticultural tour will take visitors to another key filming location, Helmsley Walled Garden.

Built in 1759 and nestled in the heart of Yorkshire, the original setting for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s enchanting novel, this five-acre garden sits below the beautiful ruins of Helmsley Castle. Here, you can enjoy the traditional glasshouses, embark in a spot of mindfulness in the Garden of Contemplation or explore the edible flower garden.

Less than half an hour’s drive from York, you can dream of spending the day soaking up the floral splendour of National Trust property, Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens. Stroll through luscious Edwardian borders, be captivated by bursts of colour from the walled, Mediterranean and American gardens all-year round or enjoy a soothing riverside and woodland walk that surrounds the formal gardens.

Longing to explore more of Yorkshire’s natural charms? Add a visit to Scampston Walled Garden to your list. The charming venue combines wonderfully innovative, contemporary design elements from renowned Dutch landscape gardener Piet Oudolf within the original kitchen garden walls, adjacent to the stunning 18th century Capability Brown parkland – a fascinating juxtaposition of modern and historic gardening in Britain.

A bucket-list destination for many, Harrogate is home to another unmissable Yorkshire garden, RHS Garden Harlow Carr. Nestled in the quaint northern countryside, if you’re chasing your next flower-fix you can imagine yourself ambling through the therapeutic Lakeside Gardens, marvelling at the Queen Mother’s Lake and breathing in the glorious aroma of the Scented Foliage Gardens.

Booking information: Helmsley Walled Garden, RHS Garden Harlow Carr and Beningbrough Hall and Gardens require pre-booking for entry. Pre-booking is not essential for Scampston Walled Garden, which is open Thursday-Sunday.

23 Sep 2020(last updated)

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