From the end of January to the middle of March in many gardens throughout the UK fragile looking small flowers with white bell-shaped petals bring pleasure and delight to gardeners - Snowdrops. As a number of Foody Travellers are keen gardeners we makes no apology for forgetting food for a while and celebrating this welcome harbinger of Spring. Here is a selection of Snowdrop Festivals.
Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Nottinghamshire
Visit Hodsock Snowdrops in 2013 and enjoy 12 acres of snowdrop covered woodland and explore acres of formal gardens. This year Hodsock has created a Snowdrop Village sited in front of the 19th Century country house with direct access into the snowdrop woodland and gardens.
The under-canvas Snowdrop Village will be home to a Tea Room, gift shop and plant sale, the venue for free tours and talk. At Snowdrops this year visitors will find Food and Country Fair, Beer and Banger Festival and Snowdrop Wedding Fair. A Charity Weekend starts the season, with lots of local charities offering fun things to do as well as supporting worthwhile causes. www.hodsockpriory.com
Waterperry Gardens, Nr Wheatley, Oxfordshire
Celebrate spring over the weekends of 16, 17 and 23, 24 February at Waterperry when more than 30 different snowdrop varieties carpet the ornamental gardens and newly opened Riverside walk. There are free guided tours (garden entrance fee applies) at 11am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm each day of the special snowdrop weekends. www.waterperrygardens.co.uk
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Ampfield, Romsey, Hampshire
The world-famous Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is preparing for an influx of snowdrop enthusiasts, so called galanthophiles (named after the flower's scientific name Galanthus), when it stages its Snowdrop Drama 25 January – 10 February.
The exhibition is scheduled to include around 40 different cultivars and species of snowdrops including several rare varieties such as the very unusual and attractive variety G. 'Blewbury Tart', with its twisted double flowers.
The collection will be displayed in a Victorian-style snowdrop theatre, appropriately situated in Jermyn's House (the Victorian manor house nestling in the heart of the 180-acre Gardens). With each plant potted and displayed individually, visitors will be able to enjoy the flowers close-up to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences of each variety. The indoor exhibition will be complimented by drifts of snowdrops found around the grounds. Entry to the event is free with usual entry fee to the Gardens. www.hilliergardens.org.uk
Chelsea Physic Garden, London
Visit London's oldest botanic garden for a snowdrop extravaganza 2 – 10 February. Discover dozens of fascinating types on the Snowdrop Trail and on display in the Snowdrop Theatre. A wide selection of snowdrops and other winter-flowering plants, from specialist nurseries, will also be on sale. www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
Benington Lordship Gardens, Benington Lordship, Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Run in conjunction with the RHS the Benington Lordship Gardens offers a spectacular display of snowdrops around the remains of the Norman Castle and surrounding moat. The garden also has a collection of rare and unusual snowdrops. Single and double snowdrops plus a limited number of named varieties will be on sale Friday, Saturday and Sunday only starting 8 February. Open daily 2 - 24 February. www.beningtonlordship.co.uk
Snowdrop Valley, Exmoor
A carpet of white snowdrops heralds the beginning of spring in a sheltered corner of Exmoor 2 – 24 February. The Avill Valley in Somerset is home to a beautiful spectacle when thousands of the tiny white flowers push through the cold earth.
Visitors who would like to view this spectacle should catch a park and ride bus which departs regularly from the Exmoor village of Wheddon Cross. (The roads in this part of Exmoor are very narrow). For more energetic sightseers, there is a specially marked scenic walking route and walkers should allow at least 1 ½ hours and wear waterproof footwear for the round trip.
This year, the West Somerset Railway ( www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk ) will be operating a combined steam train and coach connection to see the flowers. Leave from Bishops Lydeard Station to Dunster by steam train and take a coach for a moorland journey to Snowdrop Valley.
Once there either take the optional bus tour or walk through the Valley.
Refreshments are available in the village at Snowdrop Café in Moorland Hall, which will be manned by local volunteers and charities, there is also an Inn and tearooms in the village. www.wheddoncross.org.uk and www.Visit-Exmoor.co.uk
The much-loved Scottish Snowdrop Festival runs from 2 February to 17 March. Visitors can enjoy this delicate bloom in some 50 locations across the country, some of which are open exclusively for the event. Properties taking part range from majestic castles and classic country estates to woodland walks, walled gardens and urban retreats. www.visitscotland.com