‘We all want quiet. We all want beauty… We all need space. Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently’ (Octavia Hill, 1883, Co-founder of the National Trust)
One brisk, but sunny day at the beginning of February, I found myself surrounded by carpets of brilliant white. Looking closer, I could see thousands of delicate flowers, nodding in the breeze like flurries of snow, shaped like bells or little fairy skirts. Here the effervescent snowdrops become a real spectacle at this time of year, shouting loud that the brighter days of spring are on their way.
With my parents by my side, I had decided to spend my day off exploring Kingston Lacy, a beautiful National Trust estate famous for its incredible annual snowdrop displays. I was really looking forward to this trip, after a long spell of being very busy with work and other projects. It was a time for me to just pause and take a breather in a really breathtaking location.
We began our day out by passing through the heart of Kingston Lacy, passing by the old stable block, and heading out onto the estate’s approximately 4.7 kilometre woodland trail, made up of established footpaths and historic carriageways. Our start wound us first through a stretch of native deciduous woodland, an area of currently skeletal trees alive with early birdsong.
Habituated to the presence of visitors walking through, we got some really great close-up views of the residents, including red-breasted robins and serenading song thrushes.
The woodland was also sprinkled with human touches here and there, from benches made from old tree trunks to archways of woven hazel. A lovely stretch to hide away from the world, at least for a little while!
We did not just pass through woodland though. Our journey also took us past Blandford lodge near the entrance to Kingston Lacy, across boardwalks over marshland, and through rolling parkland, dotted with trees varying magnificently in size, species, age and skeletal form. It is quite incredible to think what some of those trees will have lived through in the history of this estate!
As well, our path took us past the magnificent Kingston Lacy house, a ‘family home reimagined as a Venetian palace’. Though the estate dates back to the medieval times, the first form of the current house was completed in 1667. It went on to be the home of the Bankes family for over 300 years, before being bequeathed to the National Trust in 1981. Though on this February day we did not venture into the house, it is well worth a visit, with the rooms decorated like pieces of art and treasures ranging from ancient Egypt to the Spanish Peninsular War.
As the hours drew on and the sun made its way across the winter sky, our path took us back past the old stables and in the direction of Kingston Lacy’s gradens. Here today’s real magic was to be found. We finally made our way into a world where snowdrops created carpets of snow around us. Stretching along avenues of pollarded trees, across woodland glades, around winding bends, and even nestled within the impressive Japanese gardens.
The pearly white of snowdrops was made bolder by the pinks of cyclamens, purples of irises and crocuses, and cream and maroon of helibores. Seeing something small on such a scale, over 6 million to be precise, is a sight to behold. First planted in the early 1900s, with now over 40 different species, Kingston Lacy’s snowdrops will be a legacy for future generations to come.
Kingston Lacy is such a lovely place to escape for those of us who like history, nature or just getting outdoors. Throughout the year they have a range of different events, from their snowdrop walks and Easter egg hunts to summer outdoor yoga and outdoor theatre/cinema that will keep you coming back time and time again, as i have over the last couple of months. For now here’s to the snowdrops, the promising pioneers of the new season to come. Pure, hopeful and the symbol of rebirth, snowdrops are the delicate, effervescent heralds of spring.