Scampston Hall Walled Garden (Yorkshire): a modern masterpiece

Do you ever find that when you have the most time, you are busier than ever?  This week I’ve not been at work, but still today – Sunday – the day before I return to the office, I have a “to do” list of 26 items.  Writing this post is of course one of them!  And any feelings of my inefficiency are diminished by that fact that I have also made time in the last 9 days (including two weekends) to visit North Yorkshire’s Nunnington Hall and Fountains Abbey, followed a few days later by Bath, which hosts No. 1 Royal Crescent, Prior Park and the History of Bath Architecture Museum.  To Bath I certainly need to return.

Well, the washing machine is on, the freezer is defrosting and I’ve tidied up the cyclamen (I try to pluck the fading flowers every other day).  I’ve made a frothy coffee, and conjured a breakfast of the last remaining bread in the freezer (I’ve had to say “bye” to the ice cream, frozen garlic and potato wedges, as even I can’t eat them at 9am in a morning).

As I was composing my to-do list, I flicked on the TV to catch the news and was instead distracted by the last five minutes of a BBC programme that has passed me by (I’m currently trying life without a TV in the lounge, so am rarely watching TV): Glorious Gardens from Above.

I started to watch on the BBC iplayer the episode about Yorkshire, which brings me to the garden below – the wonderful, modern masterpiece of Scampston Walled Garden.

About eight years ago, when we first discovered the Historic Houses Association, we visited Scampston Hall, for a tour of the house.  We didn’t pay to visit the garden, as at the time we were so overwhelmed with all the houses and gardens that we could enter for free, we took a stance that only in due course would we return to the places into which we’d need to pay to guarantee entry.

However, this year we had a card that suggested we’d get a 50% discount into the garden, and Scampston Hall fitted into my itinerary that would take us to East Yorkshire.  I had in the years between our first visit to Scampston and August this year, heard enough positive noises about the walled garden that D was convinced that we should pay for our entry (at a discounted rate of course – you’ve got to have a carrot to tempt those from Yorkshire who, as D would put it, “have short arms and long pockets”)!

We were of course delighted to discover that we were given free entrance with our HHA cards, a fact we only discovered because I joked that we seemingly have a variety of cards to use when buying our ticket and I queried which would be the best card to use: the RHS (as a partner garden), Gardener’s World 241 or HHA.

And what a wonderful garden.  Our second visit made for a complete contrast to our first, where we were locked inside the house, with its austere grey render, to visit what I recall was a normal Regency interior [our first visit was before I started this diary].  However, whatever the impression of our first visit to the house, we still made time to revisit our favourite part of our previous visit, the long water and classical bridge, overlooking the Launcelot “Capability” Brown-design landscape.

Returning to the walled garden

Constructed from the former vegetable plots, Piet Oudolf was commissioned to reinvent the walled garden in 1999.  At the time, his designs were a curve ball departure from common practice at country houses, but this approach to design is now much imitated.

The garden is divided into rooms, which you reach once you’ve spiralled your way through the outer pathways, themselves perfectly beautiful, enough to cause us to pause at various intervals along the route.

Yes, still finding our way in…

Ah, we made it.

Wow, what a contrast to a sea of flowerbeds and open expanse, that usually greet a visitor to a walled garden.

Inside, surrounding a heart of prairie planting,

you find formal hedges

and the tranquillity of symmetry and water,

next to a separate room incorporating traditional flowerbeds, each planted up by a local school.

My only criticism is that in the final “room” that we visited, where there is a pyramid mount from which one can admire the overall layout that one has just visited, the cherry trees have been allowed to grow too tall, obscuring the view.  If it were my garden, I’d be rethinking the trees’ part in the overall design, and possibly replacing them with something on a dwarf rootstock.

No visit to Scampston could be finished without frequenting the garden café, which to our interest was at the same time hosting a private “Friends of the HHA” tour of the garden.  I wonder if they enjoyed their visit quite as much as we did.

When visited: August 2016

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