Part of the Ilkeston Cam "Days Out" Series

LEA GARDENS, Near Matlock, Derbyshire

A Rare Collection In A Lovely Setting

Where Rainbows Grow

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
Tucked away along a narrow lane between the villages of Lea and Holloway lies one of Derbyshire's many attractions. It would be easy to say that it lies just off the beaten track but in Spring and early Summer that would hardly be true. Thousands of visitors each year travel along that well worn lane to visit the renowned Lea Gardens. Lovers of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers, gardeners of all abilities and the 'just plain curious' sightseers seek out this wooded hillside to admire the acclaimed collection of plants.
The flowering season is relatively short and the gardens are only open to the public between mid March and the end of June. A field adjacent to the gardens acts as a car park but such is the popularity of the attraction, the parking often overflows to fill the grassy verge that runs alongside the opposite side of the lane.
At the end of May 2000 we visited the gardens on a dull and cold Bank Holiday Monday but the flowering season had been affected by the poor weather and was well and truly over. We made a mental note at the time to revisit the gardens in 2001, memory and weather permitting!
Well almost a year later on the Bank Holiday Monday at the beginning of May, the weather was perfect and a phone call confirmed that a visit would be well worthwhile
Although the gardens would probably be at their best during the following week to ten days, the weather of course could not be guaranteed so it was an opportunity not to be missed. We were not disappointed.
A very pleasant wander along the maze-like footpaths amid the many coloured blossoms culminated in the return to the building that stands above the gardens and its more formal rock garden and pool.
The pool was alive with creatures - tadpoles, beetles, water snails and newts to name but a few and a variety of unusual plants from all over the world enhanced the setting.
Birdlife is also encouraged on the site and there were several ornithologists following their hobby. A refreshing drink and a homemade pastry followed by a look around the adjacent glass house where purchases of plants could be made brought the afternoon to a fitting climax.
If you are ever in Derbyshire in May time and want somewhere different to go, take our advice and search out that narrow lane in Lea. As the publicity leaflets say it's 'Where Rainbows Grow'. If, on the other hand, you are unable to visit our beautiful county, you can still share the experience if you click here to see more images taken during our visit.

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