We’ve been trying to enjoy places on our doorstep this year and spend more time appreciating local attractions. With that in mind we decided to spend some time exploring Stars and Snowdrops at Hanwell Castle earlier in the month. The private property only opens very occasionally, and for one weekend in February so I’d made a note in my diary. We’d tried to go last year, but hadn’t realised that it was closed until we’d reached the grounds and had ended up at Upton House instead. This year we hit lucky, although the weather wasn’t particularly kind.
Hanwell Castle is found in the village of Hanwell, which is close in Banbury in Oxfordshire. It’s also home to the Hanwell Observatory, making this visit a little different from just a snowdrop spotting adventure.
We’d planned to spend time exploring Stars and Snowdrops at Hanwell Castle on the Sunday so that Daddy P could join us. The weather on the Saturday had been fine, but on Sunday we woke up to torrential rain. Never ones to let the weather dampen our spirits, we donned our waterproof trousers, boots and headed up the motorway. The weather wasn’t getting any better, but luckily by the time we parked up close to the entrance (no on site parking) the rain had relented somewhat. Phew.
We paid the entrance fee, picked up a map and headed into the grounds. There has been some excavation work carried out in the gardens over the last few years and some objects that have been uncovered were on display. It’s amazing what’s lying beneath our feet.
The snowdrop trail takes you around a large lake with views back across to the main house.
Even on a wet and rather gloomy day we could appreciate the beauty of the setting. How nice must it be to have a lake and ancient woodland in your back garden.
These days my son pretty much always acts as tour guide whenever we are out and about. As much as I miss the hand holding, it’s lovely to see him striding out on his own, having an adventure as we try to keep up following on behind.
He was rather pleased with himself when he was first to spot a large clump of snowdrops. A quick look round and then he was off again.
Even though our main focus was on enjoying the snowdrops dotted around the woodland, there were plenty of hellebore to admire too.
If anyone can tell me what this shrub is I’d really appreciate it. The fragrance as we walked past was amazing. I want this in my garden.
Since visiting Welford Park and their amazing display of snowdrops it’s really hard to find anywhere that has a spread so thick, but it didn’t mean that we enjoying spotting the snowdrops here any less really.
Of course no adventure is complete without a trusty stick and with the amount of mud there was to navigate as we were exploring Stars and Snowdrops at Hanwell Castle it was a very handy accessory to have. I was quite tempted to find a stick myself to help keep me upright in places where the mud really was oozy thick.
The archaeological excavations throughout the seventeenth century gardens of Hanwell Castle are evident as you walk around the trail. There are information points at various locations too, all of which added to the experience.
My son was fascinated as we walked along the trail and we tried to imagine what the gardens would have looked like all those years ago.
The sunken garden offers a magical moment to hide from the rest of the world before heading up to see the Hanwell Observatory.
The Observatory was founded in 1999 and is home to a 30 inch reflector, which is the largest public use telescope in Britain. My son was allowed to use the control which moves the telescope. Hopefully one day he’ll have the opportunity to try star-gazing there. The volunteers were really knowledgeable and happy to answer all of our questions.
We finished our visit eating homemade cake with a hot drink, sitting next to a roaring fire, before heading off. The rain had stopped and it was time to continue our adventures, more on that in another post.
Where have you been snowdrop spotting this year?