Winter gardens

Winter Gardens, Sunderland


I really didn’t think I was going to have quite so much fun when I suggested to Jude that I might visit the Winter Gardens in Sunderland. It’s a number of years since I was there, and I had completely forgotten about the extensive gardens of Mowbray Park, adjoining Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.  The luxury of a bright, sunny morning was all the invitation I needed.

It’s a bit of a rags to riches story.  In 1831 Sunderland recorded its first cholera epidemic, and a health inspector recommended that a leafy area would benefit the town.  A grant of £750 was provided by the government to buy a plot of land from local landowners, the Mowbray family, and turn it into a park.  On 12th May, 1857, shops closed early and thousands flocked to attend the opening ceremony.  In 1866 a lake and terraces were added and, in 1879, the Winter Gardens and museum.


For me, one of the park’s most attractive features is the cast iron work.  When the Second World War came along many of the iron structures, including bridge and bandstand, were taken away to be melted down for weapons, and open space was converted to vegetable patches.  Fortunately a huge restoration programme took place in the 1990s.  Many features, including the William Hall Drinking Fountain shown above, were renewed.

It being January, plants had taken a bit of a back seat, but I was delighted to come upon an early rhododendron bursting into bloom, and a cheery carpet of aconites, pierced by spikes of snowdrops.  The gazebo, I found tucked in a contemplative corner.




Sunderland has strong links with the author Lewis Carroll.  A walrus sculpture by the lake commemorates the link.


I bet you’re itching to get inside those Winter Gardens now, aren’t you?  There’s a surprise or two in store.




The plant house towers high over your head, and a spiral staircase carries you up to the canopy.  Rising through it, a colossal water sculpture, designed by William Pye.  It’s hard to resist touching the column of moving water.


The Winter Gardens cater well for children, seeking to engage as well as educate.  I dodged around several parties of small children, engrossed in identification of plants and doing much better than me.

Of course, you can only find bougainvillea in a hot house.  Just the place for me!  The museum was quite fascinating too, and I promise to take you back there one day.  For now, you’d better hurry if you have a Winter Garden to share with Jude.

Winter Garden ‘Snowku’


Is there any such word?

Cold and shivery, if so!

Tiny ice crystals


Snow was fleeting in my part of the world, so I had to be quick with the camera.  While Jude was loitering inside the glasshouse I was out in the fingerless gloves.  Who’s the fool, I ask myself.  Certainly not Jude!

When I was folder-ing these away, I came across some evidence that our hellebores really don’t seem to mind snow.  Nor the rhododendrons, come to that.  But then, don’t they come from the Himalayas?


That’s quite enough snowku for this month!  I just sneaked a look at next month’s Garden Photography Challenge.  ‘Monochrome’… over to you!

Lazy Poet’s Winter Garden

Hellebore 2

Hellebore, my friend,

Tilting up your Winter smile.

Stay with me, till Spring?


Use your imagination, said Jude.  I really didn’t need to.  They were just waiting for me to notice them, so I could enter the  Winter Garden challenge this week.  My Lazy Poet friend Gilly found some too.  We now have a chorus of hellebore!

Jo’s Monday walk : Newstead Abbey


Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire is the perfect setting for a Victorian period drama.  Yet I was unprepared for the small characters chattering excitedly in the grounds.  The Abbey itself, formerly the home of poet Lord Byron, was closed to visitors, but I had come seeking fresh air and a stroll in the lovely grounds. I had company, and naturally my daughter was fittingly dressed for the occasion. To the manor born, without a doubt.


A long drive sweeps up to the house, thick with rhododendrons and camelia.  There are over 300 acres of parkland and gardens, and cars can park quite near to the house.  Let’s save a little energy and sashay straight into the gardens.  A former monastic residence, the priory dates back to 1274.  I showcased the house and the Byron connection on a previous visit (and got to meet Santa!) if you’d like to know more.

The Garden Lake swells out in front of the house, and you can walk all around it.  The lakes, ponds and cascades that ornament these gardens are fed by the River Leen.  Pass by the unappetisingly named Monk’s Stew Pond (probably once a fishpond for the monks) to delve into the Fernery.

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The grotto has an interior made from Derbyshire tufa, whilst some of the old carved stones used in the Fernery probably came from the ruins of the priory church.  Built into the wall with the alcove were terracotta stands, for the display of potted ferns.

Bright berries gleam from the foliage and a drift of lemon whispers its presence in among the shrubs.  For all that this is a garden in winter, there is no lack of interest.  The rolling hedges are clipped pleasingly to the eye.  It’s so easy to meander among them, beguiled by shapes and shadows.

The formal shapes of the Rose Garden and Small Walled Garden invite closer inspection.  Both were once part of a two and a half acre kitchen garden.  In heated glasshouses, now demolished, grapes, melons, peaches and winter cucumbers were grown.  Even in a mild December, roses were few, but I liked the quirky mesh gardeners who kept us company.


A willow sculpture catches my eye, complete with bench.  Too late for THAT challenge, I’m afraid!

Behind the house, the Great Garden is a formal garden of terraced walks descending to a large rectangular pond.  Two swans splashed each other playfully, just out of range of my camera.  The adjacent French and Spanish gardens are among my favourites.  Every Spring in the 1830s and 40s the gardener laid fresh red and white sand, in intricate patterns, directly onto the soil in the French Garden.  It was affectionately known as the ’embroidery garden’.

