Nothing signifies the arrival of spring more beautifully than a bed of golden daffodils, their trumpet heads all turned to face the sun and nodding in the gentle sea breeze. Hartland Abbey near Bideford enjoys a special celebration each year with Daffodil Day, held on a Sunday in the middle of March.
Daffodil Day heralds spring at Hartland Abbey
In Devon, we are particularly lucky to have the arrival of daffodils, primroses, snowdrops and other spring flowers well ahead of the rest of the UK, thanks to the gorgeous balmy climate in the southwest.
Daffodil Day is the time to join with family or friends and head to the scenic North Devon coast to see what poet William Wordsworth would surely have described as:
A crowd, a host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
He could just as well have been standing on Hartland Point rather than on the banks of Ullswater in the Lake District when he was inspired to write these famous words about daffodils!
Heritage daffodil species
The daffodils that put on such a gorgeous annual show at Hartland Abbey were actually planted over 150 years ago and they continue to thrive and multiply. Heritage species of daffodils have preserved by being transplanted at Hartland from places such as Grenville College in Bideford, whose grounds were marked for development.
Once inside the estate surrounding the old Abbey building, you will see groups of daffodils beneath the trees with varieties ranging from white narcissi with golden centres to huge golden trumpets of more traditional varieties of daffodils. Look carefully and you will find pale yellow primroses tucked into shady stone banks and violets just starting to flower. Camellias and hellebores add to the spring display in the lovely garden borders.
Explore historic Hartland Abbey
Areas of the Hartland Abbey Estate not normally open to the public are accessible on Daffodil Day. You can take a really good walk to Blackpool Mill, which you may recognize as being “Barton Cottage” in the BBC filming of Jane Austen’s classic, “Sense and Sensibility”. Alternatively, follow the woodland paths through carpets of wild flowers to the gazebo and the restored Summer House which had been hidden in the undergrowth since 1945. There is also an easy circular walk around the grounds and through the gorgeous walled gardens created by horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll on her frequent visits as a guest.
If you want to tour the house on Daffodil Day, it’s open to visitors for a small extra charge and although not extensive, it is well worth seeing. It is now the home of Lord and Lady Stukely.
Daffodil Day at Hartland Abbey is very family orientated and certainly not just for gardening experts. The grounds of the Abbey are perfect for children (and dogs!) to run off their energy and indeed they are encouraged to do so. Bring wellies if the season is showery, and arrive hungry.
One of the best parts of Daffodil Day is the local food. Hot pasties are served fresh from the oven with delicious shortcrust pastry wrapped around a medley of beef, onion, and small chunks of swede and potato. If you have more of a sweet tooth, save your calories for a really good homemade cream tea in the café. Delicious!
Have you ever visited Hartland Abbey, perhaps on Snowdrop Weekend or Daffodil Day? Can you recommend other places that have beautiful spring garden displays? We’d love you to share your comments and experiences below.