Finding the most stunning winter plants in the garden will no longer be a challenge at Belsay Hall & Gardens in Northumberland, thanks to a new joint initiative between English Heritage and the University of the Third Age (U3A).
Shared Learning Project
Thanks to a 'Shared Learning Project' between members of the U3A and English Heritage's education and gardening teams, visitors will receive a free leaflet which highlights twelve 'don't miss' plants that are at their finest over the winter months. The leaflet includes a map and a spotters' guide to help locate and identify the trees, shrubs and plants providing seasonal interest around the grounds.
It has been a year since English Heritage's Education's team first contacted the U3A about the possibility of introducing Shared Learning Projects at appropriate sites and the Belsay leaflet is the first initiative to come to fruition. It will be unveiled for visitors on Saturday 12 November. A group of ten members of the U3A worked closely with Belsay Hall's head gardener, Jo Harrigan, and English Heritage's local education manager, Sarah Bowden, to select the dozen top plants to feature in the guide, photograph each of the specimens and research their origins and relevance within the grounds.
""We hope this will provide the public with more information about the plants and entice them to come back to the gardens at different times of the year. If this is successful we hope to produce further leaflets in a similar format for the other seasons," says Joyce Watts of the U3A. "Working with English Heritage has been a very rewarding experience for us."
Working with U3A
Sarah Bowden is particularly impressed with the results of the initiative: "Working with U3A, we've been able to create a fantastic resource that draws upon the skills and experience of U3A members to show the gardens from a whole new perspective. Belsay's superb gardens were never intended to be merely for summer displays, and we're confident that this guide will help more people discover the gardens at their most dramatic - including on frosty mornings or snowy afternoons."
Shared Learning Projects are research projects where U3A members work in conjunction with a cultural institution such as a gallery or museum. As an educational group, U3A members from the U3A Northumbria region enjoyed free visits to the site to conduct their research, take photographs and research the stories behind each of the specimens' planting, many of which were planted by the garden's architect, Sir Charles Monck.
Belsay Hall and Gardens is open every weekend from now until 31 March and daily from 13-17 February (closed 14-16 Dec and 1 Jan). More information about English Heritage's scheme for free entry for education groups of all ages and abilities is available at www.english-heritage.org.uk/education or by contacting Sarah Bowden on 01904 601917. Further details about the U3A and local groups can be found at www.u3a.org.uk, or by calling 0208 466 6139.