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Published February 21st 2019
A hidden treasure of natural beauty
If you love discovering new places and walking in the great outdoors, then a visit to Warley Place Nature Reserve is a must. This idyllic hidden treasure will give you a glimpse into the past with its gardens and ruins that are immersed in history.
The best time to visit is February to June where Warley Place and its gardens are filled with beautiful wild spring flowers. During our visit, we saw fields of snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses and bluebells that made us stop and think 'wow!'
Magnolias, camellia, winter aconites, anemones, foxgloves and ferns also grow among a huge variety of trees.
Many of the trees at the reserve are exotic and there is a line of huge sweet (Spanish) chestnuts that stun visitors. By this line of trees, there is a magnificent view of St Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye, the Shard, Canary Wharf and the 02 Arena on a clear day.
Walking around the reserve you can hear the song of birds all around and we saw a variety of birds from inside one of the many bird hides. The bird hides are perfectly nestled by the small ponds where the birds enjoy a snack right in front of you. Inside the bird hide is a wall chart so you can identify the birds that you see. In the summer months, there is also an excellent variety of meadow and woodland butterflies that are attracted to the reserve.
The entrance to the car park and the reserve is adjacent to the Thatchers Arms pub and through a wooden barred gate that should be kept closed. Don't forget to look out for the free Trail Guides which are available at the next gate into the reserve. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed in the reserve and there are no toilet facilities.
The history of Warley Place: Ellen Willmott's famous gardens were created using a vast assortment of new plants from all over the world. Some are still found on the reserve today. In 1882, Ellen created an alpine garden with a ravine, a stream running along it and a special cave to keep her ferns. The ravine and the massive rocks can still be seen today, but there is no sign of the original plants.
In 1894, Ellen hired a gardener from Switzerland to look after the alpine garden. Ellen Willmott soon became renowned in horticulture and helped to finance expeditions to acquire new plants. Queen Mary, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria visited her, and her garden became famous throughout Britain and beyond. She was one of two women awarded the RHS Medal of Honour in Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year, 1897.
When Ellen died, the house was sold to be turned into a luxury housing estate, however, the house was demolished in 1939 with the garden left among the ruins. The rarer plants in the garden were removed to Spetchley Park to be cared for by the Berkeley family, but some of the trees and shrubs exist today. The 25-acre reserve has gradually been restored by volunteers to its present standard as a nature reserve, but still has as many features of the original garden.
The once famous Edwardian gardens belonging to Ellen Willmott will never be forgotten. There are many events that take place between Saturday 23 February and Sunday 7 April to celebrate the beautiful Daffodils that grow here, from 10.00am to 4.30pm daily, weather permitting.