with Norman Warwick

When our friend Margaret, she who runs the Coward Detective Agency, learned that my wife Dee, had been a long-time member of Heywood Horticultural Society when we lived in England, she set out on a forensic search of public gardens we might be interested in. Under interrogation we revealed that Dee had served at various times as Secretary or Chair in roles that brought her into contact with organisations such as The Royal Horticutural Society and venues like Exbury. Dee, had served at various times as Secretary or Chair in roles that brought her into contact with organisations such as The Royal Horticutural Society and venues like Exbury.

Heywood held  two annual shows  (in September and November) and celebrated its centenary before closing in 2015. It was quite a prestigious, and well loved society and they regularly invited guests speakers like me, to read ¨Poems From A Flower To A Garden, and my uncle Bill who gave them a talk on bee-keeping and a taste of honey.  In fact Uncle Bill was last month, on his 89th biorthday, treated by his wife, my Auntie Marlene to a day touring the garden centres and public gardens of the vale of York !

Tatton Park was one of the biggest public gardens nearest to Dee and I when we lived in Rochdale, but we also had Heaton Hall and Park on our doorstep, too.

The Detective Agency of which I speak is quite close to Exbury Gardens down south from there, so, dressed in a deerstalker and carrying a spy-glass, Margaret was able to sneak in and pick up a leaflet loaded with the information I impart below.

Exbury Gardens, a beautiful setting in the New Forest in the UK, re-opened to the general public a few weeks ago and its management team is delighted to report that record numbers of visitors came along to enjoy the spring sunshine over the Mother’s Day weekend. Crowds turned up to share the spectacular colours of early spring against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. Many wonderful snapshots, such as that shown on the right, have also been collated this year by eminent press photographer Russell Sach

Exbury actually featured in the first Gardeners’ World (left) of the new series on BBC2. Tom Clarke, our Head Gardener was focussed on camellias for the coveted segment. He did not disappoint – and nor did they!  We are hoping that Tom’s topical tip of shaking your camellias to remove dead heads could catch on! 

Exbury Gardens are starting to spring into life now with the world-famous rhododendrons and azaleas on track to be at their best for April to mid-May. Of course  there is always something spectacular and new to see whatever the season, so keep visiting to make sure you catch it all. 

Exbury Gardens therefore  received some great coverage in the national newspapers a couple of weeks ago in a serioes of photographs taken by Mr. Sach. He visited in search of early spring colour and even found one of Exbury´s dedicated gardeners, Agnes Piaseczna in amongst the stunning early Rhododendron  known as ‘Christmas Cheer’. 

If you haven´t yet been out mulching your roses, spare a thought for the  team of Exbury gardeners who have spent the last few days going through that very process with our parkland trees (right) . Although it is labour intensive work the task is a positive one according to our head gardener Tom Clarke. “It’s good for us gardeners because there is less to mow; it’s good for visitors because the woodchip mulch looks great and, most of all, it’s good for trees – keeping their roots cool in the summer, increasing microbial activity underground and helping them interconnect with each other by encouraging the growth of fungal mycelium. In layman’s terms a sort of ‘wood-wide-web.”  Happy chatty trees – happy us. 

Local artists’ group Look Twice (left) will be exhibiting at Exbury from 25th April to 5th June. This year’s 11 artists draw their inspiration from the New Forest with its local beaches and harbours, as well as well-known landmarks including, of course, Exbury Gardens.

Each member of Look Twice has a unique and individual style, using a variety of different mediums including oils, acrylics, watercolours, pastels, collage, inks, wood turning and graphite pencil.

Perhaps some of our readers would prefer to become a Wild Wanderer at Exbury this Easter. By doing so, you could keep your senses tuned to uncover the signs of spring and have a go at some nature-themed activities as you explore!

Every Year, Exbury Gardens look for the first signs of spring in the air – trees bursting into life, birds singing, and butterflies on the wing. Become a Wild Wanderer and connect with the natural world to complete the activities along the way.

Visit the web site at

to find out about all our spring and Easter events including making pinecone birdfeeders and leaf dream-catchers, Nature Walks and Forest Bathing.

Exbury will even be the venue for a Father’s Day Model Railway Exhibition on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June. The whole family will love the static layouts and live displays across a variety of scales, gauges and ages. All are located inside Exbury gardens´ working Engine Shed

The Exbury Gardens narrow-gauge steam railway (left) celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Climb aboard at Exbury Central, the replica Victorian Station, and enjoy an elevated view of parts of the garden – some of them are only accessible by train on a journey that also takes you through a tunnel, over a bridge and halts briefly at Dragonfly Pond where passengers are encouraged to look out for wildlife.  

