Dunham Massey: England’s largest Winter Garden

We mixed Boxing Day 2011 with a trip to the shops followed by a walk around Dunham Massey – it is one of the few National Trust gardens that remains open year round and it’s only 20 minutes’ drive from The Trafford Centre.

The Trafford Centre makes me laugh because it looks like someone threw every classical architectural idea in a pan and cooked up a version of ancient Greece crossed with Robert Adam on a LSD trip and thought that would make an attractive shopping experience.  If you haven’t been, Google it on Google Images and you’ll see what I mean.

Dunham Massey is another world away, although, as you can see below, no less busy on Boxing Day.  In fact, apart from the Chatsworth House Christmas Fayre which we went to in November 2011, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a busier historic house or garden.

Most of these folks you see didn’t seem to be there for the out of season attraction that Dunham Massey has been busy creating – the formal Winter Gardens – because there the paths were largely free for us to roam.

It was a slightly difference experience in the deer reserves, where families were venturing out for their annual ‘slice of nature’ after the post-Christmas indulgence.  Call me a cynic, but, for example, I don’t think the lady that we saw in thigh-high suede stiletto boots who was sinking into the mud frequents nature or National Trust houses much.

The team at Dunham Massey has spent the last few years creating a winter garden, full of foliage and flowering shrubs to give a visual experience beyond the autumn leaves.

We headed straight to the Winter Gardens and although it will look even better in late January/early February when the bulbs are flowering, here it is late December.

People kept stopping on this bend and I had to wait for ages to get a clear picture.  Only as I made the reached the turn myself did I see masses the lilac berries of the callicarpa bodinieri like caught my eye at the Oxford Botanic Gardens.  A certain crowd-pleaser it seems.

The garden is still in its infancy (I think it was completed in 2009), but with the addition of evergreens and foliage some instant texture has been added.

I recently replanted my balcony with hedgehog hollies so perhaps that could be an addition to the Dunham Garden?  One other obvious winter garden tree was there though: the Silver Birch with white bark (D was jealous, having been sold a dud Silver Birch by a plantsman who promised it would have bark like this).

The white really is stunning against the clouds of a grey winter’s day.  And as a I turned up and looked at the dramatic branches of the trees a pocket of blue sky appeared.

Here and there there was also the odd flower:

And by the gate this lovely little thing.

But sadly after the garden the house was shut.

Although as we walked around the wider park I did spot a deer (if you squint – think I need a telephoto lens).

When visited: December 2011

Winter Gardens * out of 5: ***

Website: click here

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