Hidden gem alert! Bradley Gardens has picture-perfect plant life, boutique shopping and decadent dining…aaand it’s on our doorstep
This luxurious 18th century walled garden, right in the heart of the Tyne Valley, is fast becoming the place to go for city dwellers who want to escape to the country, all in just 20 minutes. Here’s why…
We have a confession to make. As we were driving up to Bradley Gardens for the first time, we had no idea what to expect.
What we knew? That Bradley Gardens is an 18th century walled garden, with some shopping and a café on-site, so we anticipated some botanical beauty and up-market garden centre vibes. What we got was a luxury retreat just five minutes from Newcastle city centre, which felt an entire world away.
Take a little lane between Crawcrook and Wylam, walk through the garden gate of this hidden haven and, after a short stroll through verdant bowers, you’ll be greeted by bursts of colours, babbling water features and Bradley Gardens’ famous ‘heart of ivy’.
The soft Spring blossoms of cherry pink, sunshine yellow and snowdrop blue that we’ve spotted on Instagram have given way to lupins of soft magenta and golden sunflowers, leafy greens, pretty-pink English roses and crimson acer trees. All this set to a soundtrack of fluttering birds and butterflies and the gentle humming of bumblebees. As you soon give yourself over to that feeling of pure calm, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into Narnia, post-Aslan’s resurrection.
The first building you come to is possibly the one you’re most expecting: the Garden Store. But if you’ve got Dobbies on the brain, think again – these treasures aren’t what you’ll find in any high street chain. While in the nursery, you’ll discover a unique range of plants, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and fruit trees, in the store you’ll find vintage stoneware, pots and planters, alongside one-of-a-kind items made by artisan producers from all around the UK. And that’s on top of the staff’s expert knowledge and assistance, plus everything practical the serious gardener could ever need.
But to write Bradley Gardens off as just a garden and plant nursery – however delightfully distinctive their gardens and plant nursery are – would be a disservice. As we were about to discover. Because it was after we’d perused the wares in the Garden Store (we left with about seven ceramic pots and a new succulent), we stumbled on the beating heart of this hidden gem: its retail and hospitality offering.
As we’re always prone to do here at HLN, we’ll start with the food – because, honestly, here it’s exquisite. Housed in the estate’s original Victorian glasshouse, which once grew fruits for the neighbouring Bradley Hall, The Glasshouse Café is a relaxed dining destination serving up entirely home-made produce, freshly prepared to order: be that Bradley’s full English breakfast (which has a veggie equivalent, too), or their lunchtime large plates; afternoon teas, cakes and pastries or Sunday roasts.
What is instantly clear is the air of casual sophistication. We know for a fact (but we can also just tell), that top quality chefs have put their expertise together to create each and every dish, where smaller portions, quality ingredients and beautiful presentation are preferred over sheer quantity. And while cocktails can be ordered from breakfast (bloody Mary’s, anyone?), wine from lunchtime and prosecco and Champagne from the start of any special occasion, The Glasshouse Café exudes an ambiance of relaxed enjoyment, rather than over-indulgence.
Now, what we tend to find ladies who lunch excel at – especially when armed with a dirty martini or two – is shopping. Luckily, here at Bradley Gardens, there’s plenty to be found. You didn’t think we’d exhausted their retail offering purely in their Garden Store, did you?
One of the most unique things about the shopping here is that you can see everything (and we mean everything) in action before your purchase. The very fabric of Bradley Gardens – from the flagstones leading through the gardens to the paint on their walls and the décor on the café’s tables – is available to buy. So you’ll know exactly how anything looks, works and feels before you take it home.
The purchasing pièce de resistance, in our humble opinion, is the Bridgewater Home Store – which, as a premier partner of Neptune Home, is one of the very few destinations in the North where you’ll find such a large and exclusive collection of handcrafted furniture, accessories, paint, fabric and homeware from the British interiors savants. Step inside this rural showroom and you’ll find fully-working kitchens and room sets throughout, where everything from the lighting to the fragrances are carefully considered to give you that holistic home shopping experience.
But if you’re after something for you, rather than your home, you won’t leave disappointed either. The Garden Room is Bradley Gardens’ ladies’ accessories store and is like a pandora’s box of carefully sourced, quality handbags, costume jewellery, scarves, belts and faux furs. Or, if it’s that little something special you’re after, why not head to Bradley Gardens’ Gift Shop and peruse their selection of luxury knick-knacks and pocket treasures, all made from British suppliers? From notebooks to butter dishes, reed diffusers, oven gloves, ceramics or kids’ clothes, you’ll find it all and more here, all lovingly handmade by artisan producers such as Sophie Allport, Emma Bridgewater and Susie Watson.
The best news of all is that Bradley Gardens are only looking to expand their offering going forward. With considerable extension plans already in the pipeline – which will see the expansion of their homeware and ladies’ accessories offering, as well as the creation of a brand new Food Hall (which promises to be a veritable Mecca for foodies), and an exclusive events space which will host larger parties, afternoon teas and possibly even weddings – there’s plenty to keep our eyes peeled for in the future.
As for right now, our focus is firmly locked on Bradley Gardens’ events calendar, which will soon see the return of floristry demonstrations, supper clubs, Champagne dinners, wreath-making classes and other seasonal events as we make our way into Autumn.
But even on a day when there’s nothing pencilled in their calendar, a trip to Bradley Gardens will only ever be an enjoyable one. After all, there’s something irresistible about an English country garden – especially one where the buzzing of bees and conversation mingles lazily with the tinkling of teacups (or are they wine glasses?), where you’re as comfortable with your grandparents for afternoon tea and a wander around the plant nursery as you are with the girls for a bottomless brunch, and where the unique artisan treasures you find in their luxury shopping outlets are matched only by the extraordinary flora outside.
A hidden gem, indeed.
Bradley Gardens, Sled Lane, Wylam NE41 8JH