We have been fascinated by moving water for a long time, with a particular interest in man made structures, fountains, cascades, water features and so on. We’ve seen the Trevi Fountain in Rome, (very disappointing we thought), a spectacular single spout fountain in Palma Mallorca, and a water show in Scotland where water danced in time to music, to name just a few.
We were therefore very excited to be going to Alnwick Garden. We’d heard about and seen on TV the Alnwick Garden Grand Cascade even before we moved to Northumberland, but now we were going to see it for ourselves.
There is of course much more to see at Alnwick Garden than just the Cascade, but that was first on our list. As soon as you enter the garden the Grand Cascade was in front of you but it was having a little rest, although the water simply running down was very entertaining anyway.
The Pavilion Café faces the Cascade so we decided to have coffee and scone to start our day, well one has to doesn’t one? And very nice it was, and the Cascade performed several times whilst we were eating, spectacular and it lived up to our expectations.
Having eaten and taken numerous photos we headed off to the Poison Garden. Although the thought of a garden of poisonous plants doesn’t sound very interesting, it is not only interesting but very informative, and is designed to also help young people understand more about the implications of drug misuse. We were taken round by a knowledgeable guide, (you’re not allowed in on your own for obvious reasons), who told us all about the various plants, many of which are in cages to keep visitors safe. The tour takes about 20 minutes and is well worth the time.
After the poison garden we decided to check out the ‘Roots and Shoots’ area. This is a large area for young people to learn about growing vegetables, healthy eating and active lifestyles. Some schools have plots where they grow things and each plot had a scarecrow, most of which were cute rather than scary. When we visited there was a group of young children having a whale of a time planting seeds in a greenhouse, and another group learning about bees.
Although primarily to educate children, and for them to have a good time of course, anyone can visit this area, be sure to check out the boots used as planters.
Also in this area are the ‘Gentlemen’s Plots’. These being members of the ‘Elderberries’ which is an organisation for over 55s, male and female, for them to meet and socialise and take part in activities. Unfortunately, we missed the ‘garden in a suitcase’ which the Elderberries held recently.
From there we strolled up the side of the Cascade watching as the fountains did their thing, and it is just as spectacular looking down from the top as it is from the bottom. This took us to the ‘Ornamental Garden’ which is yet another large area, this one being planted with hundreds of different varieties all arranged in a very pleasing formal layout. Seeing this area with the tulips just finishing, the clematis in bloom, but the summer plants not out yet made us realise that one visit to Alnwick Garden is not enough. One needs to visit at regular intervals throughout the year to enjoy the vast range of trees, plants, flowers, etc when each are at their best.
Because of this we have decided to join the ‘Best Friend of Alnwick Garden’, so that we can visit at different times of the year and enjoy everything on offer to the full.
Next, we walked down the other side of the Cascade to the ‘Serpent Garden’ which has lots of different water features which although smaller than the Grand Cascade, are still much bigger and certainly more spectacular that one normally sees. Video these and the cascade for enjoying the garden even after you’ve left. This is a good place for little ones to get wet so keep them close or be prepared with a towel.
Afraid that we might miss something we hot footed it to the ‘Treehouse’, which enchanting and spectacular do not begin to describe. Despite being raised above the ground in the treetops, the Treehouse Restaurant is fully accessible, even the wobbly rope bridges. There is a restaurant which is a fantastic venue for a romantic meal or for any occasion whatsoever, and for a coffee or snack the ‘Potting Shed’ is also in the treetops. We settled for just a coffee as afternoon tea was booked and we did not want to spoil our appetites.
We were totally awed by the Treehouse and spent longer than we had planned, so hastened back to the Grand Cascade area to take in the ‘Bamboo Labyrinth’. This does what its name implies and we managed to get lost finding several false exits before eventually getting free and only just being in time for our pre-booked ‘Afternoon Tea’.
Being of an age when afternoon tea was part of growing up we’d been looking forward to it all day, (having said that it appears that afternoon tea is making a come-back, although maybe it never went away and we just missed it, but today young people seem to have discovered it).
Over the years many and varied have been the afternoon teas we have enjoyed and without a doubt this one was up there with the best. There was a table reserved for us in the Pavilion Café, complete with white tablecloth of course, where we could watch the Grand Cascade whilst eating.
When we saw what was presented we were very pleased that we’d not had lunch. For each of us there were three different sandwiches, a sausage roll, two enormous pieces of cake, a chocolate brownie, and a large scone with jam and cream. All washed down with copious cups of coffee. (we know it was afternoon tea, but we prefer coffee so shoot us).
Now it’s not often that the size of a meal defeats us, but this one did and we were plucking up the courage to ask if we could take the remainder home when the very kind and helpful waitress offered to box it up for us, result!
We still hadn’t seen everything in the garden but we’d eaten so much that strolling back to the car seemed the best option. Anyway, it’s always good to leave something for the next visit which will be very soon.
Written by Harry Seddon, Retirement Rambles.