The Boatswain’s Monument sits mournfully at the centre of the lawn, Byron’s tribute to his beloved Newfoundland dog.  The inscription speaks of ‘Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his vices’.





Are you beginning to flag yet?  I believe the tearooms are open.  Muffins and gingerbread latte, before or after we tackle the lake?

The shadows are lengthening and there’s a hint of chill in the air.  Ominous clouds dot the sky so we won’t linger much longer.  It’s not the time of year to view the yellow water lily, wild angelica, water forget-me-not, corn mint and the many species that surround the Garden Lake, but it is still undeniably beautiful, don’t you think?


The Japanese garden with its lovely cascades is looking a little bedraggled, but we can still cross the stepping stones to admire the lanterns.  There’s one more feature I’ve left deliberately till the end, and someone’s waiting there to say goodbye.  Accompany me to the waterfall?

The gift shop, with its pretty things, was calling to my daughter.  We lingered just a shade too long, and came out into a deluge of a different kind! Brollies aloft, we scurried to the car.  The day ended with a magical double rainbow and I felt truly blessed.  I hope you have enjoyed our company today. (and that of the children from Woodthorpe school)

The Newstead Abbey website includes a detailed garden tour, which you might like to follow, plus details of how to get there.

You may already know that Jude has chosen to abandon her benches.  Sigh!  The challenge has run for a highly successful year, but it’s time to move on.  My Winter garden, though not quite what she was hoping for, is my first contribution to the new challenge.  I’ll definitely have to be honing my skills (or trying!)  Her first post is a stunner, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Go and look!

walking logo

Meanwhile, it’s time to get the kettle on and share a few more walks.  I hope that all of you, walkers or not, have enjoyed their Christmas break. Many thanks for all your contributions but, more importantly, your friendship.  Join me whenever you like.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or the logo above.


First, come beach combing with Drake on the lovely little Danish island, Samsø :

Stone-washed path

There’s a certain fascination about a lighthouse, isn’t there?

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Jackie was still ‘down Mexico way’, hopefully enjoying the sunshine :

El Quelite, Mazatlan

Let me introduce you to a Slovenian Girl abroad, in Switzerland.  Such pretty photos!

Zurich in December

And a lovely lady in another good-looking place.  Please welcome Mitza to my walks :

A walk through Hamburg in Winter

Debbie has found a nice little beach, somewhere you might not expect :

A Seaside Walk in Edinburgh

While Jaspa would have me galloping this week!

Best. Crossing. Ever!- Santiago, Chile

This next isn’t a walk, and might be better suited to Jude’s Garden challenge, but I want to share it with you, courtesy of Debra :

Huntington Botanical Gardens and El Nino Watch 2016 

Some people can just always be relied on!  Walk with Gilly.  She’s a sweetheart!

Another Quay Perspective 

Brisbane and the rainforest is my final destination.  Thanks Lee Ann!

Moran Falls – Sculpture by Nature

That’s it for now!  Breathes big sigh!  If I’m slow responding this week it’s because I have Polish family visiting for a few days (including a very special uncle) but normality (ha!) will be restored on Thursday.  Take care till then!

P.S  Those lovely ladies at Monday Escapes are back if you have 5 minutes to wish them Happy New Year.


A Lingering look at Windows: week 7

A hint of mystery

A hint of mystery and the exotic behind these doors

I’m sure you can’t begin to guess where I was lingering this week?  Does Preston Park Museum ring any bells?  I thought I might do the Winter Garden and the Victorian Street separately- you know, big finale!- but I didn’t want you tiring of the subject.  So we’ll just take a quick peep in the conservatory before moving swiftly on.

Orchids are beautiful, aren't they?

Orchids are beautiful, aren’t they?

There weren’t any comfy seat pads on the chairs and the doors were firmly closed, so I took the hint and kept walking.  And this was my reward!

And this was my reward!

A toy shop window to press my nose up against

So I did!

So I did!  Sorry- I know some of you don’t like Pierrots, but he was loveable.

Maybe chocolate is more your thing?

Maybe chocolate is more your thing?

Or objects d'art?

Or objects d’art?

No shortage of that!

No shortage of those!

I do know one or two of you who don't mind sweets!

I do know one or two of you who don’t mind a sweet treat!

Remember any of these?

Remember any of these?

A few of the shops don’t qualify for this post.  The blacksmith didn’t have a window, as such- just lots of tools.  I wandered into the printers and a very nice young lady was setting up the press to print some cards.  She was well bundled up against the cold, as she needed to be with the door wide open.  I couldn’t photograph her cheerful smile as it was a little dark in there.

But I did find an ironmonger, for the practical ones among you

But I did find an ironmonger, for the practical ones among you

And a photographer, for the family portaits

And a photographer, for the family portraits

This was my very favourite!  Apologies for the poor quality of the photo

This was my very favourite shop!  Apologies for the terrible quality of the photo.

I know what some of you are waiting for.  I saw this sign but couldn’t find anywhere to buy an alcoholic drink, though I looked very hard.

Promises!  Promises!

Promises! Promises!

So it had to be the tea rooms and the "temperance drinks"

So it had to be the tea rooms and the “temperance drinks”

But you know what I forgot to take a photo of?  The Victorian sponge sandwich on the counter. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was very nice.  Just in case you’ve missed any of my Preston Park Museum posts, you can find them here, and here, and here.  Understatement- that’s what I’m going for!

Meanwhile I wonder what kind of windows everyone else is showcasing this week.  Find them at Dawn’s The Day After.  I believe she’s gone all romantic this week.