My favourite bit of Christmas is just after the Festival is over: the fridge is full, the fire is lit and family and visitors all come to call. Walpole the dog loves Christmas too because the family are home and nothing suits a dog better than being at the centre of the pack. At this time of year, we need walks to shake down all that Christmas pudding and fresh air to blow away the excess. Here are some of my best ideas for winter walks.
The gardens at Hever are magical in the winter. The bark of the redwoods is glowing, the topiary looks marvellous when it snows and the walk around the lake is the perfect length for someone who has been overeating. This year you can make a wish for the coming year on a thoughtfully provided tag and tie it to the Wishing Tree; you have a chance to make a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation too, so spread your wellbeing around a bit.
Lowther Castle Gardens, Penrith, Cumbria
See the gardens at Lowther gradually emerging as the restoration continues, revealing one of Britain’s great lost gardens piece by piece. The frosts of winter outline the bones of the Japanese Garden and Rock Garden as the undergrowth dies back and the glories of the views to the Lakeland Fells are hard to beat on a clear day. Winter is a great time to spot the abundant wildlife at Lowther too. Warm up afterwards with soups and warming casseroles in the café.
Tatton Park, Cheshire
The Japanese Garden at Tatton Park has extraordinary silhouettes on frosty days too. If you still have the energy, there are 2,000 acres of deer park to roam and if you don’t want to overdo it after your festive excess then you can retreat into the newly restored Conservatory or the heated Fernery for some shelter and unusual plants.
Holkham is distinct among great estates for having its own beach on the stunning North Norfolk coast and there are few better places for a good blast. The Beach Café won an award from the Kennel Club this year for the warm welcome they extend to man’s best friend so if you have succeeded in wearing out your Walpole and shedding a few pounds into the bargain you can put them back on again with cake & hot chocolate around the woodburner while the dog dozes at your feet.
Take another bracing walk to finish at another atmospheric Beach Café along the South West Coast Path in North Cornwall at Tintagel where English Heritage are busy building a new bridge to link the Beach Café with the visitor centre. There’s already a bridge to take you across to the castle ruins on their rocky island and a winter walk here will really blow the cobwebs away. If you’ve had a good Christmas, you can ponder on the Earls of Cornwall wassailing their way through the 12 days of Christmas here in truly Arthurian style.
The Savill Garden, Berkshire
The gardens at the heart of Windsor Great Park are a place where royalty have walked off their Christmas feasts in the past and now you can too. The poinsettias in the Temperate House will keep the Christmas cheer alive but the bright Mahonias flowering outside are the first glimpse of Spring. Best of all are the colourful stems of the dogwoods here and in the woodland Valley Gardens. In all you can walk 1000 acres so it’s a great place to start your New Year’s resolutions.
So wherever you are this festive season, get out and keep in shape with a walk through historic gardens and landscapes. Check opening times before you go, most places that open throughout the year are closed on Christmas Day and some on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day too.