At Levens Hall and Gardens near Kendal, visitors can see 100 pieces of topiary, each clipped to an individual design that includes a king and queen, four peacocks, a judge’s wig, a jug of secret recipe Levens’ Morocco Ale, Queen Elizabeth and her Maids of Honour and the ‘Great Umbrellas’.
At Brantwood, on Coniston Water, there are eight gardens at the former home of John Ruskin. The Zig Zaggy is laid out to a Ruskin sketch of 130 years ago and is said to represent Dante’s Purgatorial Mount, whilst the Hortus Inclusus has British native herbs laid out in the form of a medieval manuscript. Additionally, visitors can seek out a ‘Bee Penthouse’ in the Professor’s Garden.
Another feature is the Living Quilt in the gardens at Swarthmoor Hall near Ulverston - the birthplace of Quakerism. This is a copy of the quilt in Swarthmoor’s Fells Bedroom.
At Kirklinton Hall near Carlisle, children can see the Faerie Glen and seek out the rock-carved face of Maelgwyn the Fair, a faerie princess who pined away for her love.
The gardens at historic house, Mirehouse, near Keswick, have views of Bassenthwaite Lake, home to ospreys, but also house a snuff garden, in which rare asarabacca plants grow. There is also a walled bee garden and a heather path maze, of a form used by the medieval Christian church to assist meditation.
At Holker Hall and Gardens, near Cartmel – the Countryfile Garden of the Year 2015/16 – and home to the 400-year-old Great Holker Lime – a tree with a girth of 7.9 metres and declared one of Britain’s 50 great trees in 2002, as part of Golden Jubilee celebrations. There is also a labyrinth designed as a Hindu temple.
Hutton-in-the-Forest near Penrith, has a Woodland Walk that creates associations with the medieval forest of Inglewood, with which the legend of Sir Gawain and the Greene Knights is associated.
Himalayan Blue Poppies feature in the 2013 Garden of the Year at Dalemain, near Dacre. The Children’s Garden there has an animal referenced in the common names of most of the plants grown. Bear’s Breeches, Snapdragon and Foxgloves have wooden animal signs next to each plant, to identify it. Dalemain is also home to the biggest Silver Fir of its kind.
Brockhole on Windermere has canoeing, kayaking and rowing boats, a treetop zip-wire, and a Handkerchief Tree and a Chilean Lantern Tree within the 30-acre grounds originally designed by Arts and Crafts designer, Thomas Mawson.
Also close to Windermere, is Holehird Gardens, the Lakeland Horticultural Society’s Gardens, maintained by volunteers and the holder of four National Collections – Astilbe, Daboecia, Meconopsis and Polystichum Ferns. Holehird also has a collection of Hydrangea, and a children’s trail.t.The Grade II listed gardens at Askham, near Penrith, has shorthorn cattle, rare breed pigs, Boer goats, ducks and chickens, as well as red squirrels, rabbits, badgers and pheasants.
Nearby National Trust Acorn Bank features a herb garden with 250 herb varieties, whilst National Trust property, Sizergh, located near Kendal, has a limestone rock garden. Sizergh is also home to a National Collection of Hardy Ferns and flowering water lilies.
For literary connections there are three Wordsworth-associated gardens in the Cumbria’s Living Heritage cluster group: Dove Cottage, Wordsworth House and Allan Bank.
Winderwath Gardens near Temple Sowerby includes Wellingtonia, Cut-Leaf Beech and Cedar, as well as many other plants, an apple orchard and a salvia display in summer.
In West Cumbria, the view of the fells from Muncaster’s gardens, close to Ravenglass, was described by Ruskin as the "Gateway to Paradise". Here, you can visit Sino-Himalayan gardens.
Finally, at Blackwell – the Arts and Crafts House, near Bowness, you can enjoy views of the Coniston fells from terraces designed by Thomas Mawson, with sculptures by Laura Ford decorating the lawns and in situ until September 4.
Quirky things to track down, spot and ‘bag’ on the been-there-done-that list exist not just outside, but also inside the heritage attractions that have come together as Cumbria’s Living Heritage and a Heritage Past-Port, detailing these, can be downloaded at www.cumbriaslivingheritage.co.uk You can also access the websites of the gardens that are not-to-be-missed via this portal, to discover admission prices, opening times and everything else there is to see and do, on top of the 20+ things to do and not pass by