The Plant Centre also stocks an array of herbaceous plants, shrubs and, of course, rhododendrons and azaleas reflecting the seasons at Exbury. 

Amongst the favourites for the centre´s younger visitors – and their parents, – at Exbury gardens are wooden toys, fun ideas for rainy day activities and outdoor adventures alike.

The venue´s very stylish new Gift Shop opened just in time for Mother’s Day 2022.  Customers were delighted with this new retail opportunity which is brimming with books, beautiful  home-ware, gardening gifts, cards and souvenirs inspired by the gardens, their history and their wildlife. (there´s a hint there for Uncle Bill´s birthday present next year Aunty Marlene !)

From just £50pp for the year, you could come back to Exbury time and time and again to feast your senses as you watch the seasons change from spring to summer to autumn. 
Our picture is courtesy of @partimetravelers 

If you a lengthy drive to Exbury Gardens you might like to compile from music collection or You Tube etc the Sidetracks And Detours recommended playlist to accompany you on your journey

Sidetracks And Detours

present a soundtrack for 2022



La Vie En Rose by Jackie Terrason

Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Waller

Misty Roses by Astrud Gilberto

Orange Blossoms In Summertime by Kurt Elling

Passion Flower by Billy Strayhorn

CACTI COUNTRY Bring My Flowers Now by Tanya Tucker

Eighteen Wheels & A Dozen Roses by Kathy Matteae

Flowers On the Wall by The Statler Brothers

Wildwood Flower by The Carter Family

Gulf Coast Highway (BlueBonnet Spring) by Nanci Griffith


Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall by Simon  & Garfunkel

Where Have All The Flowers Gone by The Kingston Trio

Whose Garden Was This by Tom Paxton

For The Roses by Joni Mitchell

Bread And Roses by Judy Collins


Flowers In The Rain by The Move

You Don´t Bring Me Flowers by Diamond / Streisand

Tulips From Amsterdam by Tiny Tim

Build me Up Buttercup by The Foundations

Pictures Of Lily by The Who

each track on this compilation can be heard on line

(c) Follow Your Art

Meanwhile, it could be a busy summer in the UK for wandering round gardens, strolling through country houses and sitting in meadows of dawn and dew listening to jazz festivals,…..oh, sorry, didn´t we mention the jazz festivals such as the one coming up at Ribble Valley (quite a way North of Exbury gardens)? Well, we certainly should or else you might miss radio and live performances by miss Georgia Cécile and her quartet!

This might be the only time Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues Festival can afford to bring such an emerging star to perform in Clitheroe because it can be seen on her facebook page just how in-demand and busy she is.

So in between her performances at the world-renowned Cheltenham Jazz Festival Georgia will be popping up to Clitheroe on the Friday night of April 29th 2022. So why not be there to give her a great welcome?

And just in case you’re hesitating clicking the link to buy tickets, here’s her message about her upcoming gig at Ronnie Scott’s:
 “Blessed to be back (at Ronnie Scott’s) this July 5 for a Double Show this time – 17:30 / 20:30

Tickets are selling fast already!”

For those of you who have been fortunate to visit London´s most iconic jazz venue will know you can get a RV festival freedom pass for the price of a ticket at Ronnie Scott’s!

so check out https://www.rvjazzfestival.co.uk/

And if you would like to review whatever you see there send a word doc attached to an e mail to normanwarwick55@gmail.com, and incude a brief bio and jpeg photo if you wish. As a non for profit blog we cannot pay but we will fully attribute your work.

On air sign background

Remember, too, that now is a good time to visit the recently-added-to archived broadcasts from Steve Bewick´s Hot Biscuits jazz shows from last year. These included Wendy Kirkland Music Community in conversation about her 8 iconic female musicians. There is also a broadcast featuring Red Rodney with the Ira Sullivan Quintet. Also, there is a live set from Ellie Whitley and her Quartet in South Manchester. There are also several other musical gems included in these shows. You can catch up with these at www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick/

Remember, too, that there is also plenty of jazz radio elsewhere, including Ribble Valley.

So, if you have read this far we can perhaps take it that you are into grand gardens, love your music, listen to the radio, read blogs and drive a car and are quite prepared to follow sidetracks & detours when out on your travels. We, therefore recommend Exbury Gardens, Hot Biscuita on the radio, our Sidetracks & Detours recommended listening collation, Round And Round The Garden and Ribble fm and The Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues Festival 2022,….and you´´ll probably stumble into the The Grindleton and Bolton-by-Bowland Open Garden whilst you´re there. That´s another place well worth a visit.

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