Snowdrops at Welford Park
…Enjoy the beautiful gardens and snowdrops woodlands here at Welford Park…
Wednesday 31st January to Sunday 3rd March 2024, closed Monday and Tuesday.
One of the best places to see snowdrops in the UK
Welford Park maybe known to some as the home of the Great British Bake Off but come late wintertime, you will see one of the finest snowdrop collections in the UK. The dainty droplets of snowdrops thrive amongst the 5-acre beech wood, enchanting riverbanks of the River Lambourn and the glorious gardens at Welford Park.
From Wednesday 31st January to Sunday 3rd March the award-winning grounds of this glorious private estate are open to the public to enjoy the swathes of snowdrops, hellebores, aconites and winter flowering shrubs. Wrap up warm and enjoy a walk around the grounds of the picture-perfect Queen Anne style house then head to the tea tent for a warming drink and bite to eat to round off a lovely day.
Galanthus by Deborah Puxley, owner of Welford Park
Living in the village of Welford at the heart of the Lambourn Valley, you cannot escape the annual anticipation of the first snowdrops. As early as Christmas, and some years not until mid-January, they raise their brave little heads. Reliable and hardy little flowers who take no notice of world affairs but pop up their tiny pure white heads to remind us that Spring is coming with a naivety that only nature can offer.
Galanthus is the Greek name for snowdrop, derived from ‘gala’ -milk; ‘anthos’ – flower. Through the ages they have held their own in the ever-growing world of horticulture. Stroll around the beech wood at Welford Park taking in the spectacular carpet and breathing the delicate scent you know this natural phenomenon is not only very special but a sacred gift. You can’t fail to gaze in wonderment and have your spirits lifted by this extraordinary sight.
Snowdrops are not considered native to the UK but from mainland Europe. Linnaeus describes Galanthus Nivalis in his Species Plantorium in 1735. However, one cannot escape the fact that the best snowdrop woodland displays in the UK can be found at Anglesey Abbey, Bennington Lordship, Hodsock Priory, Walsingham Abbey and the largest of all here at Welford Park. One thing all these historic places have in common is that they are Norman monastic sites. Norman monks used snowdrops to decorate their churches for Candlemas, planted them in graveyards to sanctify the soul of the departed and as a medicinal remedy.
Welford Park was originally a Norman Monastery, and the Norman monks were apothecaries (doctors), and they planted many species to be used in their remedies. In our beech woods we have found wild Aconitum, which is used to treat a fever; Mistletoe for migraines; and the large leaf Petsites commonly known as Butter Burr, which is used to wrap butter before placing it in an icehouse. From Galanthus you harvest Galantamine, which was used for “Mal-au-tete”. Today pharmaceutical companies are looking to the ancient remedies and Galamantine is marketed as Riminyl, which is a prominent treatment for Alzheimer’s.
In the 1960’s it is recorded that a woman living at the foot of the Caucasian Mountains was known to mix a concoction of the bulbs and gave it to children who developed symptoms of an illness that was close to poliomyelitis. The children apparently completely recovered with no signs of paralysis.
There are several hundred species of snowdrops and G. Nivalis is considered the most common. Many of the cultivars have derived from specimens brought home from the Crimea and Turkey during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. There are many horticulturists who specialise in dissecting every millimetre of the inner and outer segments, ovary, pedicel, spathe, scape, leaf, sheath, tunic, root and scaling the bulbs and they are known as ‘Galanthophiles’.
Personally, it is the foliage of plants that interests me more. I love looking for the many shades of greens, greys and hues of blue and the height of stems and Galanthus offers me a wonderful selection but also G. Plicatus with its folded leaf, G. Elweseii with its wide tulip like leaf and G. Nivalis with the grey green pointed narrow leaves.
Here at Welford Park, we have approximately 5 acres of beech woods with a carpet of G. Nivalis and a collection of 73 cultivars around the gardens, which is always growing.