The National Trust in 2008

PUBLISHED: 12:09 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

Snowhill Manor

Snowhill Manor

The famous Dyrham Park tulip festival is a must this month

Many of the county's most splendid houses and gardens have thrown open their doors again after the winter. National Trust properties from Hidcote Manor Garden in north Gloucestershire to Dyrham Park in the south extend a warm welcome and a host of new reasons to visit this month.

The aforementioned Dyrham Park is rightly famed for its annual celebration of the tulip, which takes place later in April. William Blathwayt, who built Dyrham Park in 1705, was a fluent Dutch speaker and a fan of all things Dutch. He learned the language as private secretary to the British Ambassador in The Hague. Later, his skills were called on by the Dutch William of Orange who had deposed King James II. He furbished the house in the Dutch style, including a towering State Bed, Dutch pictures, books and furniture, leather hangings and blue-and-white Delftware.

In the days leading up to the festival, the whole house is decorated in tulips by a number of local flower arranging groups and volunteers. The five day extravaganza sees the house and chapel draped with thousands of the iconic Dutch blooms, including two thousand in the state rooms alone.

Gardeners at Dyrham Park have spent a good part of the winter cracking on with phase three of creating a new West Garden. They have cut new paths around the pool garden, during the excavations of which, Roman remains were found. Visitors this spring will be able to see some of the finds and watch the gardeners as they put in the new planting around the ponds. The West Garden project takes its influences from the early 18th century garden at Dyrham Park, juxtaposed with elements of a later Victorian garden.

In the north Cotswolds, the former home of the eclectic collector Charles Wade, Snowshill Manor, has much of interest this spring. For young explorers, the Secret Explorer Tours offer a behind the scenes guided visit taking in the secret passages and hidey holes of the manor. For the very young, a new miniature maze has been added to the mini playground by the restaurant for this year. Also new this year will be a stunning reproduction of a piece of art created exclusively for the garden by artist Liz Pepperell. Inspired by old Ladybird books, the work offers an aerial, multi-seasonal view of the wildlife in the garden and nearby woodland in great detail.

Still on an artistic note, Hidcote Manor Garden has an artist in residence for the first time throughout the year. One of the UK's most gifted botanical artists, Celia Crampton, will be based in the plant house where the garden's founder, Lawrence Johnston did his own painting. Visitors will be able to watch Celia, who has won a number of awards for her work, including the RHS's gold medal at the BBC Gardener's World live show in 2004, at work. Coincidentally, Lawrence Johnston died 50 years ago this month.

Work as part of the six year restoration project this spring will concentrate on the replanting of the Fern Dell with 1000 plants, including many tree ferns, returning this area of the garden to ferns for the first time since the 1930s. The garden is also introducing a community composter scheme, which will create 400 toms of compost for the garden from the food waste of the local community, meaning the garden is self sufficient in compost needed for the first time.

At Newark Park, work to restore the summer house is coming on well and it will be completed by the summer. Originally built by William Halfpenny as an integral part of the pleasure grounds surrounding the mansion, the Trust has restored the building to offer a summer house to rent for an evening by groups of up to 12, complete with wood burning stove. For younger visitors, there is a teddy bear hunt and children's quiz in the house on open days all year.

One of the Trust's unsung countryside gems, the Sherborne estate near Northleach, which includes the grandstand at Lodge Park, is offering a monthly guided walk through to July. April's walk is a Pet Walk on 13 April. There are also self-guided walks leaflets available to explore parts of the estate such as the water meadows and the woodland sculpture trail. Near Stroud, visitors to Haresfield will notice that the Trust's work to restore the wood pasture, is underway. The scheme is designed to ensure the long-term survival of several important areas of wood pasture on the flanks of Shortwood, a spectacular spur of the Cotswold escarpment. It will involve thinning dense ash trees in the woodland to extend the lives of the majestic 200 year-old beech trees and allow the next generation of beech to come through.

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Top events this month

Chedworth Roman Villa
Meet the Slaves!

12-13 Apr 10am-5pm
Come and meet our re-enactors, who will show you what life was like in Roman Britain. Children can dress-up and grind some corn to make flour! Normal admission

Dyrham Park

Tuesday Nature Trails
Tuesdays 8 Apr to 24 Jun 2-3.15pm During school holidays only
Trail the Parkland with a Warden finding and exploring exciting facts about the trees and wildlife at Dyrham.

Normal admission

18-22 Apr 11.15am-4pm
Flower festival celbrating the Dutch connection with Dyrham Park.

Children's workshops at the weekend. Normal admission

Hidcote Manor Garden

Meet the Gardener (with tour of the Stream Garden)
22 Apr 2-3pm
A chance to meet and quiz members of the garden team. Followed by a short tour of the beautiful Stream Garden. Normal admission

Lodge Park & Sherborne Estate
Pet Walk

13 Apr 2-4pm
Ewe Pen Car park (off A40, signposted Sherborne)
Bring your dog, and join our Warden for a walk in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. Adult 5, Children free, booking essential 01451 844257

Snowshill Manor
Snowshill Secrets Explorer Tour

23 Apr, 21 May, 18 Jun 10.30am-12noon
Snowshill's secret passages feature on this tour of the parts of the Manor not open to the public. Adult 7.50
Booking Essential Tel. 01386 842814

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