Bloom­ing par­adise

Parce­vall Hall Gar­dens, North York­shire

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Ta­nia Pas­coe is a nat­u­ral­ist, gar­dener and travel writer, and au­thor of Wild Gar­den Week­ends.

An oa­sis of colour and abun­dance re­sounds at Parce­vall Hall, 24 acres of wood­land and ter­raced gar­dens nes­tled within a se­cluded val­ley in the dra­matic up­lands of North York­shire’s Wharfedale.

Sum­mer some­times comes late up here, re­ward­ing vis­i­tors with the mag­i­cal com­bi­na­tion of late spring’s un­furl­ing and June’s rapid growth. At this time, ethe­real Hi­malayan blue pop­pies il­lu­mi­nate shady cor­ners and blousy rhodo­den­drons and aza­leas ig­nite the wood­land gar­dens in a riot of frilly pinks and oranges. In the orchard, a few old va­ri­eties of ap­ples and pears hold tightly to their blos­som, while else­where, pe­onies, lilacs and al­li­ums sing that sum­mer is here. Their vivid blooms sit against the fresh greens of June’s new leaves – fully formed, yet un­rav­aged by the pass­ing of time and slugs.

It was in 1927 that Sir Wil­liam Mil­ner, a reclu­sive baronet and god­son of Queen Mary, started the epic task of re­build­ing the house from dere­lic­tion and cre­at­ing his gar­den in the hills. Cut­ting the gar­dens out of thin soil and lime­stone, he blasted the bedrock to con­struct the for­mal ter­races, re­tain­ing ex­posed ar­eas of stone that he trans­formed into alpine rock gar­dens. Streams were dammed and di­verted and to­day buzz with life – such as dam­sel­flies and the elec­tric candy hues of bog gar­den prim­u­las.


Heart-warm­ing bird­song ac­com­pa­nies you as you travel the winding paths – the sheer va­ri­ety of flora from around the world of­fer­ing an end­less ar­ray of food and habi­tat. Con­tinue over lit­tle bridges, past mossy wa­ter­falls and wood­land groves car­peted by for­get-menots, and dis­cover the many view­points that make the most of Parce­vall’s stun­ning as­pect. No vis­tas are bet­ter than that from the tearoom over­look­ing

the rocky out­crop of Si­mon’s

Seat. Sit­ting on the sun-trap ter­race, you can en­joy a proper cup of York­shire tea and freshly baked scones as you look out over the pic­turesque land­mark.


A foot­path along Skyre­holme

Beck traces Parce­vall Hall’s west­ern bor­der north­wards. Af­ter half a mile the path splits and a di­ver­sion to the right leads up Troller’s Gill – an at­trac­tive, lime­stone gorge hung with drip­ping ferns – na­ture’s very own wild gar­den. The keen can seek out an­cient Bronze Age cup marks vis­i­ble in a wall, three-quar­ters of a mile east from the top end of the gill.

Re­turn and bear left on the main path, up to the dis­used lead-min­ing area. From here, a track winds up the hill, emerg­ing on the road af­ter half a mile. Turn left, fol­low the left-hand bend to find a dou­ble gate and a bri­dle­way on the right and a wide track stretch­ing out over the moor.


It’s a lovely down­hill mile along the moor­land track. Bear right when you reach Height Lathe

barn, then left into a field to fol­low the foot­path around the barn and on down be­tween dou­ble stone walls and the ‘rakes’, a tree-lined sunken track. Af­ter three-quar­ters of a mile, the path ar­rives at the ec­cen­tric Craven Arms, with good food and ale.


Head right along the lane for 200m to Ma­son’s camp­site. Just be­fore the en­trance, a foot­path on the left leads down to the river. Turn left and join the Dales Way, head­ing down­stream along the bank. This is as idyl­lic a stretch of river as any you will find in the Dales, or in­deed Eng­land, and warm sum­mer weather en­tices wild swim­mers and hot walk­ers. Hay mead­ows, rich with or­chids and but­ter­cups, bor­der the river­bank un­til the path en­ters

Haugh woods. Here, the foot­path bears away from the river to ar­rive on a lit­tle lane with a bridge over Fir Beck.


Turn left up the lane to find a step stile in the wall on the right af­ter 150m. Fol­low the wall to the left, then across the field to the car­a­van park by the stream (half a mile), pass­ing it to the left and up the track to Howarth’s Farm and out on to the lane. Turn right and con­tinue through

Skyre­holme, and af­ter half a mile, at the T-junc­tion, turn left to ar­rive back at Parce­vall Hall.


Many of Parce­vall’s plants, shrubs and trees have grown from spec­i­mens col­lected in West­ern China and the Hi­malayas



Views from the gar­dens stretch out over the south­ern hills of the York­shire Dales

Skyre­holme Beck spills from Troller’s Gill at the head of Trollerdale to­wards Parce­vall Hall

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