Wintershall Manor, Bramley opens for the National Garden Scheme
PUBLISHED: 13:18 23 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:14 20 February 2013
A magnificent sight amongst the Surrey woodland, there's nothing like a vast sea of bluebells to lift the spirits - and there can be few places better to enjoy this annual spectacle than the beautiful parkland of Wintershall Manor in Bramley
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2011
A magnificent sight amongst the Surrey woodland, theres nothing like a vast sea of bluebells to lift the spirits and there can be few places better to enjoy this annual spectacle than the beautiful parkland of Wintershall Manor in Bramley
Words and photography by Leigh Clapp
One of the most anticipated blooms of the spring is undoubtedly the native English bluebell, which creates the vibrant carpets of bluish purple in our woodlands through late April into May.
To enjoy the magic of this yearly spectacle, take a ramble along one of Surreys many woodland paths, or you may like to visit the grounds of Wintershall Manor in Bramley, which opens briefly through the National Gardens Scheme in early April and early May.
Amongst the 200 acres of park and woodland, several bluebell trails wend their way around a series of lakes, with mature trees and rhododendrons creating watery reflections in the soft spring light, while superb vistas greet you at every turn.
Home to Peter and Ann Hutley for nearly 50 years, around the house there is a more formally planted two-acre garden with clipped hedges and herbaceous planting, where the haze of bluebells is echoed in the colour scheme of deep purple irises and an eye-catching ceanothus against the fresh, lime-green foliage.
Under our stewardship, the estate has expanded into a haven for wildlife, mature woodland and farmland, says Peter, who also runs an organic lamb and beef farm. The beauty of the Surrey Hills is as spectacular as any part of the country and, to my mind, Wintershall, which is made up of 1,000 acres of rolling green farmland, is the jewel in the crown.
In 2004, Peter received an MBE for services to the community, and was appointed a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory, while Ann was made a Dame. The son of a market gardener, Peter made his fortune in property development and bought Wintershall in the 1960s. The couple converted to the Catholic faith after Ann was cured of depression on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia.
This experience led Peter to dedicate his life to God and to writing their nationally acclaimed theatrical productions performed on the estate, The Life of Christ, The Acts of the Apostles and the annual nativity play, all of which keep him very busy a consuming retirement pastime enjoyed with great passion.
The Hutleys have been opening their grounds for the past 30 years through the National Gardens Scheme to share their surroundings with the general public.
The joy of Wintershall is the natural woodland and lakes, says Ann. Although we have maintained and augmented the landscape by replacing and adding trees, such as some
Oriental willows that are more resistant to disease and a new arboretum, this is very much a farmers garden as the farm comes first.
One of the advantages of gardening organically is that we have seen a continued increase of primroses and snowdrops, as well as the bluebells, of course, being as wonderfully prolific as ever!
- Wintershall Manor, Bramley, SurreyGU5 0LR. Opening times: Saturdays April 2 and May 7 (2-5pm). For more information, see either www.ngs.org.uk or www.wintershall-estate.com
- Native bluebells are threatened by the Spanish bluebell, an invasive species that has interbred with them to produce a hybrid
- Many woodlands have a mix of bluebells present
- To protect our native bluebells, avoid planting Spanish or hybrid varieties in the countryside where they may escape
- If you are planting native varieties in your garden, be sure they are from a reliable source and not taken from illegal harvesting of woodlands
- If you don't own the land, it is illegal to dig up the bulbs
- Although it is permitted to pick the flowers or seed for your own use, the flowers are unlikely to survive long enough to get them home and into water, so the advice is to leave them where they are for everyone to enjoy
- Bluebells prefer well-drained, reasonably fertile soil
- For best results, plant en-masse under deciduous trees
5 other great places to see bluebells
Banstead Woods, Outwood Lane, near Chipstead
Popular with running clubs and walking groups, and boasting the brilliant Ramblers Rest, a fantastic pub for food and refreshment, Banstead Woods is well worth a visit for its bluebells.
Hornecourt Woods, Gayhouse Lane, Outwood
Park the car at Outwood Mill and take a stroll through one of the network of walks. The nearby Branslands and Harewoods are also fantastic places to see vast swathes of bluebells.
Little Wix Wood, Hatchlands Park, East Clandon, Guildford
The wood is renowned for a wonderful display of bluebells in May and can be accessed via
the two-mile Long Walk around the estate.
Reigate Priory, Reigate
A bit of a hidden treasure when it comes to bluebells, wander up the hill and into the woods to see a truly breathtaking display as far as the eye can see. Plus, the caf in the centre of the park does a great hot chocolate!
For vast carpets of bluebells, usually at their best from mid to late April, head to the National Trusts Winkworth Arboretum where last year they were described by one visitor as just stupendous. For more details, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk.