National Gardens Scheme (Shropshire)
Shropshire is blessed with many beautiful gardens – from grand estates to exquisitely designed town gardens – and many are open for charity as part of the National Gardens Scheme.
NGS is a charity, established in 1927, which raises funds for cancer and caring charities by private garden owners opening their garden gates to the public. In this way, Shropshire alone raised over £62,000 in 2015 contributing to a national total in excess of £2.6 million.
The Scheme is thriving in Shropshire with an array of the best gardens the county can offer. Some, such as the historic Walcot Hall Estate, in Lydbury North – one-time home to Clive of India – has been opening for the NGS since 1927; others, such as Guilden Down Cottage in nearby Clun, will be opening for the first time for NGS in 2016.
All of Shropshire’s NGS gardens have enthusiastic owners who welcome visitors to their garden and believe in the aims of the charity. NGS is run by a large band of volunteers ensuring that more than 90% of funds raised go directly to the charities that the Scheme supports, including Macmillan Cancer Care, Marie Curie, Hospices UK, The Carers’ Trust, Parkinson’s UK, the Queen’s Nursing Institute and a host of others. In 2016, the NGS will also be supporting the MS Society. NGS also works with the RHS and the National Trust to help fund the training of “heritage” gardens.
So what are the highlights of Shropshire’s NGS gardens?
There are gardens to suit every taste, interest and, importantly, budget. NGS Shropshire gardens charged between £3 and £6 for entry – usually free to children – making it an enjoyable and economical day out for all the family. With delicious home-made teas available plus the chance to purchase plants that you’ve seen growing in the garden, it is the perfect day out. Groups can also arrange private visits to gardens on an agreed date with the owner.
The extensive, grand estate at Millichope Park (Munslow) is open several times for NGS Shropshire from February for snowdrops, May & June for wildflowers and bluebells and September & October for beautiful autumn tree colours. Another of Shropshire’s estates, Longner Hall (Atcham), opens in early May, for its vast array of rhododendrons and azaleas, alongside the newly restored glasshouses and walled garden. Walcot Hall is also famed for its rhododendrons and arboretum, and how many gardens can claim a Russian Church within the grounds? Other smaller estates where visitors can wander to their heart’s content include The Citadel (Weston under Redcastle), May; Stanley Hall (Bridgnorth), May, and Goldstone Hall (nr Market Drayton) with its stunning hotel and grounds, complete with double herbaceous borders and expansive kitchen gardens, which opens from May to August.
But it is the smaller, private gardens in Shropshire that are the backbone of the Scheme. From April onwards, delightful spring gardens open for NGS: Edge Villa at Yockleton (which also holds a huge plant sale for NGS in June); the natural, plant-lovers garden at Avocet at Plealey; and the town garden at Westgate Villas in Bridgnorth with its oriental-style design and planting.
May, June and July are the busiest opening months with Brownhill House (Ruyton XI Towns) opening its steeply terraced garden overlooking the river; Lyndale House (Astley Abbots), Ruthall Manor (Ditton Priors), Ancoirean (Alveley) all within easy reach of Bridgnorth – are a delightful display of colourful planting and clever design. Plus in Bridgnorth itself, the terraced gardens at Bramble Ridge afford visitors lovely vistas across the Severn valley. The Croft (Ash Magna) opens many times for the NGS during the year, proving that gardens can be happy, family places where animals and plants live in harmony.
The nationally-acclaimed garden at Wollerton Hall (nr Market Drayton) with its artist’s palette of colourful planting has a special open day for NGS Shropshire in May, as does nearby Hodnet Hall which also opens to the public. Nearby Drayton Fields opened for the NGS last year to great acclaim. In the south of the county, Wollaston Lodge at Halfway (between Welshpool and Shrewsbury) opens its Italianate-style garden in June; Upper Shelderton House (Clungunford) opens its gates in May and August and Norton Farm, near Ludlow, opens in June and July. Two other delights in Ludlow are “The Secret Garden” – an amazing space in a terraced street where the garden has been ingeniously designed – and, in nearby Brimfield, Holmcroft with its delightful cottage-style garden surrounding this lovely thatched cottage.
Three other new gardens – at opposite ends of the county – as well as the new opening at Guilden Down Cottage in Clun - will be opening for the first time for the National Gardens Scheme in 2016: The Old Vicarage at Ash Magna, near Whitchurch and Sunningdale at Wem, both in the far north of the county; and in the very south of the county, Whistlewood, at Boraston, near Tenbury Wells will be opening for the Scheme.
Two groups of gardens will also be opening to visitors during the year: the historic Morville Hall gardens, including the well-known Dower House, are always a popular occasion for visitors in June; and in early July the villagers of Stottesdon (in the far east of the county) and the surrounding area will be opening their garden gates to visitors.
The delightful Windy Ridge at Little Wenlock on the outskirts of Telford, opens several times for NGS, is a lesson in strong design and exuberant planting. Shoothill House (Ford) with its long borders and rolling lawns opens in June to visitors as does the lovely walled estate nursery at Mynd Hardy Plants (Diddlebury) which also opens in from May to July. At the other end of the county, near Newport, Sambrook Manor will continue to delight visitors this year.
It is not only domestic gardens that open for NGS: the multi-award winning Bowbrook Allotment Community on the outskirts of Shrewsbury opens its gates to visitors in July proving that allotments can be enjoyable, people-led places which encourage wildlife alongside self-sufficiency.
There are set dates for NGS gardens to open or groups can arrange a private visit direct with the garden owner. There are some gardens that only open by arrangement, such as Preen Manor at Church Preen and Holly Cottage at Prolley Moor, near Wentnor will welcome groups on a date to suit all.
Whichever Shropshire garden you decide to visit this year, we can guarantee you a warm welcome and an enjoyable day, coupled with the satisfaction that you are raising money for important cancer and caring charities.
Thanks for your support!
More information: www.ngs.org.uk
The FREE NGS Shropshire leaflet is available at tourist centres, libraries, garden centres and many other locations around the county or by emailing above.
You can also download the 2016 Open Gardens leaflet here