|Parcevall Hall near Skipton in Yorkshire lies at the heart of the Dales National Park|
Sir William Milner was certainly a man of vision with an eye for a view! He bought Parcevall Hall in 1926 and turned the crumbling house into a wonderful home and created the only Arts and Crafts style garden that lies at the heart of a National Park. His godmother was Queen Mary - a regular visitor to his home in Yorkshire - and he spent a major part of his life turning the 25 acres around his house into a exceptional garden that has some of the finest terraces in England, and heart-stopping views over the Yorkshire Dales.
|Sir William Milner designed a series of terraces below the house|
Given the steep hillside location of the property, it certainly took a man with energy and vision to tackle the task of creating a garden here. But Sir William, a gentle 6'7" giant, who later became a founder member of the Northern Horticultural Society and pioneered the establishment of the Yorkshire RHS garden at Harlow Carr, was undaunted by the task. He first made the house habitable and then extended it, using local stone quarried from the surrounding hills and then concentrated on laying out the gardens on a steep hillside, using terraces to overcome the gradient and creating a unique garden that is often overlooked by visitors to the area, because it is very little known or publicised.
|It would be hard to beat the views over the Yorkshire Dales from the terraces at Parcevall Hall|
As his passion for his garden grew, Sir William propagated both plants and people in the horticultural world. He encountered many of the early 20th century plant hunters in the course of his work and was great friends with J.C.Williams of Caerhays in Cornwall. The legacy he left behind is a garden filled with rare and unusual tree and plant specimens collected from Western China and the Himalayas. He too, became a knowledgeable plantsman while creating the garden at Parcevall Hall, and his special interest was local and regional plants, and you will find many of those here too.
|The garden design is strongly axial, with a circular pond on the first terrace|
The oldest part of the house dates back to before 1600, but when Sir William arrived here there was just a modest farmhouse standing on an almost treeless hillside. He extended the house northwards, created the terraces to the south of the property to maximise on the views and transformed the traditional Dales agricultural holding into a gentleman's residence fit for a Queen. The first terrace below the house is planted with yew hedges and divided into three rectangular compartments, with a pergola at the far end and a pond in the middle. This strongly axial pattern is repeated on the terrace below. And below the terraces on a gentle gradient, are the red borders, which give a good view of the house above.
|The pergola frame was rebuilt in 1991 using timber from storm-damaged trees|
To the side of the house there is a Chapel Garden, a green and leafy area where Sir William built a private chapel for his own use. Today the property is used as a retreat by the Diocese of Bradford and they have instrumental in restoring the gardens to their former glory after a 20-year period of neglect following the death of the man who created them. Now the gardens are immaculately tended and their stunning location and unusual layout make them worthy of a visit.
From here you can access the Rock Garden - described as "the finest in the North of England" - which was created by stripping away thin soil to expose the bedrock. Particularly spectacular when the Himalayan poppies are in flower in May, but it was still looking good when I visited in early July. The water for the central pond and rills is piped from a mine half a mile away. It was this area that suffered most when the property fell into decline; the pond had to be re-dredged and the rock re-stripped to restore it to its former glory. There's also a rose garden, but the recent torrential rains have left most blooms looking battered.
Part of the charm of Parcevall Hall is that it's rarely crowded - perhaps because it lies at the end of a maze of single-track country lanes, making coach access difficult. Certainly worth making the effort to see and possible to combine with York Gate, if you're there on a Thursday or Sunday. Open daily to the public throughout the spring and summer months (April-October) from 10.00-18.00. Entrance is £6.00 for adults.
|The verdant Chapel Garden surrounding Sir William's former place of prayer|
|The Rock Garden is fed by water from a local mine|