The National Garden Scheme ticks a few boxes in the British Psyche. It is a charitable scheme whereby interested and boastful gardeners open up their gardens for a small fee to be donated to charity. For visitors it allows the chance to nose at someone else’s garden and perhaps pick up a bargain plant, a cup of tea and a slice of cake (a number of the more enterprising garden owners bake and pot up plants to sell).
Any traveller to the UK wanting a slice of calm rural middle class British life need look no further; this is a chance to get up close with the British in the environment they are most comfortable within.
We happened to be passing through the pretty village of Burton just across the water from Liverpool where we thought it might be a likely place where we might spot some of the familiar yellow ngs signs advertising an open garden. As it happened, it was the weekend where there were 6 open gardens to view.
The main ngs website has all the details of garden openings in the UK and you can sort by area and date to make sure you see the best gardens in any place. The open gardens can range from usually private stately homes to modest inner city terraces.
We found a place to park (and usually when it is an "open village" a kindly farmer or some such allows you to park in a convenient field) and walked to the end of the village so we could tour the gardens on a slow wander back. The 6 gardens were £5 to enter and you also got a map showing where they were, and even an opportunity to go through a well signed woodland walk of perhaps a mile to get to the farthest garden open to display.
The gardens offered a variety of style; some were large gardens around large country houses for the gentry, others were much more modest. All had a proud couple standing in the middle of it all willing to answer gardening questions and to be complemented upon their efforts.
Along the way, we also gained the opportunity to take a look at some of the lovely old houses in the village. One old timbered cottage was built simply on a bed of sandstone; it must have been 400 years old and to be honest looked good for another 400 too.
Burton is across the Mersey from Liverpool and in a beautiful rural part of the world near Ness Gardens which has a good view out over to sea. However, the ngs garden scheme operates all over the UK, and so you can find your own garden treasures wherever you might be in the UK.