Last time we visited Dunge Valley Hidden Gardens near Kettleshulme it was on a cold, bleak and windy Mothering Sunday, so it was quite apt that the next visit should be on a warm and sunny Father’s Day. So much more welcoming – or so you would think! First stop was the loo – Abigail emerged from it and insisted that I accompany her back inside to read the sign. I was somewhat baffled until I saw the piece of paper stuck above the sink, with the words “Because some idiots…” printed in capital letters at the top. We laughed about this and sympathised with the £350 cost of unblocking the drains because of said idiots. However, this turned out to be just the first in a series of very bluntly worded and belligerent notices around the garden, demanding that we MUST have a ticket, keep to the right, don’t have picnics, continue straight through if we are hikers and informing us that there would be “NO DISCOUNT!”. I met a very nice couple who were also bemused by the nature of all the notices and we all agreed that somehow they added to the charm and personality of the gardens. We envisaged a Victor Meldrew type who lived for his gardening and very begrudgingly opened his gates to the great unwashed.

And we are so glad that he does! From the manicured lawn in front of the house narrow paths lead off steeply to the Rhodendron Dell, the Woodland and the Waterfall. Visitors can choose to go around following the numbered system or just explore and see where the paths take them (although I was a little nervous, expecting someone to jump out and berate me for missing out number 12 and going the wrong way through the dell! It was a hide and seek paradise for the kids as they could get a little lost but still be within shouting distance. As you climb upwards, away from the house the steep wooded sides of the valley are lush with ferns and late flowering rhododendrons and azaleas. A stream runs through the valley with occasional short cascades, so there’s a constant sound of water, not to mention the bird song. I can’t identify any bird calls but can foresee the inevitability of evolving from keen visitor and photographer of gardens to twitcher as time goes by. Do twitchers tweet?
Anyhow, I digress. The view from the top of the garden down the narrow valley and back to the house was breathtaking and you can understand why the owner guards this slice of Eden so jealously and probably would like it to remain Hidden.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I’d love to hear your comments too!

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