Address: Pensthorpe
Postcode: NR21 0LN
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Telephone: 01328 851465
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For garden lovers, the wonderful year-round spectacle of colour, structure and form on show at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve & Gardens is a must-see in 2010.

Based near Fakenham, in Norfolk, Pensthorpe offers inspirational and naturalistic style gardens, with a combination of wet, wild and tame flower meadows. It is even listed in the book 1001 Garden You Must See Before You Die, by Rae Spencer-Jones.

The most exciting development this year at Pensthorpe is the redesign of its striking Millennium Garden. Created in 1999 by world-famous, award-winning garden designer Piet Oudolf, the area includes 100 different species of perennials and over 20 types of grass.  Piet Oudolf has been invited back by Pensthorpe to redesign and oversee the planting of the garden, his first ever such project, and head gardener Imogen Checketts and her team at Pensthorpe have spent the last year replanting the entire garden, with the reopening planned for September 2010.

The new garden will have eight new species, such as Arunus, Inula and Penstemon, 28 perennials and two new grasses – Panicum ‘Shenandaoh’ and Sporobolus heterolopsis. It will include 112 different plants made up of 90 different types of perennials, 22 types of grasses and six types of shrubs. This is a massive undertaking for both Pensthorpe and Piet and garden lovers are advised to take a trip to view what promises to be a magnificent transformation.

In complete contrast to the Millennium Garden, Pensthorpe’s Wave Garden is a fine example of dry shady planting. Designed by the award-winning Julie Toll, the garden is packed with lush foliage throughout the year and has important structural elements such as yew hedging and bands of Luzula ‘Marginata‘ which form the backdrop to this mainly spring flowering garden.

The garden is filled with ferns, spring flowers such as Brunnera Langtrees, Primula, carpets of Ladies Bedstraw and Stitchwort, spring bulbs including Anemones, Crocus, six different fritillaries and Star-of-Bethlehem and summer bulbs of white Lilies and Alliums.

Pensthorpe has also spent a great deal of time regenerating the boggy woodland which borders part of the garden. This contains blue and yellow Iris, many native Oaks and Birches, with early flowering Prunus autumnalis, and Pyrus Chanticleer providing spring blossom. Stems of Cornus ‘Winter Flame‘ and the numerous white Birches give stunning winter colour against the dark yew hedging.

The Wildflower Meadow at Pensthorpe is one of the largest and most significant in Norfolk and is still managed in the traditional way. A new boardwalk has been erected which will allow visitors year-round access to this area, while preserving the thriving species that live within it.

In late May and early June you can see a mix of Orchids in the Wildflower Meadow,  including Common Spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa, plus the Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis). Throughout the summer other flowers can be seen such as August Yellow Rattle (Rhainanthus minor), Ragged robin (Lychnis floscuculi), Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca), Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) and Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

Opened by wildlife presenter Chris Packham last year, Pensthorpe’s new Wildlife Habitat Garden – as seen on BBC Springwatch 2009 - is designed to help visitors to attract wildlife to their own outdoor spaces. The area is divided into different habitat types and areas - Dragonflies and Amphibians; Bats and Moths; Beetles; Garden Birds; Butterflies; Reptiles, and Bees, and has been planted accordingly. The garden will attract a huge array of insects and small birds as it matures and evolves.

But Pensthorpe has so much more to offer than gardens. Famous for hosting the popular BBC Springwach programmes, Pensthorpe is a fantastic day out for  everyone who wants to discover more about nature.

Pensthorpe is particularly proud of its red squirrel breeding programme and in 2009 the resident single pair of adults had two litters and produced eight kittens.

The Wader Scrape is one of the ‘must dos’ at Pensthorpe. This area of shallow water has provided much of the focus for Springwatch over the last two years and with a brand new hide in place there is now wheelchair access and double the capacity for visitors.

You can also see the elegant White-naped Eurasian Cranes in their splendid new home. This marks the final stage and completion of the Great Eurasian Forest Exhibit which started in spring 2009 and includes the new red squirrel area.

To enable visitors to get the most out of their trip and help them find out as much as possible about nature, Pensthorpe has taken on full-time resident wildlife expert Thomas Spencer. Thomas’s knowledge of birds, mammals and insects is second to none and he will be a huge asset to the reserve and the overall visitor experience.

There is also a host of exciting events planned for the year. If you love orchids, don’t miss the Orchid Weekend on June 26th and 27th. Here, specialists will be selling orchids, putting on displays and giving talks. And you can see the stunning range of orchids which grow in the Wildlife Flower Meadow by taking a tour with a Pensthorpe Warden.
On May 22nd the hugely popular ‘Wild About the Wensum’ event returns, with a range of activities from a mini beast exploration to guided walks, nature quizzes and treasure hunts. 
The established annual Pensthorpe Gardening, Craft & Food Fair on June 5th and 6th provides a wonderful day out, combining stunning plants, beautiful crafts and delicious food.
If you want to travel back in time, then don’t miss Pensthorpe’s annual Mediaeval Spectacular on August 28th, 29th and 30th.  Here you can see military camps, wood turners, a mediaeval market, traditional children’s entertainment and much more, bringing to life the sights and smells of this fascinating bygone era.

There are also many other new activities for 2010, such as courses and workshops in wildlife photography, painting and quilting. Visitors can also take part in one of the numerous guided walks that take in the natural splendor of Pensthorpe throughout the seasons and give visitors a unique opportunity to see the reserve out of hours in small groups on a personalised tour with Pensthorpe staff.

For garden and nature lovers Pensthorpe is the perfect haven and the place to go in 2010. 

Visit or call 01328 851465 for more information and opening times.

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