Is there a better sign that spring is on the way than the arrival of snowdrops in our parks, gardens and country lanes? These delicate white flowers are Nature's symbol that winter is drawing to a close and warmer weather is on the horizon.
You may not realise that these flowers belong to the genus Galanthus and that those people who collect them are known as galanthophiles. Yes, really.
There are lots of places around the country where you can see snowdrops in their full glory, so why not wrap up warm, pack your camera and head out to see them for the short period they're in bloom? A pub lunch before or afterwards will round off your experience.
Here are 7 places we recommend (in no particular order), with suggested inns you can drop by for a drink, meal or overnight stay.
Billed as "England's Greatest Snowdrop Garden", the 10-acre Colesbourne Park, is home to 350 varieties of snowdops, a world-famous collection begun by Galanthus pioneer Henry John Elwes in 1874. His descendents still own the property, which now hosts snowdrop open days every weekend in February and the first weekend of March between 1pm and 4.30pm. Entry price £8 per adult.
To find out more, visit the Colesbourne Park website.
For refreshments, food and accommodation close by, visit The Lion Inn (15 miles away).
Better known for its trees, including the National Collection of Japanese flowering cherries, Batsford Arboretum comes alive with drifts of snowdrops throughout February. The arboretum, which is dog friendly, is open every day. Entry price £7.95 per adult.
To find out more, visit the Batsford Arboretum website.
For refreshments, food and accommodation close by, visit the Horse and Groom (less than a mile away). Or why not book our Batsford Arboretum Visit and we'll supply tickets, plus a night's accommodation, dinner and breakfast for a wonderful snowdrop getaway?
This eight-acre private garden, designed as a series of outdoor rooms in the arts & crafts tradition, is home to 150 varieties of snowdrops, including many rare ones.
To find out more, visit the Rodmarton Manor website.
For refreshments, food and accommodation close by, visit The King's Arms (11 miles away).
For a real hit of "snowdrop fever", don't miss the rural village of Shaftesbury, which has its sights on becoming Britain's first "snowdrop town". It hosts an annual snowdrop festival every February and you can also go on a self-guided three-mile walk taking in the town's key snowdrop plantings - but beware of the hill!
These Grade II listed gardens at the foot of the South Downs are home to a range of historic features, including a 300-foot Edwardian pergola, 13 Victorian glasshouses and a historic collection of Californian redwoods. When the garden re-opens on 2 February, you can admire the emerging snowdrops that carpet the lawns at this time of year. Or why not download this free PDF of six different walks you can do?
To find out more, visit the West Dean Gardens website
The oldest botanic garden in London, the Chelsea Physic Garden was established in 1673 to cultivate plants for edible, healing and medicinal uses. Hidden behind a stone wall in the heart of upmarket Chelsea, today it is home to around 5,000 different species of plant, including more than 50 varieties of snowdrops.
To find out more, visit the Chelsea Physic Garden website.
Welford Park, a private Queen-Ann style home just a short drive from Newbury, has an extensive woodland garden that erupts into a carpet of white snowdrops every February. The snowdrops, which include some rare species, are believed to have been planted by local monks to decorate their church for the feast of Candlemas. The garden is open to the public from 31 January, Wednesday to Sunday only, between 11am and 4pm. Entry price is £7 per adult.
For more information, visit the Welford Park website.