Ike, Heather and Mark, and the Mr Men were all delighted to see the sunshine was back, and knew this was going to be a good day of exploring. Their first stop was at the Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden, a real little gem of a place and highly recommended if you happen to pass by.
Aysgarth Edwardian Rock Garden must be one of the most unusual Listed Buildings in the Yorkshire Dales. It was commissioned in the years prior to the First World War by Frank Sayer-Graham who owned the cottage opposite. Frank Sayer-Graham was a local landowner and by all accounts a colourful character. He dealt in rare gulls eggs and silver rabbit furs raised in a warren on nearby Lady Hill. He was even reputed to have supplied Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, with furs.
Sayer-Graham was also a keen horticulturist. He planted fields of tulips and daffodils as well as at least two plantations of trees around Aysgarth, and set up his own nursery next door to his home, Heather Cottage. Messrs J Backhouse & Son of York was brought in to design and build the rock garden and construction began in 1906. Sayer-Graham may also have had advice from the famous alpine specialist and plant hunter, Reginald Farrer.
Rock gardening was undergoing a popular revival and the Backhouse Nursery led the field in the building of walk-through rock gardens. Situated on the outskirts of the village, it was designed as a walk-through grotto. Massive weathered blocks of limestone were hauled down from the fells to create the enormous rock-scapes complete with mountain stream and pool.
The garden was listed in 1988 and since then, its owners have raised the funds to restore the garden it to its former glory. This is now a very rare example, and could not be replicated now, as the magnificent limestone the garden is made from, is now protected by law, and could not be removed from its original place to make such a garden. This is one reason it’s well worth a visit. Ike and the Mr Men were very impressed, and Ike remembered to mind his head, be careful if you visit this garden and you are tall! It was a beautiful sunny autumn day, so couldn’t have been a better day to visit.
There is an honesty box, which Ike and the Mr Men contributed some of their pocket money to, to show much they enjoyed the visit. They also answered the relevant questions and took needed photos, so they could claim the Virtual Cache.
The next stop was The Forbidden Corner which is a folly garden located in the Tupgill Park Estate at Coverham in Coverdale, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is open to the public and was built in the 1980s by the owner of Tupgill Park, Colin Armstrong, with architect Malcolm Tempest, as a private pleasure garden. The Armstrongs had been living at the estate since the Victorian era.
The garden was opened to the public in 1997, with a £4.50 entrance fee. However, planning permission for public use of the garden was not obtained at the time. Heather and Mark made their first visit 24 years ago in 1998, and were completely unaware of this at the time, it was just recommended to them by some local friends. They have always loved and remembered it, and were happy to go back to show Ike.
Retrospective planning permission for the park was rejected in 2000. The National Park’s planners raising concerns about environmental impact and pollution due to the large number of cars entering the Park to visit the garden, and there were concerns that the garden did not agree with the aims of a national park.
A petition to keep the park open was signed by 10,000 people. An enforcement order to remove the structures and close the site to the public was overturned on appeal in 2000, on condition of restricting the number of visitors entering the site to 120 per hour. This is why you can now only visit by booking a timed ticket online first, and not just turning up, as Heather and Mark had done back 1998! The garden features statues, sculptures, towers, tunnels, a labyrinth (with revolving floor), a 12-foot (3.7 m) conifer dog’s head, a 20-foot (6.1 m) oak green man, water fountains, as well as grottoes. It also has a café and gift shop. It covers 4 acres and is set out as a maze.
Visitors are given a checklist of things to find on their visit. Ike absolutely loved it, especially as there were all sorts of things for him to spot, have a look at the photos, and see him being just a little cheeky (but he’s so cute we have to forgive him!).
As this was an epic day out, the next stop was the market town of Richmond. Richmond is a market town and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England and the administrative centre of the district of Richmondshire. It is 16 miles (26 km) from the county town of Northallerton and situated on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is one of the park’s tourist centres.
It was still lovely and sunny, there was a little shopping, and Ike and the Mr Men were interested in the Adventure Lab for Richmond. They visited the Railway station, Richmond Railway Station opened in 1846 as the terminus of the branch line from Eryholme, just south of Darlington. The branch line, and with it Richmond Station, closed in 1969. The track was lifted in 1970 and the main building was then used as a garden centre. More recently the area has been regenerated and since 2007 has been a mixed-use space for community and commercial activities. The nearest main line station to Richmond is now Darlington (13 miles away) on the East Coast Main Line.
Then they visited Friary Gardens, and posed by a carved tree. Friary Gardens is an area of public green space and well worth a visit especially when all of the flowers are in bloom. A Franciscan Friary was founded here in 1258. The original church was made of timber and later of stone. Grey Friars Tower, which was built in the 15th century and dominates the Gardens, shows the influence and wealth of the friars at the time. The friary was dissolved in January 1539 when there were 14 brethren and a warden in residence. Nearby you will see one of Richmond’s two war memorials which commemorates all of the victims of the two World Wars who resided in Richmond.
Just across the road from here is the tiny Georgian Theatre Royal, the oldest surviving Georgian playhouse in the country. After an absolutely wonderful day of sightseeing in the sunshine, Ike and the Mr Men headed home to put their paws up and relax!