Wednesday, 2 March 2016


21st Feb 2016

Well, you can forget the Iguazú Falls, pooh pooh the Nazca Lines, shun Ayer's Rock, scorn the Grand Canyon, turn your nose up at Ankor Wat, dismiss Machu Picchu, skip the Pyramids and all the rest of the insignificant sights of the world, when you have the snowdrops at Welford Park to take your breath away. 

Welford Park is an old Tudor house in Berkshire (left), originally a hunting lodge for King Henry V111 now the residence of the county's Lord Lieutenant. It is open to the public during February so that they (or is it 'it') can come and enjoy, delight in, indeed ecstasise at the sumptuous displays of snowdrops in the woods and surrounding gardens and parkland.  

Having little to do on a Sunday afternoon (the 6 Nations Rugby was off that day) I went along to have my senses titillated.

I counted over 400 cars in the car park when I got there. The place obviously attracts a big crowd. Marshalls in hi-vis jackets were in abundance to escort you out of the car park and across the road and along a rather muddy track to the ticket office. I rather regretted not having taken my wellies at this stage, but what's a little mud and wet feet to a seasoned traveller. Luckily not too big a queue and I duly paid my £6 to get in (map included). Wow! This must be the 'bizzo' I thought.

Following my map I found the track leading to the Snowdrop Woods (suitable for wheelchairs, it said, but probably only those with 4 wheel drive). The map indicated that I should pass, on my left, a display of Petasites (Butter Burr). Not knowing what Petasites are I failed, despite searching, to notice them, or if I did they must be very small things and well hidden.

The next highlight on the map was 'The Pond' (right). Gosh! I duly looked at it. No duck shooting butts so I wasn't quite sure what it's significance or purpose was.

Then on to the main feature, The Snowdrop Wood itself (left). Wowee! What a lot of snowdrops. All white. Just as well it hadn't been snowing I thought, pointlessly.

Several shelters had been thoughtfully built around the woodland track to provide resting places for over-excited  tourists in which to sit, eat their sandwiches, gather their wits, and gossip, about snowdrops probably. The bloke at the back might have been having a pee. 

Onwards, onwards...much more to see and I had only covered about 400yds on the map. Not even half way!

Next up and highlighted was the 'Swamp' (left). We were strictly instructed to 'keep to the paths', but my curiosity got the better of me. I wandered off-track into the swamp. Expecting to sink up to my knees, at least, (my feet were wet anyway), I was surprised to find that the Swamp was drier than the previous track. I might have just been lucky.
Anyway, once you've seen one swamp you've seen them all.

Then on to the Bamboo Forest (right), through which the track ran. Some of the bamboo was almost 8 feet tall! Crikey!  Jolly glad I didn't get lost in that!

The next featured spectacle was 'The Tallest Lime Trees in Berkshire' (left). Circa 1740 the map informed me. 
I could hardly contain myself.

The 'Lawn' is in the foreground. Very green, and no snowdrops. According to the map there should have been a display of Acconites around here. Again, not knowing what Acconites are, I didn't know what to look for. I didn't notice anything. Perhaps they are green and camouflaged by the Lawn.

Next down towards the main house and around the side to the 'Rose Garden'. I'm sure it looks lovely when the roses are out.

I did, however, notice a fine, if modest, display of crocuses.

Around the other side of the house, in the courtyard, were two tea-shops and there were queues to get in, so I didn't bother.

Of even more interest, there were two giraffe sculptures looking over the courtyard wall. I expect snowdrops were a novelty to them.

......and, of course there was the park 'shop' outside of which were serried ranks of snowdrops for sale. There were several species on parade with strange names such as Brenda Troyle (who was she I wonder?), Hippolyte, Woronuii and Lady Beatrix Stanley (a friend of Brenda Troyle?). To the untrained eye they all looked the same......snowdroppy and rather wilting. They cost between £6 and £8 each. Maybe that is a bargain for a snowdrop aficionado. I have a few in my garden. I am now thinking of getting a security fence put around them.

Inside the shop all sorts of things were for sale such as sausages (home farm produce), together with much snowdrop related paraphernalia such as snowdrop mugs.......

....and snowdrop post-cards, snowdrop paintings, snowdrop table mats and books on snowdrops amongst much other snowdrop merchandise. There must be quite a lot of snowdrop enthusiasts about.......

 indicated by the large number of people wielding sophisticated camera equipment to take photos of...the snowdrops.

They went to considerable lengths to get their photographs of snowdrops (and a few crocuses possibly). Hope he remembered to take the lens cap off.

Perhaps they were reporters from Snowdrop Fanciers Monthly? 

I have just learnt that snowdrops are of the genus 'Galanthus' and fanciers are called 'Galanthophiles'. There are indeed clubs and associations to accommodate their proclivities...with secret handshakes no doubt.

I have also just discovered (amazing how one gets carried away by these things) that there are over 250 varieties of Galanthus and recently a rare snowdrop bulb sold for £357! I really must check out the scraggy things growing in my garden. I could be sitting on a fortune. 

I believe I should read the popular book written by Matt Bishop entitled 'Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Gallanthus' published by Griffin Press. ISBN No. 9780954191603. 
I looked it up and Amazon advertise it selling for no less than £999.11p!!! (not joking, check for yourself). Unfortunately there were no copies in stock. There's obviously been a run on it.

Left: A very satisfied galanthophile.

I was going to conclude by saying 'if you've seen one snowdrop you've seen them all', but it appears that this is certainly not the case (even if you need a microscope to differentiate between them...and of course Mr Bishop's out of print reference book).

Well, I hope you are as fascinated as I am by discovering all this intriguing information about snowdrops. After my mind-blowing trip around the Welford park 'Snowdroperama' I expect you can't wait to visit the place yourself.

The only problem is that snowdrops only come to life in, roughly, February. So maybe you will get this a bit late. I expect you will already be making your plans to visit next year.

As a final gesture I show (right) my very own photo of some snowdrops, before I accidently stood on them.

Toot toot! I think I will be off to Istanbul, via Romania, later this month so stand by for more fascinating news and erudite comment without, I suspect, much reference to snowdrops.

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