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Ray Wood: A Woodland Garden

Explore the serpentine paths which meander through Ray Wood and discover an impressive botanical collection from around the world.

Such a large and varied collection means that there is normally something of interest all year round. However, make sure to pay us a visit in spring when the rhododendrons begin to flower; it’s a colourful spectacle that must be seen to be believed!
With nearly 800 species of Rhododendron as well as glades of Pieris, wild roses, magnolias, hydrangeas, viburnums, maples and rowans, Ray Wood is a stunning maze of colourful displays.


The History of Ray Wood

Standing on the site of an ancient woodland, Ray Wood has undergone several transformations during the past three centuries. 
In the 18th century it was renowned for its natural style: the 3rd Earl favoured a design of irregular, serpentine pathways – in fact so mazy were these pathways that members of the Howard family are known to have got lost in them! Ray Wood was filled with statues, cascades, fountains, pavilions and summerhouses, but all of these features had disappeared by the middle of the 18th century. All that remains of these sophisticated waterworks is the Reservoir, which was rebuilt in the 1850s to supply both of Nesfield’s fountains.

In the 1940s Ray Wood was clear felled, but in the 1970s George Howard and his designer, James Russell, decided to reinstate the winding paths.

Today, the collection is of national importance. Many of the plants have come here from across the globe and were brought back to Ray Wood by some of the great plant hunters of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Woodland Garden Gallery