The Alnwick Garden back with a bang as it prepares for biggest light trail yet

It’s been enchanting and enthralling visitors for 20 years with its glorious gardens. Now one of the North East’s most-loved attractions is gearing up for its biggest light trail yet.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 10:55 am

The Alnwick Garden will be lighting up the night sky this Christmas with the return of its Winter Light Trail, which during the pared down Christmas of 2020 gave people a glimmer of festive normality with more than 35,000 visitors revelling in the spectacle.

With the gardens back up and running at full speed, this year’s event is set to be even bigger and brighter and will be the jewel in the crown of a season of activities.

Last year, for the first time in its 20 year history, the garden had to close its gates to the public for more than 100 days due to the pandemic.

The Alnwick Garden is looking forward to a bumper season

At the height of the Lockdown and with the majority of staff on furlough, the gardens were untended to for eight weeks, with grasses reaching 6ft high and the fountain pumps, so used to wowing the crowds, switched off.

The carefully manicured grounds are a real labour of love for the site’s 14 gardeners and it was a monumental effort to get the flowers and foliage back looking picture perfect again for reopening this year, but Daniel Russell, head of commercial operations at The Alnwick Garden, says it’s been incredible to see the gardens alive with people once more.

“We’re so used to hearing the laughter of children in the gardens, so it felt very eerie when they were closed to the public,” he explained. "Head gardener Rob Ternent and his team take so much pride in their work and work really long hours, especially in the summer, but they’re still playing catch up now from the gardens’ growth during Lockdown.

"It’s been a breath of fresh air to have our visitors back. Some people have been coming here for years, so much so that some of the people who once used our toy tractors are now introducing their children to them.”

Out and about at Alnwick Gardens. The Poison Garden, Dean Smith

As well as a silent blossom season last year, the Lockdown meant that the attraction’s community projects had to temporarily cease. The Alnwick Garden is a charity meaning any surplus funds are ploughed back into the community.

Much of its community work revolves around social inclusion and tackling anxiety, such as in its Roots and Shoots garden where people with dementia are able to tend to the garden as a form of therapy. The Roots and Shoots Garden is also used across other age ranges, including young gardeners with learning difficulties to help inspire their green fingers.

"The garden is a commercial destination, but it’s firmly rooted in community values. I think we’re quite unique in that we put the community first and foremost,” explained Daniel. “Now we’re back and running at full speed we’re looking forwards to a jam-packed year next year and reinforcing our social values. We’re also looking forward to bringing something new and exciting to Northumberland, as well as the wider North East and beyond.”

The Gardens

The fountains in full swing

The Alnwick Gardens comprises a series of gardens:

::The Poison Garden, containing more than 100 toxic and narcotic plants.

::The Rose Garden featuring more than 300 species of rose including The Alnwick Rose.

::The Cherry Orchard which has the largest collection of ‘Taihaku’ in the world which all bloom together for up to two weeks around the end of April/beginning of May.

The garden is now back and running in all its glory

::The Roots and Shoots garden which plays a vital role in the garden’s community outreach work.

::The Bamboo Maze, a series of towering bamboos which are a joy to get lost in.

::The Ornamental Garden, a perfectly geometric garden which is ideal for a peaceful walk.

::The fountains, the centrepiece of the gardens which spring to life every half hour with a display, much to the delight of visitors. You can also ask to visit the pump room to see the impressive machinery which creates the magic.

A bumper season of events

Have yourself a horrifying Halloween with a Halloween Scare Zone event which this time will include an adult-only after-dark edition.

The Alnwick Garden tree house restaurant

Moving on to Christmas, this year’s light trail has been extended and will be shining brightly from November 29 – January 2. Numbers for each evening have been reduced to ensure people feel safe. SEN nights will also take place. The biggest trail of its kind in the region, it will feature 3D projections, augmented reality holograms and more.

Both Father Christmas and Santa will be sprinkling some festive magic over the gardens with two grottos on selected dates from November 27 – December 24.

Other Christmas highlights include the release of the garden’s own Christmas book, The Forgotten Snowman. Penned by the garden’s head of HR, Stephen Telford, it tells the story of a real plush toy snowman who was found covered in moss and the adventures he ends up embarking upon.

Visitors to the gardens will have also noticed the construction work taking place next to the Treehouse restaurant to create a new area, Lilidorei.

The £15.5million play village is a major new addition which comprises a series of cabins, set to open in 2022.

Billed as the largest play structure of its type in the world, the attraction is forecast to pull in a total of 253,000 visitors a year to this ever-evolving garden.

Prices and tickets

When it reopened after the last Lockdown, The Alnwick Garden introduced a kids go free offer to make family days out more affordable. Any adult can bring up to four children under the age of 16 for free.

The introduction of a season pass means people can visit as many times as they want in 12 months, making a visit to the garden more affordable than ever before.

The price for an adult ticket is £14.85. Once on site you can upgrade to a season pass for an extra £5.

For £30.95 people can become a Friend of Alnwick Garden which gives them access to discounts and pre-sales for events, among other incentives.

Seasonal events are not included in the standard entry and need to be booked in advance at alnwickgarden.com

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Gardener Richard Elliott as The Alnwick Garden reopened over the summer
Youngster Molly Shorney, seven cooling off in the water fountains at Alnwick Garden during the summer holidays
Out and about at Alnwick Gardens during the summer holidays
The Barbara Hepworth sculpture was lit as a feature of a previous Christmas Light Show at The Alnwick Garden. Picture by Jane Coltman
A previous light trail featuring a gingerbread house, captured by Jane Coltman
It takes a huge team to keep the gardens running