With the last bank holiday of 2017 upon us, we put our thinking caps on to come up with somewhere beautiful to take little Cyrus. We arrived at the same conclusion – there’s nowhere more beautiful and spiritual on our doorstep than The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.
The stunning scenery and lavish use of flowers certainly takes some beating and is simply ‘paradaida’ (paradise in old Persian).
Now until our visit with little C’s Pesar Khaleh last month, I hadn’t been to Alnwick Castle since I was a small child (more than 35 years ago). We’d planned to go a number of times, but each time Pesar Khaleh visited us it was winter or early spring and the castle and gardens were closed. So H and I were delighted and thoroughly excited when he arrived for a summer-time visit this year as it meant we could finally explore The Alnwick Garden in all its glory.
You see parks and gardens are a really important part part of Persian heritage and also my heritage too.
While I’ve been lucky enough to stroll around many of them at home and overseas, it’s always resulted in me talking to the in-laws about the history, castles, coastline and beautiful scenery I’ve grown up with here in the North East of England.
When I was young, my family would take me to a beautiful park in Morpeth, Northumberland. As a new mum over 40, it’s those special times that stand out.
As little C continues to grow at a rapid rate, H has stressed the importance on taking him out in the fresh air to visit local gardens and parks which offer us somewhere for personal reflection, help to strengthen family bonds, and well, any pool of water in C’s eyes is just great for just splashing around and having fun.
Just like the Persian gardens I’ve been able to see overseas, The Alnwick Garden holds every sort of plant and flower imaginable and more importantly for C – it has running water. The gardens are divided into distinct areas, with an ornamental garden, cherry orchard, poison garden, grand cascade and my personal favourite, the rose garden.
To give you a little bit of Persian history on gardening, the Achaemenid King Cyrus developed a special garden plan. The *Chahar Bagh plan had a rectangular canal pattern in which waterways or pathways were used to quarter the garden. In fact, the gardens of the Taj Mahal are based on Cyrus’s design.
*In Persian, chahar means four and bagh means garden.
A pavilion is also an important part of any Persian garden plan and The Alnwick Garden didn’t let us down on that front. We stopped for coffee and lunch at The Pavilion Cafe, which is located next to the entrance. Once seated, we were able to enjoy the sheer scale of the garden’s Great Cascade, while taking in the sweet aroma of all the beautiful flowers around us.
As all the walking had made us a little peckish, we ordered three sandwiches and coffees/soft drinks which came to £20.50. The sandwiches were absolutely delicious and were so very filling that we didn’t want to move!
We are yet to visit The Treehouse eaterie at The Alnwick Garden, but as this trip is sure to be the first of many for our family, I’m sure we’ll get around to it next time!
The roses and other flowers on display in the Ornamental Garden certainly intoxicated Pesar Khaleh with their heavenly scent, while little C was more interested in eating strawberries, splashing in the stream of running water and trying to get his hands on a few flower petals.
The Alnwick Garden’s layout with its paved courtyards, arcades, pools, symmetrical designs and fountains makes elaborate use of water and really took me back to those I have seen overseas in Persia at the resting place of the poets Hafez and Sa’di in Shiraz, in the south west of Persia.
Earth, vegetation, atmosphere and water are all important elements of any Persian garden and the ornamental garden in Alnwick is built in a similar fashion with vertical lines and a main waterway with a pool at its entrance.
While Cyrus’s chahar bagh gardens in Persia could have contained fruit trees such as pomegranate and cherries, The Alnwick Garden has an orchard filled with more than 100 cherry trees, all neatly planted on a slope in staggered rows. H and Pesar Khaleh were able to return to their boyhood on one of the many swings in the orchard.
And then little C joined in with the afternoon’s antics too…
While H and I are far away from the beauty of Persian parks and gardens, it’s great to have somewhere just as beautiful close by that evokes good memories of family, but is only a 35-minute car journey away rather than 4,000 miles away.
The Alnwick Garden appeals to the whole family as there is so much to see and do there for everyone of all ages. Little C found something he loved. The children’s tractors are a tremendous idea and positioned in the perfect place for parents to keep an eye on their young people.
For older children and big kids like us, there was also a fairytale quest to take part in. I loved walking around the garden spotting all the fairytale clues, such as the one below. It was a real adventure.
All in all, we had a fantastic day at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland and it certainly strengthened our family ties. We’ve vowed not to leave it so long until our next trip there though. For more pictures of our day out, visit http://www.instagram.com/ofsaffronandcyrus
You can also visit The Alnwick Garden in summer between March 31st and October 31st, between 10am and 6pm. For more information, check out the website here.
The Alnwick Garden is a charity. The Alnwick Garden Trust which operates The Alnwick Garden, has delivered incalculable benefits to the rural surroundings of Alnwick. From much-needed employment opportunities, work experience and tourism revenue for the local economy, to outreach programmes to provide services and support to disadvantaged youngsters and their schools, and to older people often isolated and in need. To many individuals, The Alnwick Garden is a lifeline to the local community. Fundraising is ongoing, and everyone can help.