WALSINGHAM ABBEY

Snowdrops

 
 

History

Snowdrops may have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, but were first documented in English gardens much later. They began to become more common, and fashionable, in the 17th and 18th centuries. The ‘common’ snowdrop, galanthus nivalis, is not really ‘native’ although naturalised all over the UK. Like many bulbs, it can be found growing truly wild in the Caucasus, southern Europe and Turkey. For instance British soldiers brought them home from the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Symbolism

The origin of snowdrops at Walsingham is obscure: but snowdrops are commonly found growing at former abbeys and priories such as ours. These are the first flowers of spring, reappearing when it seems still to be the depths of winter, so are symbolic of new life and rebirth. They come into flower at Candlemas, 2nd February, which commemorates the ritual purification of the Virgin Mary 40 days after the birth of Christ together with the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem. St Luke’s Gospel says that Jesus was met by Anna and Simeon. Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a Light to the World. Traditionally church candles were blessed on this day. Glowing white in the dark woods, folk names for snowdrops include Candlemas Bells, February Fair Maids or Mary’s Tapers.

Variety

Snowdrop enthusiasts are known as galanthophiles: to enjoy their obsession, they must be happy to kneel or even lie down in cold wet leaves to appreciate the minute variations in these exquisite little flowers.  There are a huge number of different varieties, some extremely rare. Here at Walsingham our sheets of snowdrops are ‘common’ galanthus nivalis with some areas of the common double, galanthus nivalis ‘flore pleno’. We are developing a collection to show some of the less common types, chosen to show the snowdrop’s amazing range rather than rarity, from the huge ‘Colossus’ and chunky ‘Mighty Atom’ to the miniature ‘Tiny Tim’.

 

Snowdrops at Walsingham

18 acres of woodland carpeted with snowdrops to explore

massed snowdrops carpet the ground like real snow

Snowdrops at Walsingham

Carpets of snowdrops mingled with aconites have naturalised throughout 18 acres of woodland, and along the banks of the River Stiffkey which runs through the Abbey Grounds.

snowdrop woods in dappled winter sun
close up of yellow aconite

Snowdrop season 2019

Snowdrop Walks open daily from Saturday 26th January to Sunday 3th March 2019. 10am-4pm.

The High Street Gate will be open for admissions at weekends and half term week (cash only).


Admission Adult £5.50. Child 6-16 £2.50

We have perfect conditions here in Walsingham for snowdrops to thrive: deciduous woodland with chalky, alkaline, humus-rich soil with good drainage, but which never dries out in summer.

The open tree canopy lets through plenty of light in late winter and early spring.

Plant sales

Our own snowdrops and other spring bulbs and plants are available from our shop during the season (no online sales).