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.
1. Tearoom views
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-me-nots, 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.
2. Troller’s gill
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.
3. Moors and lanes
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.
4. Orchid meadows
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.
5. To Skyreholme
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.
The gardens are open daily from 30th March until 31st October between 10am-6pm, with last admittance at 5pm. Adults: £7, senior citizens ₤6 and children under 12 years of age admitted free.