Stunning Stagshaw Gardens

Stagshaw gardens is a National Trust site which is not advertised or signposted. I stumbled upon this gem purely by chance. Once you have just passed wind (the sign, not the aftermath of eating beans), I should admit the sign actually says you have just passed Windemere. My photographer unfortunately didn’t fit the whole sign in the photograph. Anyway, I digress, I was on the hunt for the hike up to Skelghyll woods and Jenkin Crag. Turns out I had walked the wrong way down the road. Not to worry as Stagshaw gardens turned out to be a great place to go for a walk. Plus, I was able to laugh at the sign once again.

Opposite the lake, where the sheep were enjoying the sunshine, lies a single lane road seemingly going to nowhere. I thought this was the trail which would take me into the woods. I was partially correct but the small gate to the left seemed way more interesting than yet another hill. The gate had a small sign to tell you where you were and a small map of the garden (which I ignored as I like to get lost). My photographer has a love for secret gardens and natural places which have a magical feel to them. There are a few which I have found in the UK, my favourites are both in the Lake District. One of which is Stagshaw Gardens and the other is Whinlatter Forest. To this day I’m still unsure whether this garden is tended to or whether it just grows wild, either way it works perfectly.

It was planted in 1957 by Cubby Acland with the aim of creating an artist’s palette. I couldn’t see this as I walked around the garden, looking back at the map and the photographs from my photographer I think it was a great idea. The way the rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas are set out makes them look like different shades of paint.

April is a great time to visit as you can catch the last of the daffodils, the start of bluebell season and the rhododendrons are in full bloom. There are no words for this place which I feel would ever do it justice. I initially thought I would have a quick wander then go for lunch. Stagshaw gardens was so beautiful I returned twice and was sad I didn’t have time to visit again. Each visit took me a long a different path and a new discovery. I first took a path following a small stream which led me to Stencher Beck waterfall and the most beautiful white rhododendron. If you could only smell the flower on the photographs and hear the relaxing sounds of nature. I continued on this path up the slight incline which led me through a maze of conifers and over two bridges. Finally ending in an area filled with rhododendron trees. I love anything mismatched and colourful. Lilacs, pinks and purples peeped through the greenery. I loved following the trails through the plants which led to a new colourful discovery.

Behind the colourful plants was a small gate which led to Skelghyll woods. Turns out I wasn’t far from my original destination after all!

I chose to explore more of the gardens before heading into the woods. Choosing a different path, I found myself sliding downhill. It rained heavily the day before I visited but I had my wellies on to prepare for the possibility of mud.

I found some bushes covered in orange flowers and some with red leaves. I was determined to find plants in each colour of the rainbow. The bottom of the hill took me to a clearing which was beginning to turn blue! Bluebell season will forever be my favourite time of year in the UK.

I love how understated and simple these little plants are. In stagshaw Gardens, the bluebells have chosen the perfect spot to enjoy the sunshine and view of the lake. If I was a plant I would definitely pick that spot to live in as well.

Further around the garden I found some more flowers and azaleas surrounding a seat with a great view. A view which was partially obstructed by a 300 year old tree.

After a short break, I prepared my legs for a hike up to the woods. Moss covered tree stumps bathing in sunlight greeted me into a magical realm. It makes me sad that so many trees were damaged in the winter storms. But, I love seeing how nature can overcome anything and brave wild violas are growing out of fallen branches. Amongst the trees I found a strange cave like place. My photographer thought it looked like a stone clam but I thought it looked more like a giants chair. What we both agree on, is the fact it was a popular spider meeting place and neither of us wished to stay there long.

I decided to follow the track through the woods as I had a great view of the lake on my left as I walked down the gentle slope. After walking over a style I got a huge shock, a deer jumped over the wall on his way to find some lunch. I’m not sure who got the biggest shock, it was rather funny watching my photographer jump though. A great end to a fun hike where I literally found myself rolling down the hill laughing.

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