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  • Middlethorpe Hall in Full Bloom thanks to Head Gardeners and Garden Volunteers

    David Barker, Middlethorpe Hall’s long-serving Head Gardener, puts down his wheelbarrow as he retires this spring

    Andrew Leighton will pick up the wheelbarrow, rising to become the hotel’s second Head Gardener in 35 years

    The 20 acres of award-winning landscape gardens at the hotel welcome garden volunteers who help maintain this as one of York’s finest gardens

    York’s gardens and green spaces form an integral part of the city’s heritage and magnificent architectural landscapes. The leading hotel in York is Middlethorpe Hall, an Historic House Hotel of the National Trust. This spring, its long-serving Head Gardener David Barker will retire from his full-time role handing over the garden tools to new Head Gardener Andrew Leighton who has worked alongside David for many years.

    There is plenty to explore in the wonderful 20 acres of National Trust gardens. At Middlethorpe Hall, actually within the City Boundaries, award-winning Head Gardener David Barker has been at the hotel for 35 years, interacting with guests and volunteers and achieving recognition for the gardens. The gardens have been awarded ‘Yorkshire in Bloom’ awards over many years, achieving Gold for seven years in a row since 2009. David was recruited at the time of the purchase of Middlethorpe Hall by Historic House Hotels. David recreated the walled garden in its entirety and created the White, Spring and Pond Gardens.

    The immaculate walled gardens at Middlethorpe do not just produce a beautiful display of flowering shrubs and plants, but have been planted with vegetables and fruit: apples, pears, plums, peaches and greengages, all of which are used in the hotel kitchens by the Head Chef to create wonderful dishes. Four years ago, David planted twenty four pear trees down the centre arch of the walled garden. They are all old varieties, some with Yorkshire connections, and were chosen with some preference from the Head Chef as to their size and configurations.

    David’s passion for organic Gardening and wild-life can be seen around the gardens, with the recent addition of bee hives and the production of the Middlethorpe Honey. David’s interest in orchids has led to an entire greenhouse dedicated to the plants. He is renowned in the region and his RHS garden tours have all proven very popular. He has hosted many lectures at numerous garden society events around North Yorkshire. David is responsible for curating the Plant Heritage National Collection of Cardamine in the gardens.

    Andrew Leighton takes over as Head Gardener this spring and will continue to develop and maintain one of Yorkshire’s most visited gardens. David will remain as a part time gardener.

    Spring is a wonderful time to explore the gardens at Middlethorpe Hall. To the west of the kitchen garden is the rose garden noted for the wide stone path lined with lavender, the flowers of which almost touch in the centre, and for the tall razor sharp yew hedge that surrounds it. The white garden with its high holly hedge on one side and the kitchen garden wall on the other, is planted with white flowering plants such as Wisteria floribunda with Agapanthus campanulatus albus below, but also has blue Ceanothus as a contrast clipped to the wall. The walk leads to the spring garden where apple trees are planted in grass around a noble red oak.

    The park railings on the boundary of the spring garden divide the more formal area from the park and arboretum with its many specimen trees. The Turkey oak, Wellingtonia and Spanish chestnut are now well over 150 years old, and recent plantings include collections of birch, mountain ash and Japanese maples. The ground level drops to the south east where a lake has been created and low lying land is planted with trees ideally suited to waterlogged soil such as alders, willows and dogwood.

    The gardens of Middlethorpe Hall welcome many volunteers who help with the maintenance. Volunteers work alongside the permanent gardening team at the hotel following a long-term plan for the conservation of the gardens taking into account their history, influences, qualities and contents, together with the constraints that affect them.

    Volunteer gardeners help with the upkeep, development and protection of these now National Trust gardens. These volunteers are key to the success of the gardens and play an essential role. David started nurturing volunteers from 2008 and also works closely with horticultural schools both in Yorkshire (Askham Bryan College) and France (Fondation d’Auteuil). He has also supported volunteers from the Prince’s Trust.

    www.middlethorpe.com Middlethorpe Hall, York, Yorkshire, YO23 2GB, Tel: +44 (1904) 641241
    B&B priced from £199.00 per night based on two sharing