Cool Gardens: Helmsley Walled Garden

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Helmsley Walled Garden
Looking over asters to Helmsley Castle beyond

North Yorkshire garden saved from the brink

In my series, Cool Gardens, I aim to highlight inspiring and unusual growing places, both near and far. This time, I’m a bit closer to home in North Yorkshire.

If you’re looking for somewhere to spark your gardening enthusiasm or a place to reflect in glorious surroundings, Helmsley Walled Garden is for you.

The 250-year-old garden covers five acres at the foot of the North York Moors, in the shadow of Helmsley Castle.

Apart from its dramatic setting, it has an unusual history. Built in 1758, it provided produce for the Feversham family at Duncombe Park. Like so many gardens after the First World War, it became a commercial enterprise. However, after 1982, it fell into disuse and became derelict.

In 1994, Alison Ticehurst decided to restore it, specifically as a place for horticultural therapy and it still provides this service today. The gardens are developed and maintained by a small core of staff with the help of volunteers.


The hot border

My favourite part of the garden, offering inspiration to gardeners wanting the look but who are unsure how to achieve it. It starts to flower from early June and by mid-August was absolutely blazing in tones of reds, yellows, oranges and strong purples – it’s not for the faint-hearted!

Originally planted up in 2010-11, the borders are filled with hardy perennials, grasses and shrubs, backed by copper beech hedges.

Long-flowering perennials such as Helenium Moerheim Beauty, Anthemis tinctoria E.C. Buxton, Potentilla Gibson’s Scarlet, Persicaria affinis Darjeeling Red, and Salvia nemerosa Lubeca mix with Miscanthus sinensis Silberfeder.

At their peak when I visited were masses of dahlias in intense shades, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Verbascum bombyciferum and contrasting tropical foliage plants – Ricinus and Zea.


Community allotments and kitchen garden

Helmsley is a great place to meet like-minded gardeners. I met community allotment holder David Owen, whose wife is a volunteer at the garden. We chatted about how handy the raised bed-style plots are (rented out at the bargain price of £12 a year, according to David). His spinach and sweet peas were something to behold!

The kitchen garden has a collection of 59 Yorkshire apple varieties planted as espaliers, cordons, and step-overs around the allotment beds, ranging from Acklam Russet, through Catshead to Grandpa Buxton and Nancy Jackson.


Orchard

Looking out from the cafe seating area, the orchard of mostly apple trees, some pears and stone fruit trees is to your right.

All the trees have links to World War One – Arthur Turner was named by its breeder, Charles Turner, in memory of his nephew, who died in Flanders in 1915.

The cooking apple Grenadier is named in honour of Maurice Knatchbull who died serving with the Grenadiers in September 1916.

Victoria plum commemorates the holders of the Victoria Cross of which 628 were awarded in the conflict.


The Vine House Cafe and plant centre/shop

The Vine House Cafe
The Vine House Cafe and seating area

Sit among the grapes in the Victorian Vinery or enjoy the garden tables. The cafe has its own blend of coffee roasted in York – ideal with home-made cake. The creative menus use the garden’s produce for constantly-changing dishes.

The cafe is open from April-October every day from 10am-5pm with lunch served from noon-2.30pm. Dogs are welcome and there’s free Wi-Fi available. For further information, visit www.vinehousecafehelmsley.co.uk.

The plant centre stocks perennials, shrubs, and climbers grown by staff and volunteers as part of the horticultural therapy programme. The shop has garden tools, sundries, cards, biscuits, sweets and locally-produced jams, chutneys, and honey. Thumbs up to the Blood Orange Marmalade!


How you can help

Volunteers sign
How you can help

Helmsley Walled Garden is a charity and there are many ways you can help their work in horticultural therapy:

  • Become a garden volunteer and help maintain the five-acre garden.
  • Become a visitor welcome volunteer, or sell plants and products from the shop.
  • Become a juicing volunteer and help get in our apple harvest.
  • Making a donation, fundraise for the garden or leave a legacy in your will.
  • Become a Friend of Helmsley Walled Garden and enjoy unlimited entry, discounts in the shop.

National Apple Day: Saturday, October 21

On National Apple Day, you’ll be able to:

  • Taste some of the unusual apple varieties from the collection of more than 100 trees.
  • Sample and buy the garden’s own apple juices.
  • Find out about training and pruning apple trees.
  • See apples being turned into juice.
  • Follow a family-friendly apple trail and try bobbing for apples.

General information

Windmill palms
Windmill palms

Admission/opening: £7.50 for adults, children under 16 – free. Open every day from April 1-October 31, 10am to 5pm, last entry 4.30pm. The cafe and plant centre/shop are free.

Directions: The garden is a short walk from the centre of Helmsley. Follow signposts from the Cleveland Way Car Park, next to the Castle. Park in Cleveland Way long stay car park. For more information, visit www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk.

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