Festival celebrates the humble snowdrop

Chestnut Farm, West Beckham

Chestnut Farm, West Beckham - Credit: Colin Finch

Four Norfolk gardens are set to take part in the first ever Snowdrop Festival organised by The National Gardens Scheme.

The snowdrops in the grounds of Raveningham Hall.Photo: Nick ButcherCopy: For: BBJ /EDPArchant © 20

The snowdrops in the grounds of Raveningham Hall.Photo: Nick ButcherCopy: For: BBJ /EDPArchant © 2010(01603) 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2009

The gardens in Horstead, East Rudham, West Beckham and Raveningham will join more than 100 other gardens opening across England and Wales through the months of February and into early March, giving visitors the opportunity to see veritable carpets of beautiful snowdrops and watch spring slowly unfurl from winter.

Supported by Visit England, the Snowdrop Festival will kick-off Visit England's Year of the English Garden 2016 campaign.

In Norfolk the festival gets underway with Mathew and Caroline Fleming's magnificent garden at Horstead House in Mill Road, Horstead, where there is a walk alongside the river through millions of snowdrops. The garden opens on Saturday February 20 from 11am to 4pm, admission is £4 with free entry for children. Homemade teas available.

On Sunday February 21, on the otherside of the county is Bagthorpe Hall, near East Rudham, with masses of snowdrops along a scenic walks. Delicious warming soup made from vegetables grown on the estate farm will be available after your winter walk. The gardens are open from 11am to 4pm and admission is £4, children free.

On March 3 and 6 there are over 80 varieties of snowdrops to grab your attention at Chestnut Farm in West Beckham, near Holt. Here there will also be plenty of other late winter flowers to admire with some heavenly scented shrubs. Owners John and Judy McNeil Wilson have over 50 years of gardening expertise and are always keen to share their knowledge with visitors. The gardens are open from 11 to 4pm, admission is £5 with children free. Refreshments will be available.

Also on Sunday March 6 the president of The Royal Horticultural Society, Sir Nicholas Bacon, is opening his garden at Raveningham Hall, near Norwich. There will be plenty of snowdrops on display in this renowned country house garden. The gardens are open from 11am to 4pm, admission is £5 with children free and home-made teas available.

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Graham Watts, spokesman for Norfolk NGS, said the recent mild weather should not affect the schedule too much.

'If we continue to get the current mild conditions then the snowdrops will be about a week or two earlier at the most,' he said.

'Because there are quite a few different species and varieties some are early and others late season so I anticipate plenty for people to see when our gardens are open.

'They are also long flowering so can remain in flower for up to four weeks so all should be well.

'Looking at the weather forecast for the next week we are due to have much colder conditions and frosty nights so that will stop them in their tracks.'

Visitors to Snowdrop Festival gardens will also have the benefit of knowing that their entrance fee is supporting good causes - the National Gardens Scheme currently donates over £2.6 million annually to its nursing and caring beneficiary charities, which include Marie Curie and Carers Trust.

* Details of all NGS gardens opening for the Snowdrop Festival can be found on the NGS website: www.ngs.org.uk where the 2016 edition of Gardens to Visit (formerly called the Yellow Book) is also available to buy.

* Are you opening your garden for charity? email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk

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