I don’t review or write about garden visits very often, but with a little time away last week I was able to explore some new gardens, and this particular property was so good I couldn’t wait to post some pictures and tell you about it!
It is of course the beautiful Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire, which has been cared for by the National Trust since 1958.
Beningbrough is in many ways a ‘typical’ NT historic property, if there can be such a thing, with an expanse of grazed parkland, veteran trees to die for, a garden full of delights and a very fine early Georgian mansion as its crowning jewel.
This venue goes a few steps further however, offering for our entertainment a partnership with the National Portrait Gallery no less.
The whole building was fascinating with its collection and exhibition, but before I return to my primary garden focused post, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the long term exhibition in those upper floor rooms. Titled ‘Making Faces’, it was a fascinating and engaging exploration of Eighteenth Century portraiture, and as someone hooked on the Georgian era in particular, the visit to Beningbrough was worth it for this exhibition alone!
In terms of the great outdoors, the property has clearly benefitted from a long period of NT ownership, and of recent investment in the infrastructure to provide for growing visitor numbers – 130,000 per year was stated. The overall experience and ‘visitor journey’ was really very good. I mean, was it not for our party squabbling in the cafe over the last slice of treacle tart – it would have been an A1 perfect day!
But of the garden? You might ask…
Well, I have to say that the garden was a mix of many ingredients, some familiar and refreshingly – some not so. As I strolled around, discovering one character area after another, Beningbrough just kept on dishing out course after course of garden surprises, and I was really, really impressed!
Like all gardens there were signs of the long hot 2018 summer across some of the lawns, as to be expected, but all was in very good shape nonetheless. We ventured into the walled garden first where garden staff and volunteers worked happily; and what an area this was, with mixed borders full of flowers and produce, and all very well cared for.
Outside of the walled garden I found an atmospheric potting shed, staged to evoke the gardening days gone by with pots and pots of fascinating olde worlde items. I could just imagine whistling and working in there on a gloomy day in winter, maybe scrubbing pots or tools…
A little further into the garden and beyond a high, hand textured brick wall was the Italian Border, with deep mixed beds punctuated by niches with twin seats, allowing flower lovers to literally sit amongst the border plants. But surely, this little niche in the border (pictured below) wasn’t historic, or was it? Whichever; it certainly works!
The garden is most definitely rooted in history with its classic layout formed by the many brick walls, mature trees and thoughtful management, which all contribute to the special character of the property. This garden does have a very interesting and fresh twist to it though, in the form of yet another inspiring partnership…
Andy Sturgeon was enlisted to begin a collaboration that is breathing new and exciting changes to some of the garden areas.
Now, as a gardener with interests that cross the line between garden design and historic garden management, I often find myself torn as to when a modern layer in a heritage garden can be deemed worthy of a place with a long history.
I have to say though, that the changes already made to the gardens at Beningbrough are very well judged, being respectful of their surroundings yet confident enough to call for attention. I waited awhile to see how people reacted to the long garden space pictured above, and was heartened to see people bothering to take the detour into the space, just to walk through.
The planting was relatively young and fresh, but was already working to draw people into the space – a successful design indeed, and very appropriate for its setting I thought. It’s a big thumbs up from me to the project team for taking the bold steps to move the garden forwards, and to add a significant splash of modern style!
I shall finish up by saying that I can’t recommend this property highly enough. Beningbrough is packed with character, steeped in history, and holds a modern relevance delivered through some very appropriate partnerships that have significantly ‘upgraded’ the venue. Combine all this with the very friendly and professional staff who welcomed us that day and, well, go see for yourself!