Although museums are staying closed in the UK due to Covid-19 government guidelines, many museum gardens are reopening to the public this month. Here are ten of our favourites, from historic country parks to contemporary, urban gardens, that you can visit now and beyond in line with social distancing rules. Always check the museum website and guidelines before visiting any of these museum gardens.
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Horniman Museum, London
The Horniman Museum’s garden in south London opened in 1895 and initially included a water garden, a wishing seat, tennis courts and a putting green. The museum now boasts 16-acres of gardens, with spectacular views of London (especially from the Bandstand), and visitors can enjoy the Sound Garden, Wildlife Garden, Meadow Field and even a Prehistoric Garden which features a display of ‘living fossils.’ It’s particularly popular with families and dogs can be let off their leads in the Meadow Field.
Horniman Museum’s Gardens are open daily from 7.15am (Monday – Saturday), 8am (Sunday and Bank Holidays) until 8.50pm. 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ. Find out more about the Horniman Gardens
American Museum, Bath
Fans of free-form planting style should take a trip to the American Museum Gardens, just outside of Bath. They recently opened The New American Garden, which is the first European project by American landscape architect firm Oehme, van Sweden. Native American shrubs, perennials and bulbs feature prominently as well as an American rose collection. The garden’s Winding Way is wheelchair accessible and takes visitors around the lawn where you can spot sculptures of key figures from American history by sculptor Angela Connor. The museum’s gardens also include a replica of George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon, a Lewis and Clark trail and an arboretum. Read our piece on the American Museum Garden.
The American Museum Gardens are open daily except Mondays, 10am-5pm. Claverton Manor, Bath, BA2 7BD. Find out more about the American Museum Gardens
Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire
The grounds at Compton Verney make an ideal trip out for art and nature lovers. The park that you can visit today has been a project 11 years in the making, aiming to recreate the landscape that was originally designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1768. You can take a nature trail and spot birds and wildlife (the park is full of wildlife-friendly flora and fauna), wander round the lake or enjoy a moment of calm in the grassy clearing opposite the manor’s historic Ice House Coppice, known as the Silent Space. This oasis is surrounded by oak trees, a Wellingtonia and Indian Bean Tree and is cut off from the sounds and stresses of modern life.
Compton Verney is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm. You must book in advance. Warwickshire, CV35 9HZ. Find out more about Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park.
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Opened in 1817, Dulwich Picture Gallery is dubbed the world’s first purpose-built art gallery. Every nook and cranny of the grounds was made with the public in the mind, and this includes the gardens. The garden is a great spot to admire the gallery’s spectacular architecture, designed by the Regency architect Sir John Soane. You can also spot over 25 species of trees in Dulwich Picture Gallery’s garden, including a Japanese Maple and Kentucky Coffee Tree. Takeaway food and drink are now available from their café, which makes it a great spot for a picnic too.
Dulwich Picture Gallery’s gardens, shop and café are open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm. Gallery Road, Dulwich, London SE21 7AD. Find out more about Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Gardens
Hauser & Wirth, Somerset
The garden of the modern art gallery, Hauser & Wirth, is undoubtedly worth a trip in itself, especially for plant lovers. Created in 2014 by none other than Piet Oudolf, the internationally renowned landscape designer, the garden at Hauser & Wirth is a sprawling splendour of soft perennials and swaying seed heads. Piet has created a scheme of bright green Sesleria autumnalis interspersed with dark perennials, such as Cimifuga brunette, Gilenia trifoliate and Astrantia ‘Venice.’ The plants are kept low, so you can enjoy the sculptures that feature also, most prominently, the Radić Pavilion which was designed by the Chilean architect Smiljan Radić.
Hauser & Wirth is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm. You must book in advance. Durslade Farm, Drooping Lane, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0NL. Find out more about Hauser & Wirth, Somerset.
The Garden Museum, London
You can now enjoy the Garden Museum’s urban courtyard garden once again thanks to its reopening this month. Alongside the garden, designed by Dan Pearson, is the museum’s award-winning café, which is now open for takeaway food and drink. Enjoy fresh bread, seasonal food and natural wines whilst admiring the lush green foliage in the contemporary courtyard garden. The museum itself will also be reopened, following social-distancing measures, with the exhibition Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are the horizon.
The Garden Museum is open Monday – Sunday, 10.30am – 5.00pm (please note the gallery is closed the first Monday of August, October and November 2020 for general maintenance). Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7LB. Find out more about The Garden Museum.
Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, St. Ives
The influential sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, first came to Cornwall in 1939 and would live there until her death in 1975. She lived and worked in her studio, Trewyn studios, which is now the Barbara Hepworth Museum. Her tucked-away garden became the ideal backdrop for her abstract sculptures, which reflected the natural curves and textures of the landscape. Escape the bustle of the tourist-filled beaches and enjoy this peaceful garden which can be appreciated for both its natural beauty and for the sublime craftsmanship of Hepworth’s sculptures within it.
Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden is reopening 27th July. You must book in advance. Barnoon Hill, St. Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1AD. Find out more about Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden.
Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Experience an authentic regency garden at the Royal Pavilion Gardens in Brighton. The garden follows the 1820 plans of the architect and landscape designer, John Nash, and includes many of the plant species included in the original design. In summer you can expect to see peonies, hollyhocks, foxgloves and 15 varieties of roses – to name just a few. The gardens are also home to a unique collection of elm trees. The long grass and native plants make it ideal for wildlife and many different bird species have been spotted there so be sure to take binoculars!
The Royal Pavilion’s Garden is set to open in late July/ early August. 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton, BN1 1EE. Find out more about the Royal Pavilion Brighton.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Enjoy towering works of art in the fresh air at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, covering 500 acres of land, including hills, woodland and formal gardens. The park was originally owned by the Beaumont family, but would later become a part of Bretton Hall College. It was here that art lecturer Peter Murray had the idea of opening the space up to the public and asked artists to create works that engaged with the natural surroundings. Recent artists that have exhibited include Damien Hirst, Joana Vasconcelos and Alfredo Jaar.
Yorkshire Sculpture park is due to reopen later in the year. Please check their website for updates. West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4JX. Find out more about Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Museum of the Home, London
The soon-to-be-reopened Museum of the Home, formerly known as the Geffrye Museum, will include an immersive garden experience that will examine the importance of domestic gardens through the centuries. Gardens Through Time will trace how urban homes have evolved, from a Tudor knot garden with a pattern of cotton lavender Santolina chamaecyparissus borders, to a contemporary green roof garden which addresses current issues of limited green areas, and how worthwhile it is to create a garden no matter how limited on space you are.
The Museum of the Home is due to reopen later in the year. Please check their website for updates. Geffrye Almshouses, 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA. Find out more about the Museum of the Home.