Perhaps you’ve heard of Delamere Forest. Or perhaps not. Either way, let me introduce you to one of Cheshire’s hidden gems, which is tucked away in the Delamere countryside overlooking the Utkinton Hills. Besides visiting Chester Zoo and devoting an afternoon to making a delicious strawberry tart, I also visited Abbeywood Gardens with my mum during my post-exams long weekend at home in Chester.
From the main road, the sign is discreet to the point that you could whizz by and completely miss it. Whilst there were plenty of people enjoying a slice of cake or a cup of tea in the café, we ended up with the gardens all to ourselves – which on a blissfully sunny day was rather surprising, even if it was a weekday!
We began by exploring the Tropical Garden, which is filled with brightly coloured flowers, such as dahlias (including an intriguing ‘dahlia hot chocolate’) and cannas, exotic palms and even banana trees (though I didn’t spot any ripe bananas!) There was also a gorgeous long-haired cat with peridot eyes prowling amongst the planters. As the exotic plants are more susceptible to frost damage, they are kept in greenhouses during the winter months and planted outside in the spring. We then passed through a wrought iron gate and under two huge, entangled Irish yews to see the Chapel Garden, which features a small pool and yet more beautifully maintained borders of perennial plants.
The adjacent Pool Garden was the pièce de résistance, with its simple elongated central pool, bordered by planting beds and enclosed with a yew hedge which dates back to the time this area was used as a tennis court. Looping around the Pool Garden we saw all sorts of flowers in bloom – from spherical violet-coloured alliums to dusty pink peonies and just about everything in between.
A full circuit of the Pool Garden and many flowers later, we moved on to the Pergola Walk. Creepers encircled the brick pillars, whilst borders filled with lupins and irises surrounded the walkway. Although we got a little respite from the sun, it was rather sneeze-inducing as I hadn’t taken anything to counter the abundance of pollen!
Perpendicular to the Pergola Walk, herbaceous borders of lavender, leafy shrubs and carefully pruned topiary lead down towards the Prairie Garden, with the Cheshire hills stretching out in the distance.
After a brief wander around the Prairie Garden and a glimpse at the horses and sheep in the neighbouring field, we made our way back up the garden towards the house. Covered in swathes of ivy and surrounded by evergreens, the house blended seamlessly into the landscape – a picture-perfect country manor.
Just behind the house is The Old Woodland, a shady mass of trees, ferns and rhododendrons – and mud, the nemesis of flip flops. Sunbeams filtered through the canopy in places, but for the most part the woodland glade was a well-needed respite from the sun. Exquisite carvings of local wildlife were scattered around the estate, providing another dimension to the woodland walk.
At only 30 minutes by car (or 38 minutes on the 82 bus) from Chester, Abbeywood Gardens is an idyllic spot to while away an afternoon, especially if the sun’s out!