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National Gardens Scheme Open Gardens


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We are Ready Let the Season Begin

On a wintry day in February there is possibly no better activity than getting out and visiting a National Gardens Scheme garden where you will see the spectacular sight of snowdrops, creating a white carpet; a sight to behold. In 2017 around 90 gardens will open nationally for the second annual National Gardens Scheme (NGS) Snowdrop Festival, some with as many as 300 named varieties of snowdrops.

In Norfolk there are four well known gardens participating in the festival starting on Saturday 18th February with Matthew and Caroline Fleming’s magnificent garden at Horstead House in Mill Road, Horstead, NR12 7AU, with millions of these popular flowers on show in woodland and riverside settings. The garden is open from 11am to 4pm and admission is £4 with free entry for children. There will be homemade teas available.

On Sunday 26th February, on the West side of the County is Bagthorpe Hall, near East Rudham, PE31 6QY with a circular woodland walk through snowdrops. Delicious warming soup made from vegetables grown on the estate farm will be available. The gardens are open from 11am to 4pm and admission is £4, children free.

Also on the 26th February and on Sunday 5th March there are no less than 90 varieties of snowdrops to grab your attention at Chestnut Farm in West Beckham NR25 6NX. Here there will also be plenty of other late winter flowers to admire with some heavenly scented shrubs. Owners John and Judy McNeil Wilson have over 50 years of gardening expertise and are always keen to share their knowledge with visitors. The gardens are open from 11am to 4pm, admission is £5 with children free. Refreshments will be available.

On Sunday 5th March we are delighted that the president of The Royal Horticultural Society, Sir Nicholas Bacon has agreed to open his garden at Raveningham Hall, Raveningham near Norwich NR14 6NS. There will be snowdrops on display along with much else to admire in this renowned country house garden. The gardens are open from 11am to 4pm, admission is £5 with children free and home-made teas available

George Plumptre, Chief Executive of The National Gardens Scheme, says:

‘During our first Snowdrop Festival in 2016 many of our garden owners were overwhelmed by the amount of visitors that attended their openings. Many remarked that visitors were perfectly happy to wrap up warm and brave the elements to see the stunning view of hundreds of snowdrops on display in a garden.´

´Whether you want to admire the different varieties of snowdrops or just have a walk in lovely surroundings, visiting a National Gardens Scheme garden in February will be the perfect escape.’

Visitors to Snowdrop Festival gardens will also have the benefit of knowing that their entrance fee is supporting wonderful causes; the National Gardens Scheme currently donates over £2.6 million annually to its nursing and caring beneficiary charities, which include Marie Curie and Parkinson’s UK.


The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) in Norfolk gives everyone a glimpse of gardens with a difference.

The key to them all is the NGS 2017 Yellow Guide which is an essential companion for garden lovers to explore the many hidden garden gems throughout Norfolk. Pick up a copy of the Norfolk NGS 2017 Guide at your local library,tourist information centre, garden centre and nursery or visit

Here in Norfolk, gardens range from the small and quirky to the large and grand. Very often you will have a chance to meet the owners, enjoy home-made refreshments, and purchase some exciting plants.

This year the Norfolk guide features eighty three open gardens including some new gardens as well as a number making a welcome return.

Since its foundation in 1927 the National Gardens Scheme has donated more than £45 million to its nominated beneficiaries and partners. In addition, individual gardens have given away more than £4 million in small donations directly to local charities of their choice. All of the nominated beneficiaries are nursing and caring charities and the scale of the NGS’s annual financial support means that it is one of the most significant charitable funders of this sector in the UK.

Even considering the size of its largest and best known beneficiaries, Macmillan and Marie Curie, the continuity of the NGS’s annual donations means that it is currently the largest individual funder in the history of both charities – as indeed it is for all of the nominated beneficiaries.

Currently the NGS gives away around £2.6 million every year. Its fundraising and grant making model is uniquely transparent and simple; it has no assets or investments, funds are raised by the gardens that open and the total net amount available is given away annually.

The National Gardens Scheme was founded in 1927 to raise money for the nurses of the Queen´s Nursing Institute (QNI) by opening gardens of quality and interest to the public.

The simple, but radical idea was to ask individuals to open up private gardens for ´a shilling a head´. At that time garden visiting was already a well established pastime (as seen in Pride and Prejudice), but only for a privileged few.

After the Second World War, the National Health Service took on the District Nursing Service, but money was still needed to care for retired nurses and invest in training so the NGS continued as before. In 1948 the NGS offered joined forces with the National Trust to restore and preserve important gardens. In return, the National Trust opened many of its most prestigious gardens for the NGS. Despite massive inflation in the post-war years, the entrance fee was held at one shilling. After a great deal of persuasion, more realistic entrance fees were introduced in the 1970´s and the gardens began to raise significant donations.

In 1980 The National Gardens Scheme Charitable Trust was established as an independent charity, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother as Patron and Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester as President. In 1984 Macmillan Cancer Relief joined the list of beneficiary charities. In the years that followed other charities joined including Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Hospices and Crossroads Caring for Carers.

Most gardens which open for the NGS are privately owned and open just a few times each year. Some gardens open as part of a group with the whole community involved. The gardens give all the money raised directly to us (including from the sale of teas and plants); the only exceptions being in some cases they ask that a small proportion goes to a nominated local charity.

Our tradition of opening gardens of quality, character and interest is supported by our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.

• Visitors to the NGS website can use the online ‘garden search’ tool to find out which NGS gardens are open on specific dates and within chosen areas throughout the year.

• The free NGS iOS app for iPhone and iPad will allow visitors to see what’s on and share garden opening details with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

More events can be found in our Events/What´s On listing.

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