After the success of our family visit to the Tall Ships, we decided to have an outing to Rose Week at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park. Mum has very green fingers and loves all things flower related and I love walking around these gardens, regardless of the time of year (as long as it isn’t too wet).
The park was given to the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Edith Stewart Dixon and the first roses were planted in 1964. Roses were judged for the first time in 1965. More recently some of the 45,000 roses within the park are judged during Rose Week, hosted by Belfast City Council.
As with any Northern Irish event to occur over a number of days, a weather report is consulted and you decide to attend on the “day it’s least likely to rain”. That, for the Arnold’s was Wednesday (we were told it was going to ‘teem’ on Thursday). We arrived at the park relatively early (before 12.30 – a lot of the official events did not begin to 13.00), and the car parks were already filled to capacity and there were no marshals to tell drivers arriving that there were no available spaces. We followed a couple of cars in front of us and parked on the pavement along the Upper Malone Road.
Getting on amazingly with my parents!
The park was bustling with people of all ages. There were many young families with children running around the roses and groups of pensioners admiring them. As usual, I was happy to wander around the gardens, smelling the roses.
Princess Diana Memorial Garden
It was rather cloudy, however when the sun made an appearance for a period of time, we decided to whip out the picnic blanket and have our lunch. Lunch was Caesar salad, freshly prepared by Mum along with some yummy buns and shortbread after. We placed the blanket on the periphery of the Princess Diana Memorial Garden, which was a beautiful backdrop. Some of the roses have a beautifully strong scent and it was a quieter part of the park which was great to relax in.
After lunch, it was time to get back to wandering around the park. Mum and I ended up talking to some of the groundsmen who work with the roses all year round. They have great knowledge on the roses and they were very passionate speaking about them. They must have liked us too – they cut us some wonderfully scented roses to take home!
We then walked to where all the activities were. We realised this was more family orientated, with face painting and activities such as Irish dancing for children. We left this section as soon as we saw the queue for the ice cream van (one ice cream van for Rose Week – madness!).
After walking through the Japanese Garden, we made our way back to the car. The car park was even busier now and there was a lot of congestion on the Upper Malone Road due to a lot of cars completing manoeuvres. The car parks were marshalled at this stage, however they could not cope with the capacity of people that had turned out to see the roses. This year, a free shuttle bus has been provided from Donegall Square East at Belfast City Hall, with services leaving every 20 minutes between 12.20 and 17.20. There’s also a free Park and Ride shuttle provided from Drumbo Park with buses running between 12.00 and 17.20.
I love Rose Week and spending time at the Lady Dixon park in general. I would highly recommend visiting, especially if you have young children as there are plenty of activities for them to get involved in. As a grown up, I love to attend and just lose myself within the roses! I will be back in 2016 (and probably a few times in between).
Have you ever been to Rose Week? What’s your favourite horticulture event?