A Late Winter’s Visit to Dalemain

We made a visit on a February Sunday to Dalemain House and Gardens near Penrith in the north of the fantastic Lake District. After several weekends of wind and storms, the clouds broke to give a sunny, but albeit still nippy in the shade, chance to visit this delightful garden set against the beautiful Lakeland Fells.

Dalemain features a large country house, part-Georgian, and part-Tudor, amid five acres of gardens and parkland, that offer visitors fantastic views of the Cumbrian countryside along with plants galore and some unique horticultural features.

Snowdrops were plentiful throughout the garden

Coming up the drive to the property you are met with the spectacular Georgian front of the house and visitors are then guided in from the car park through the Tudor courtyard, which includes a huge loft barn renowned as one of the largest in the north.

Entering through the tea room and shop, we were first confronted by a swathe of snowdrops, and some aconites popping their heads through, as we followed the path through a small sheltered wood that opened up into a path heading around the front of the house.

Next, you are guided down the side of the house, to walk along a terrace flanked on one side with herbaceous borders and the other various roses, set in front of the backdrop of views across the fields. This leads you towards a giant silver fir, thought to be planted around 1840, making it potentially the oldest in the country.

Dalemain has lovely features hidden around corners, including a flower spiral that was popping with yellow aconites and purple crocus, and a quaint Elizabethan knot garden made of clipped box, with planting inside the trimmed hedges.

One of the main attractions at Dalemain is its Rose Walk, which features over 200 old-fashioned roses in borders flanking a path adorned with several chunky wooden arches. According to Dalemain, almost half of the varieties in the garden today originated in the 1800s. While satisfying in itself to see the skeletons of the pruned roses on a winter’s morning, you can only imagine what this Rose Walk would look like in bloom – making it very tempting indeed to return to in summer when the garden is in full pomp.

Looking down the Rose Walk

Several of the herbaceous borders around the central lawn are colour-themed, ranging from a dedicated orange border to a more intriguing black border, featuring the likes of dark hellebores, ophiopogon grass, and black bamboo among others. As someone who likes dark plants – find out more about my growing fascination with black plants here – this idea was right up my alley.

At the end of a small wood, behind a door that takes you out of the walls that surround the main garden and into narrow tree-lined paths, the view opens up with a fantastic vista across the Cumbrian fields and the river of Dacre Beck over towards Little Mell Fell.

View across the Cumbrian countryside from the low garden

The low garden provides a gentle semi-wild river-side getaway and is home to two unexpected, and locally famous, features. There is a sleeping Giantess sculpture laying by the Beck, depicting a large sleeping figure among the trees, and a large topiary dragon of clipped box that descends down the bank up to the main garden.

Topiary Dragon

Our visit in late-Winter was dominated by the plethora of snowdrops and other bulbs throughout. It was a really enjoyable and tranquil wander around the garden. Even in February, there was more than enough to enjoy but you have to imagine how glorious the garden must look in the summer. As well as those roses, the borders will all be a riot of colour and I imagine it will be a treat to the senses.

Dalemain is open to visitors every Sunday-Friday and is free for RHS members and also Historic House Members. You can choose from visiting the garden only, or also with a Mansion tour (the Mansion re-opens in April 2022 for visitors). There is a small tea room and shop on-site. Find out more about Dalemain on their website.

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