The Secret Garden

Mary Lee-Slade discovers Myerscough College’s hidden gem – its magical plant centre

On the rare occasion that I get a day off work, I, like most, enjoy getting out and about, visiting attractions far afield, as well as those on my doorstep. I thought I’d pretty much covered most local sites of interest – at least until I took a trip to Myerscough College at Bilsborrow – a quaint village near Garstang, where there is a garden paradise!

I love garden centres – who doesn’t? But there’s something that little bit special about Myerscough, which was voted Best Small Tourist Attraction at the North West in Bloom Awards for the past two years. This hidden gem is a million miles away from the generic lifestyle centres most of us are familiar with, yet the differences are what make it all the more compelling.

Myerscough College is one of the most respected land based colleges in the UK, offering a wide range of horticulture, landscape and floral design courses, so it probably comes as no surprise to hear that the staff are incredibly knowledgeable about every single plant in the centre – and trust me, there are many to see.

In the Temperate Zone you’ll find a carp pond surrounded by flowering zantedeschia, bird of paradise, figs, loropetalum chinense, olive trees and grevillea, as well as an aviary with finches and doves, while the Flower Pavilion offers quality fresh flowers, some of which are home grown at Myerscough.

The Desert Zone boasts an amazing array of cacti and the heated Tropical Zone, with its assortment of air plants and orchids, sacred Banyan tree, banana tree and a pond containing a collection of terrapins, has to been seen to be believed. With warm water droplets dripping off the overhead canopy, dramatic green foliage and vivid blossoms, you feel like you could quite easily be exploring a jungle rainforest.

While there’s a wide selection of plants, shrubs and garden paraphernalia on offer to purchase, a look around Myerscough’s garden centre alone is just as captivating as a trip to a botanic garden, especially when you take into account the acre upon acre of gardens that you’re free to wander at your leisure.

With an intricate tree sculpture, an arboretum, and a wealth of ponds, flower beds, woodlands, orchards and even a weather station, Myerscough’s gardens are well worth a look in themselves.

There’s so much to see that you’ll no doubt need a little light refreshment and the garden centre’s tea room, Garden House Café, with its homemade cakes and snacks, provides the perfect pit stop.

Interestingly Myserscough College, which recruits students from across the country, is the number one land-based college in the UK, according to the government’s recently published results on student success and achievement.

The college, which has accommodation on site for 750 students, holds monthly Saturday careers advice mornings for anyone interested in a career in horticulture – for school leavers, for apprenticeships or degree courses.

But if you’d simply prefer to spend a few peaceful hours walking the gardens and perusing the greenhouses, simply head over to Myerscough College Plant World and Garden House any day of the week. Entry is free of charge and there’s parking directly outside.

Myerscough College
Plant World & Garden House
Bilsborrow, Preston PR3 0RY
01995 642264
www.myerscough.ac.uk

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