In the West Midlands we’re extremely lucky to have a plethora of green spaces, ranging from the sensational Sutton Park to the vast Cannock Chase. But what about gardens? Oh, we’ve got those too, says Adam Kirtland!
We’ve all heard of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 15 acres of wonderful landscaped gardens with more than 7,000 plants, shrubs and trees that is a visitors’ favourite and a real jewel in the city’s crown. But have you heard of Winterbourne House and Gardens? No, I didn’t think so! I like to think of it as one of Birmingham’s hidden gems as it sits firmly within the grounds of Birmingham University and if you’re driving down the Hagley Road, blink and you’ll miss it.
The house itself was built in 1903 for the Nettlefold family as a small country estate and the gardens came alongside that. Inside you’ll find examples of the Arts and Crafts movement with the most exquisite William Morris wallpaper and designs throughout. The displays within the house give you wonderful detail about the building itself and the history of the owners and how it came to be what it is today. When the last private owner passed away he left the house and gardens to the university where it now acts as a teaching garden for the university itself and also for private courses, including the RHS horticulture levels.
Inspiration in buckets!
While the house is beautiful, the gardens are also amazing. Firstly, I’d encourage you to visit them yourself if you can, but I’ll try to paint a clear picture for you as much as possible. Although the grounds are fairly sprawling, they’re excellently divided into sections that cover various planting styles – from the vast wafty borders to the mesmerising Japanese garden.
You start off with an option of left or right. Left will take you down through the perennial borders planted in the Gertrude Jekyll style with a kaleidoscopic range of colours. Then on to the covered walkway and archway before coming out into the most abundant walled garden you’ve ever seen, complete with dahlias and a wide variety of ornamentals and edibles. If you choose the left option then you’ll be guided down a brick staircase and through a rose walkway with a heavenly scent!
A slice of the orient
Once you’ve ambled down the winding paths and through the formal gardens, you’ll arrive at something that is quite a surprise on your first visit, a Japanese water garden. Huge Gunnera, dragonflies in abundance and the finest example of a Japanese bridge that takes you over the water to return round to the route back up to the house.
This part of the garden really is a hidden gem and something you just totally don’t expect to see when you enter the garden. Before you leave the Japanese garden you’ll want to have a wander down the stepping stones along the stream. But be careful not to slip in as you stop to take a photo of one of the many gorgeous plants that sit alongside the water’s edge. This slice of Japan in the middle of Birmingham is such a surprise, yet it somehow seamlessly fits in with the rest of the garden – a very special addition indeed.
And last but not least…
A good afternoon tea! No trip to a wonderful garden is complete without it. The café serves a fantastic range of hot and cold food, cakes and sweet treats as well as excellent afternoon teas. There is truly something for everyone here and it’s the perfect end to a wonderful stroll around this beautiful Birmingham space.
Let me know, had you heard of Winterbourne – or have you been before? If there are any other gardens you’d like a review of then head over to my Instagram (@viewfromthepottingbench) to tell me.