The National Trust have put out a statement this week saying that they are keeping as many of their gardens and parklands open as possible across the country and - hugely generously - offering access free of charge.
At this extremely difficult time, this is such a fantastic initiative and highlights how important it is for us to continue to get out into some of the beautiful open spaces that the UK boasts both our physical and mental wellbeing, whilst observing the social distancing measures that have been put in place.
I will be updating this post as further information comes through, but for now, here are some of the gorgeous National Trust areas and parklands in the South East and South West of England that are remaining open for you to explore in the coming weeks.
The full list of National Trust sites can also be found here - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/
*** 23/03/20 UPDATE: Please note that National Trust have now had to close a number of their sites fully, so do check their website for further details before visiting ***
SOUTH EAST ENGLAND
In my opinion, views don't get much better that the panorama across Cuckmere Haven over to Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters! Boasting acres of unspoilt countryside and meandering rivers framed by the dramatic white chalk cliffs looking out onto the ocean, it's an idyllic spot. The Valley itself is also a haven for wildlife, butterflies and wild flowers, meaning there is tons to see and you can easily spend hours walking or cycling along the open grasslands taking in your stunning surroundings.
Often considered one of the best places to be seen during the Autumn due to all of the rich colours, Sheffield Park is just as picturesque in Spring. Its reflective lakes, incredible wildlife and eclectic array of flora and fauna are absolutely stunning, and there's so much to see. Dating back several centuries, Sheffield Park has over 100 acres of stunning landscaped gardens and 250 acres of parkland to explore.
Nestled in the Sussex Weald and set around a romantic house and partial ruins, Nymans has a wide range of plants and wildlife for all seasons. The gardens were developed by three generations of the Messel family and one of the main features of the site is the Rose Garden, inspired by Maud Messel's 1920s design and filled with old-fashioned, fragrant roses.
This stunning park in Sevenoaks is the last medieval deer park in Kent, standing at an impressive 947 acres, 43 of which is owned by the National Trust. Famously used in the Beatles' Strawberry Fields promo video, Knole Park is full of ancient woodlands, ponds and winding paths from which you can often view the many of the wild deer which still roam the area.
This small oasis of calm and tranquility is located by 13 miles from central London, so ideal for anyone based in the capital who is looking to get some much-needed escape into nature. Full of birds, butterflies, amphibian and plant life, Petts Wood and Hawkwood covers over 330 acres of sweeping meadows, babbling brooks and dense woodland.
Created in the early 20th century, Winkworth Arboretum boasts over 1,000 species of tress and shrubs, with magnolias, bluebells and cherry blossoms blooming in Spring. The lake at the heart of the gardens, creating stunning reflections and a picturesque focal point throughout the seasons.
Just 45 minutes outside of London, this beautiful spot in the Surrey Hills is made up of 400 acres of park and woodland, with marked walkways and peaceful gardens. With the imposing red-brick Georgian country house as it's heart, the site was first referenced in the Chertsey Chronicles in the 13th century and today is famous for its bluebell walks and natural adventure areas for all the family to enjoy.
SOUTH WEST ENGLAND
The New Forest Northern Commons, Hampshire
There's a feeling of wilderness in the vast, open heaths of the New Forest. Full of heather, gorse and braided wetlands, the landscape is so different from the hilly areas around, there's a seemingly endless expanse of nature around you wherever you look which evokes a real sense of calm. Famous for their wild ponies, pigs, bird, rare reptiles and diverse plant life, there's an abundance to see.
Along the spectacular and historic Jurassic Coast lies Golden Cap and Burton Bradstock - two sites which offer striking coastal views across to Bridport and Chesil Beach. Showing off the distinctive golden orange sandstone of the region (any viewers of ITV's Broadchurch will be familiar with this landscape) which go back millions of years, Golden Cap is England's only natural World Heritage Site.
One of the most iconic sites in Dorset, Hambledon Hill is a prehistoric hill fort which overlooks the Blackmore Vale and River Stour, whilst Hod Hill is renowned for its extensive variety of plants and animals. An amazing 28 species of butterfly have been recorded in this area, including Adonis blue, chalk-hill blue and dark green fritillary.
Centred around an empty Tudor manor house dating back to the 1550s, Barrington Court was originally surrounded by a medieval deer park but now hosts a 'arts and crafts' style garden influenced by Gertrude Jekyll in the early 20th century. It's a beautiful, landscaped space with numerous formal walled gardens (most notably a rose garden, lily garden and iris garden), as well as fountains, orchards, vegetable plots and intricate wrought-iron gates.
Used as a filming locations for a number of period TV dramas and films (including the BBC's Wolf Hall, the 1995 film of Sense & Sensibility and 2004 film The Libertine), this Elizabethan manor house was built in 1598 and is surrounded by beautifully manicured walled gardens, orchards and a Jacobean-style fountain which takes centre stage.
Open grasslands and an abundance of wildlife greet you in this tranquil, historic parkland. Within the grounds of a 19th century Neo-Grecian house, the wooded ridge is an ideal spot for a picnic and offers magnificent views across Salisbury.
This dramatic stretch of coastline in North Devon will take your breath away. Mortehoe itself is a coastal village famous for its smuggling past and sunbathing seals, whilst nearby Woolacombe promises equally spectacular cliffs and beaches. Along the coastal walk, you can take in sea and lighthouse views from Bull Point, Rockham Bay and Baggy Point at Croyde, as well as rugged, wild plains of beautiful countryside.
Hidden away just outside Exmoor National Park, Arlington Court is a neoclassical Grade II listed country house with formal Victorian gardens and a wide range of attractive fountains, exotic plant life, fruit and vegetable plots and arched trellises. It has over 20 miles of footpaths to explore, including a popular two-mile lake walk and a large conservatory, which was rebuilt in 2012 and hosts plants from around the world.
Featuring Cornwall's largest freshwater lake, Loe Pool, as well as woodland tracks, rolling parklands and dramatic coastlines, Penrose makes for an idyllic day out. The estate is met by the coast at Loe Bar - a site of many historical shipwrecks and where King Arthur is believed to have been mortally wounded and died.
Part 2 and 3 covering other parts of the country will be coming in the next few days...