LIGHTER nights and longer days are beckoning.

Snowdrops are generally the first sign of spring so, hopefully, the warmer months will soon be with us encouraging us to cast off our layers and giving us all a spring in our step as we look forward to savouring sunny days.

The warmer months give us all the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, and a pleasant way of appreciating nature and its environmental surroundings is to take advantage of the National Garden Scheme.

Founded in 1927, The National Garden Scheme's inception has a close association with nursing after Liverpool merchant, William Rathbone, employed a nurse to care for his wife at home.

Following his wife's death, he kept the nurse on to help poor people in the neighbourhood and raised funds for recruitment, as well as the training and employment of nurses, to go into deprived areas of the city. This early idea of 'district nursing' soon spread throughout the UK.

Opening gardens to the public for a fee developed from an idea to raise money for a special fund set up in memory of Queen Alexandra to train and also support nurses who were retiring.

And so this wonderful legacy continues with more private gardens being opened to the public view at specific times during the year.

The scheme gives visitors the opportunity to venture beyond the garden gate and take inspiration from the hard graft that goes on within while helping to boost funds for a number of charities supported by the cause.

Here are just a few gardens participating in the scheme in Yorkshire:

Beacon Hill House, Langbar, Ilkley, LS29 0EU. Mr and Mrs H Boyle will be opening their seven acre garden which is situated 1,000 ft above sea level and features steep walks through woodland and offers long distance views, from 1.30 until 5pm on Wednesday May 16. The donation is for Riding for the Disabled.

Among the blooms are magnolias and rhododendrons. There is also a small kitchen garden and orchard and some original Victorian features.

Brookfield in Jew Lane, Keighley, BD22 9HS, is run by Mrs R L Belsey. This intimate one acre garden opens from 1.30 until 5pm on Sunday June 3 and Wednesday July 4.

The garden features steps and paths; a large pond with mallards, wild geese and greylags. It also boasts many beautiful blooms including Primula, candelabra and florindae and azaleas.

Young visitors can enjoy a 'Round and Round the Garden' quiz.

Butterfield Heights, 4 Park Crescent, Guiseley, Ls 20 8EL is run by Vicky Harris. Visits to this garden of mixed planting of unusual shrubs perennials and mature trees which has been restored over 20 years retaining and enhancing the original 1930's landscaping, are by arrangement from July to September. For more information call 078521 63733 or email:

John and Judith Rothenberg will be opening The Drive, LS8 1JQ, near Roundhay Park, Roundhay, Leeds from 2 until 6pm on Wednesday June 13.

This established garden features a mature collection of unusual trees and shrubs under planted with perennials and meadow.

Land Farm in Edge Lane, Colden, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7PJ, described as 'an intriguing six acre upland garden within a sheltered valley' is run by Mr J Williams and has been created over the past 40 years. With the help of friends and neighbours, the owner has planted 20,000 trees encouraging wildlife to occupy this beautiful outdoor space boasting Meconopsis and cardiocrimum lilies.

The garden opens for the NGS on Wednesdays May 23; July 4 and August 1 from 10am until 5pm. For details of further opening times visit

Bramble Croft, in Howden Road, Silsden, is described as a small hidden hillside artist's garden bursting with colour and texture. It features newly developed borders including perennials, ferns, climbers, grasses, topiary and sculptures.

This haven for wildlife also boasts a pond, bird and insect boxes.

Bramble Croft is run by Debbi Wilson and opens from May to September for small groups.

For more information call 01535 658032 or email:

To find out more about the National Garden Scheme visit